Consider a flight that operates on less than 10% passenger capacity! In an industry that is hard pressed for funds, particularly after the Covid-19 pandemic decimated air travel, it is something very difficult to comprehend.But a recent report in the UK’s Guardian newspaper said that 5,000 “empty”, and 35,000 flights with less than 10% occupancy, had flown in the United Kingdom since 2019!Termed by some as “ghost flights”, they are generally considered to be aircraft that operate on less than 10% passenger capacity, according to the International Air Transport Association.The UK story had “significant flaws”, however, IATA noted.Firstly, this period covered the pandemic, which was completely unrepresentative of a normal air transport market.Secondly, no context was given around the numbers. 40,000 sounds a lot, but in the context of the 4,566,382 flights that took place in the United Kingdom over that period — even during the unprecedented Covid-19 collapse in traffic — that comprises less than 1% of all flights.Of course, any flight that takes place almost empty is bad for the environment and bad for airline finances. But precisely for these reasons, airlines don’t operate ghost flights without cause.The analysis in the Guardian failed to explain that many of these flights were cargo flights, carrying vital supplies, including vaccines and personal protective equipment, during the pandemic. The cargo demand and humanitarian need justified the operation of certain flights, even with low passenger load factors.Similarly, there were a number of repatriation flights, or flights where passenger numbers were deliberately restricted to comply with Covid regulations set by governments.Additionally, there are always some flights to move aircraft to maintenance facilities or, as was the case during the pandemic, fly a significant number into storage.Flights to protect slots?Were any of these flights simply slot blocking? The 80-20 ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ rule was obviously not designed to work during a 95% collapse in demand, and the slot rules were cited as a potential cause of some flights having to operate unnecessarily in Europe.But this was not the case in the United Kingdom, where the slot rules were suspended, IATA noted in a recent analysis.There was a risk that some unnecessary flights could happen in the EU because the European Commission was too quick to restore higher slot use rates. However, for the most part during the pandemic, the slot rules were just about flexible enough that ghost flights were not a major issue.IATA Director General Willie Walsh said: “I’m not aware of any airline company that I have worked with deliberately operating an empty flight simply to maintain a slot.”The ghost flights non-story has, however, raised important questions that need to be answered on slot allocation rules. The European Union is looking again at its Slot Regulation, with a consultation in place leading to a potential revision of the rules in 2023.Although the revision is focusing on wider issues of competition, accessibility, and capacity, the role of slot rules in promoting greener flying is also in the mix. In addition to international efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions, the European Union has instigated its own initiatives through the EU Green Deal.Some politicians erroneously believe the slot system is creating ghost flights or that the slot process should be used as part of the Green Deal to prioritise the use of quieter or more fuel-efficient aircraft.Aviation is committed to exploring a multitude of options for reaching net-zero CO2, but airlines are united in their view that slot allocation decisions linked to the environment will not help the industry achieve its global sustainability objectives.“The pandemic was an exceptional period and extrapolating lessons or making policy changes based on the industry’s activities during this time would be a huge category error,” says Lara Maughan, IATA’s head (Worldwide Airport Slots). “Fiddling with the slot process to try to promote greener flying sounds positive in theory, but in practice it would make the slot process even more complicated while having minimal environmental gain. Trying to micro-manage slots may even have a detrimental environmental impact.”Part of the reason for this is the globally co-ordinated nature of the slot system. Airlines operating between two slot-coordinated airports must be able to work to a harmonised system of rules to best match demand with their planned schedule.If one country’s rules insist on operating the slot with a certain aircraft (for example for environmental reasons), then the airline may have to prioritise a non-optimal plane for that route, regardless of volume of demand—for example a narrowbody plane over a widebody.This, IATA said will affect consumer access and choice, and potentially impact another route that would have benefited from that aircraft choice.Any attempt to micro-manage the process at a handful of global, slot-constrained airports will only displace aircraft elsewhere, making no overall improvement to emissions and negatively affecting the benefits of aviation connectivity for travellers and the economy.Pratap John is Business Editor at Gulf Times. Twitter handle: @PratapJohn
'Empty flights' gain attention as aviation’s environmental footprint under scrutiny
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Aspiring tech innovators take centre stage at QSTP XLR8 Demo Day
A four-storeyed structure in Mansoura, few metres behind the Lulu Express, B-Ring Road, collapsed today morning. The area has been cordoned off by Civil Defence, ambulances and police officials.A Mansoura resident from the area confirmed the incident to a local publication saying, "A part of the structure collapsed on to a three-storeyed structure right beside it. The whole area has been cordoned off and no one is allowed to enter the buildings."The Ministry of Interior tweeted that the Civil Defence teams and other relevant authorities were able to save the lives of 7 people as a result of the fall of a four-storey residential building in the Bin Derham area (central Doha), while one person who was inside the building died. Efforts are underway to ensure that no one is trapped inside the building. The relevant authorities are continuing their efforts to confirm the safety of those residing in the adjacent areas.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said investigation teams have begun working to ascertain the causes of the building collapse in the Bin Derham area of Central Doha yesterday, Qatar News Agency reported. One person was killed and seven others were injured in the collapsed that occurred around 8.30am yesterday.In an update late last night, the MoI said the search-and-rescue team was able to pull out two women alive. They were shifted to hospital for the necessary medical treatment.Also, preliminary investigations indicated that maintenance work was going on in the building at the time of its collapse. The relevant authorities have taken measures to ensure that the parties responsible for the maintenance work had the necessary permits and to determine whether their actions had any impact on the building’s collapse.Earlier yesterday, the Ministry of Interior announced that the Civil Defence and other relevant authorities rescued seven persons after the four-storied building in the Bin Derham area collapsed, while one person who was inside the building died. Efforts were under way to ensure that no one was trapped inside the building, an MoI statement said.Director of the MoI’s Public Relations Department Brigadier Abdullah Khalifa al-Muftah told QNA that the injuries were minor to medium in nature, and the survivors were receiving the necessary treatment. He also pointed to the continuation of search-and-rescue operations at the site.The official said specialised teams evacuated families from the adjacent buildings “as a precautionary measure” and transferred them to a hotel “where they were receiving appropriate psychological support from the Community Police”. Speaking to Qatar TV, Brigadier al-Muftah wished the victims a speedy recovery. He said the Civil Defence, Rescue Police (Al-Fazaa) and Traffic Police, along with ambulances, rushed to the spot soon after the incident was reported.Meanwhile, Commander of the Qatar International Search and Rescue Group Lt-Col Mubarak Sherida al-Kaabi told Qatar TV that the rescue operations were continuing and have already succeeded in saving seven survivors. “There is another group that the team is working on to secure their exit. The rescue team operating in the Bin Derham area is highly trained and was in Turkiye in February to help rescue those affected by the earthquake that struck southern Turkiye,” he noted.He added the search team sprung into action with the necessary equipment. The team uses an advanced set of equipment such as sensors and thermal cameras, in addition to trained dogs, to spot survivors.
Moments from the annual Qatar International Food Festival opened Saturday by Qatar Tourism at the newly-minted Al Sa’ad Plaza in Lusail Boulevard, in the presence of HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. Featuring delicacies from around the world, QIFF 2023 also has an area dedicated to Indonesian cuisine, in celebration of the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture.
In celebration of the multiple motorsport events coming to Qatar in 2023, Qatar Airways held an event at Lusail Boulevard. Fans were entertained with special appearances from Qatari rally legend Nasser al-Attiyah, former Formula One driver David Coulthard, MotoGP star Dani Pedrosa and Red Bull drift car driver Abdo Feghali. The four stars raced down the strip with some daredevil acts on their speed machines.Shaji Kayamkulam
QSE listed firms earn QR49.48bn net profit in 2022
The Qatar Stock Exchange listed companies have registered a more than 10% year-on-year growth in overall net profits in 2022, mainly supported by earnings expansion in the telecom, realty and transport sectors.The 50 listed entities have cumulatively reported net profit of QR49.48bn, the bulk of which came from the banking and industrials sectors, which together contributed more than 83% of the cumulative net profits in the review period.The net earnings growth of the listed companies in 2022 considerably slowed against 41.09% the previous year, said the data compiled by the Qatar Stock Exchange.The 2021 results had seen strong rebound of the corporate sector after the Covid-19 pandemic and the rising inflation and interest rates globally and its reflection in the Gulf shores had its share in dampening the net profitability of Qatar's corporate sector during 2022.The banks and financial services sector, which has 13 listed entities, reported a 7.91% year-on-year jump in total net profit to QR26.44bn against a 12.85% expansion (with 12 entities) in 2021. The sector contributed 53.44% to the total net profits of the listed companies in January-December 2022.The industrials sector, which has 10 listed constituents, saw a 9.5% year-on-year increase in net profitability to QR14.76bn against a 252.34% surge year ago. The sector contributed 29.14% to the overall net profitability of the listed entities during 2022.Within the industrials sector, the country’s underlying firms that have direct linkages with the hydrocarbons sectors saw normalisation of their earnings.The realty segment, which has four listed entities, saw total net earnings surge 32.12% year-on-year to QR1.65bn during 2022 against 31.15% shrinkage in 2021. The sector constituted 3.33% to the overall net profitability in the review period.The telecom sector, which has two constituents, reported net profit of QR2.86bn, which was 5.78% of the total net profits during 2022. The sector had seen an about eight-fold increase in net profitability in 2022 compared to 71.46% plunge in 2021.The transport sector, which has three listed constituents, saw total net profits grow 16.88% year-on-year to QR2.69bn against 58.22% jump during 2021. The sector's net profit constituted 5.44% to the total net profit of the listed companies during 2022.However, the insurance sector, which has seven companies, registered a net loss of QR0.79bn during 2022 compared to net profit of QR1.07bn (with six constituents) the previous year, mainly dragged by weakened net earnings of two risk cover providers.The proposed mandatory health insurance and the substantial expansion planned in the North Field are expected to augur well for the insurance sector in the future, according to reports.The consumer goods and services sector, which has 11 listed entities, saw a 1.07% year-on-year dip in total net profit to QR1.86bn at the end of 2022 against 45.12% growth (with 10 entities) the previous year. The sector contributed 3.76% to the overall net profitability in the review period.