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The Guardian newspaper has reported that more than 5,000 completely empty planes–known as ghost flights–have flown to or from UK airports since 2019.
On top of this, 35,000 commercial flights have flown with fewer than 10% over the same time period.
Data from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) shows that 62 completely empty planes left Luton for Poland in one quarter alone and, in a different quarter, 663 almost empty flights either took or or landed at Heathrow going to or from the US.
The news has been denounced by climate campaigners and government figures alike with the former calling it shocking and the latter "environmentally damaging".
The Aviation Environment Federation's Tim Johnson said: “Publication of this data is a step in the right direction, but we need more transparency to understand why these inefficient, polluting practices continue, and to hold the main airline culprits to account.“Given the climate emergency, the revelation that so many near empty planes have been burning fossil fuels and adding to the C building up in the atmosphere is pretty shocking.”
Climate campaigners have called for a jet fuel tax and investigation into airport expansions.