FAA temporarily suspends 'ghost flight' rule amid coronavirus outbreak

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is taking steps to reduce the number of ghost flights in the air.

The federal agency announced that it would temporarily be waiving minimum slot use requirements at U.S. airports. This will allow airlines to cancel flights without fear of losing their slots at congested or busy airports. Airlines have seen a downturn in business amidst the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

In a press release, the FAA stated that they would waive the requirement through May 31 of this year, and the change will apply to both domestic and foreign airlines. It also announced that the agency will continue to monitor the coronavirus impact on travel and "may adjust this waiver as circumstances warrant."

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In the event that the waiver is extended, the FAA will inform airlines as soon as possible.

The New York Post recently reported on how the minimum slot use regulation, also known as the "80/20 rule," was causing airlines to fly empty planes, or "ghost flights," in order to maintain their slots.

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Flying these empty planes can be costly, however, as airlines have to burn an average of five gallons of jet fuel per mile. These flights also emit an average of a half-ton of carbon dioxide per seat, according to the Post.

The European Union has also suspended their rules requiring airlines to fly 80 percent of their flights to keep their slots, Reuters reports.

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“The Commission will put forward, very rapidly, legislation,” EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said, according to Reuters. “We want to make it easier for airlines to keep their airport slot even if they do not operate flights in those slots because of the declining traffic."