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British Airway’s Ghost Flights

British Airway’s Ghost Flights

British Airway's 'ghost flights' have been roundly condemned for their environmental impact.

November 20, 2007 —

On November 14, Britain’s Daily Mail reported that British Airways has been flying ghost flights across the Atlantic in order to preserve slots at airports.  The airline, which touts itself as an environmentally responsible company, has been widely condemned for the activity.  Considering the massive carbon impact of a single flight, this activity calls into question BA’s commitment to environmentalism.

British Airways has ghost flights when it does not have a crew—it remains unclear if any cargo is transported on these flights.  A British Airways spokesperson explained that takeoffs and landings with no passengers did not occur to maintain the airline’s slots, but rather it runs ghost flights on one leg if a full return flight is likely.  Peter Lockley of the World Wildlife Fund said, “British Airways claims to take its environmental responsibilities seriously, but it is spewing out hundreds of tons of unnecessary carbon just to protect its profits.”

Air travel is estimated to be responsible for 3 percent of all global CO2 emissions and according to the Daily Mail, BA’s total CO2 emissions has increased from 10.6 million tons in 1990—to 16.6 million tons in 2006.  By most estimates, a single passenger’s carbon footprint is 60 kg for one hour of travel on a Boeing 737.  To offset one ton of annual carbon emissions, one would have to plant five trees.

In 2005, British Airways became the first airline to introduce a voluntary tax to combat global warming.  In September 2007, only two months before the report in the Daily Mail, BA was touted for considering the environmental impact of $8 billion worth of new planes to replace an aging fleet.

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