The news is buzzing today with talk of the British Mediterranean Airways "ghost flights" from London Heathrow to Cardiff. The Sunday Times yesterday revealed that the airline, a British Airways franchise, has been flying two empty Airbus flights per day since October last year in order to keep the Heathrow landing slots they would have otherwise lost when their service to Tashkent in Uzbekistan was cancelled. In doing so, each trip has pumped 5.21 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Landing slots at Heathrow are highly sought after and are known to be worth up to £10 million. The landing slot policy, in which 80% of its allocation must be used in a six month period is known as "Use it or Lose it". Only short-terms exemptions are permitted.
Arthur Dent's home is about to be knocked over by a bulldozer. His alien friend Ford Prefect needs to take Arthur down the pub to tell him that the World is about to end, but Arthur is lying in front of the bulldozer...
BUILDER: Has Mr. Dent come to his senses yet?
FORD: Can we for the moment assume that he hasn’t?
BUILDER: (sighs) Well, then?
FORD: And can we also assume that he’s going to be staying here all day?
FORD: So all your men are going to be standing around all day, doing nothing.
BUILDER: Could be.
FORD: Well, if you’re resigned to doing that anyway, you don’t actually need him to lie here all the time, do you?
FORD: (patiently) You don’t actually need him here.
BUILDER: (considering) Well, no, not as such.… Not exactly need.…
FORD: So, if you would just like to take it that he’s actually here, then he and I could slip off down to the pub for half an hour. How does that sound?
BUILDER: (going along with it) That sounds reasonable.…
FORD: And no sneaky knocking down Mr. Dent’s house while he’s away, all right?
BUILDER: (deviously) The thought hadn’t even begun to speculate about the merest possibility of crossing my mind!
Could British Mediterranean Airways and Heathrow Airport not have come to a similar arrangement?