Wizz Air Isn’t Worried About Ghost Flights

Wizz Air isn’t worried about being forced to operate ghost flights over the winter season. The airline’s Chief Commerical Officer, George Michalopoulos, made the comments during the latest Simple Flying Future Flying webinar held earlier today in conversation with our Managing Editor, Joanna Bailey.

Wizz Air, Ghost Flights, Future Flying
Wizz Air isn’t worried about having to operate ghost flights this winter. Photo: Getty Images

Ghost flights are an interesting phenomenon that has been around for a lot longer than the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past, they have been used for everything from preserving slots to simply keeping aircraft flying. Of course, it goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in such flights, especially in the early days when the industry was still figuring out what was going on.

Wizz Air won’t need to operate ghost flights

When asked if Wizz Air would need to operate ghost flights as we enter the quieter winter period by Simple Flying’s Joanna Bailey, Wizz Air CCO George Michalopoulos revealed that this would not be the case. Michalopoulos said,

“There was a risk of that at some point but I think we’re past that point. At this point, I don’t think there will be any need for ghost flights. But I think the earlier the market has opened up, with the previous terms, the better.”

Wizz Air, Ghost Flights, Future Flying
The airline also wants a return of slot waivers. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Why have airlines been operating ghost flights during the pandemic?

At the start of the pandemic, many airlines were operating ghost flights to protect their intangible assets. Across the world, enforcing bodies were slow to relax the 80/20 use it or lose it slot rules. This meant that airlines such as Virgin Atlantic were operating unprofitable, nearly empty flights just so that their slots were being used up. It goes without saying that these aren’t ideal for the environment either.

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Eventually, the rules were relaxed, which Wizz wasn’t a massive fan of, but more on that later. While airlines were no longer looking to protect their slots, others wanted to keep their pilots and aircraft current. Ryanair, for example, was flying most of its aircraft in a single circuit around an airfield to stop the aircraft from having to be stored.

Asiana Airbus A380 Frankfurt
Some airlines were forced to operate ghost flights for reasons other than slot waivers. Photo: Jake Hardiman – Simple Flying

Others were forced to fly aircraft because they had no other options. While not ferrying passengers, Asiana Airlines’ A380s were spotted in the air reasonably early on. The planes were used for pilot training as the airline could not book time in an Airbus A380 simulator due to existing bookings in South Korea, tied with travel restrictions elsewhere.

Not a fan of slot waivers

Wizz Air isn’t a fan of the slot waivers that stopped the first wave of ghost flights. Michalopoulos said,

“Our view on the waiver is that it’s been a negative thing… It’s really another form of state aid if you want to put it that way.”

What do you think of ghost flights and slot waivers? Let us know what you think and why in the comments below!