The directives that cause massive damage to the environment have been highly criticised by the environmentalists with many of them requesting the EU to alter the new rules. The rules, which normally require airlines to use at least 80 percent of their allocated slots at airports, were waived in early 2020 as the coronavirus hit the continent.
But since then, the bloc has begun reinstating them, and last month the European Commission set the threshold to 50 percent for the winter travel season.
Lufthansa Group, which includes Brussels Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Eurowings and Swiss had to take 18,000 unnecessary flights from mid-December to mid-March to comply with Brussel’s guidelines, the company said.
The airline group said it plans to cancel 33,000 scheduled flights by the end of March because of a slump in demand driven by the wave of omicron infections across the continent.
Boris Ogurksy, a Lufthansa spokesman, said: “Other regions of the world are taking a more pragmatic approach here, for example [in the US] by temporarily suspending slot rules due the current pandemic situation.
“That benefits the climate and the airlines.”
Carsten Spohr, the airline group’s CEO, has previously described many of the 18,000 trips as “empty, unnecessary” flights.
George Gilkinet, Belgium’s mobility minister, called for Brussels to put an end to this “environmental, economic and social nonsense” after it emerged his country’s national flag carrier was being forced to make so many empty flights.
Teenage environmentalist, Greta Thunberg, sarcastically tweeted: “The EU surely is in a climate emergency mode.”
A Belgian Department for Transport spokesman told The Telegraph: “Since the onset of the pandemic we have provided relief from the slots usage rule to mitigate financial harm to the sector and prevent environmentally damaging ghost flights.
“Our aim is to support the sector’s recovery and we will announce our approach for summer 2022 shortly.”