You heard about a lot of flights cancellation if you are following the news (it is not possible not to follow with all situation with coronavirus COVID-19 ).
But it shows full sky of planes around the globe when you look at flightradar24.
Why this is happening? Even while many people are stuck around the World and can’t reach their home a lot of planes are flying empty. Why these so called “ghost flights” are happening? Because airlines want to keep their spots at airports.
Airlines have allocated time slots at airports and there is “use it or lose it” rule in US and European Union (EU Slot Regulation EEC 95/93) . Which requires airlines to use that slot at least at 80% capacity.
Slots which are allocated to an air carrier for the operation of a scheduled service or a programmed non-scheduled service on a particular moment of a day and for the same day of the week over a recognizable period up to one scheduling period shall not entitle that air carrier to the same series of slots in the next equivalent period, unless the air carrier can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the coordinator that they have been operated, as cleared by the coordinator, by that air carrier for at least 80 % of the time during the period for which they have been allocated.Article 10.3
If the 80 % usage of the series of slots cannot be demonstrated, all the slots constituting that series shall be placed in the slot pool <..>Article 10.5
That’s why a lot of airlines have empty airplanes in the air to keep those time slots allocated to them.
Because of recent events with coronavirus (COVID-19) many airlines are in very difficult financial situation. UK airline Flybe is the first victim and ceased operations on March 5, 2020.
In order to help The European Commission revealed on 13 March, 2020 its plan to suspend for four months “use it or lose it” rule.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration FAA announced on 11 March, 2020 it would suspend the rules at US airports until 31 May to help airlines that cancel flights due to the coronavirus.
So at least for couple months the sky will be more clear. With all climate change concerns it looks very strange then Boeing 777 is flying empty to keep that time slot.