Today, the Gifted Four had a big problem. Orak’s tempus machine needed some repair work. So, the Mysticals were stuck in their dorm room. They were feeling very antsy indeed. That’s when Verum’s crystal ball began spinning. The news gave Verum an idea. She whispered something into Orak’s ear. He smiled and opened a portal.

Felix asked, “Where are we going?”

“Well, instead of a tempus machine, we’re going to use a normal human aircraft to reach our destination in Europe,” said Orak.

“Won’t the humans see us then?” said an alarmed Scorch.

“No, because we’re going to board a ‘ghost flight’,” said Verum.

“What is that?” said Felix.

“A ‘ghost flight’ flies with less than 10% of its seats filled. In fact, often, these flights fly empty. No one is inside! Post-Covid-19 pandemic, the airlines are flying empty flights,” said Verum.

“That’s news to me,” exclaimed Scorch.

“It is, but there is an interesting reason behind this. You see, at busy airports like Heathrow in London, United Kingdom (UK), way more airlines want to run flights than the airport’s capacity. That’s why such airports use a ‘slot system’.

In this system, the total number of flights the airport can handle is divided into time slots. These slots allow flights to take off or land which makes them extremely valuable. For instance, an airline called Oman Air reportedly paid $75 million in 2016 for two slots at Heathrow Airport. Isn’t that expensive?” said Verum.

“Wow, I didn’t know about this system,” said Felix.

“Airports assign these slots twice a year. They are especially important for big airlines that fly to many locations in the world. These slots can help maintain connectivity,” continued Verum, “But since it would be difficult to give out slots every six months, airlines are allowed to keep their slots provided they use them often enough.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, airlines had to use 80% of their slots to keep them. During the pandemic, people stopped flying to places. So, this percentage was dropped altogether and then lowered to about 25% in Europe. Last year, it rose to 50%.

This means airlines have to fly empty flights to keep their slots. And as the percentage increases, so does the number of ghost flights.”

“Oh no! What a waste of fossil fuels!” said Felix, “A better system needs to be put into place.”