The EU has refuted having any evidence of airlines running empty or ‘ghost flights’ due to the use-it-or-lose-it slot rule amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Reuters.

A European Commission official was quoted by the news agency as saying: “We actually have no evidence from any airline including Lufthansa on any amount of empty flights being operated. Travel has been relatively unrestricted. Net bookings are still quite stable.”

The clarification by the EU official was given after a dispute between two major European carriers Lufthansa and Ryanair over the use-it-or-lose-it rule.

Last month, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr revealed to a newspaper that the company had to operate additional flights in winter to maintain their slots, which led to extra emissions. 

In a statement, Ryanair recently asked the European Commission to ignore Lufthansa’s false claims of operating empty flights and shielding itself against competition from low-cost carriers.

In order to address this problem, Ryanair suggested that Lufthansa should sell the flight tickets at lower prices to EU customers.

Ryanair said that Lufthansa and its subsidiaries have received $13.7bn (€12bn) of State Aid over the last two years of the pandemic.

Ryanair Group CEO Michael O’Leary said: “The solution to Lufthansa’s ‘ghost flights’ problem is a simple one, just sell these seats to consumers. If Lufthansa really needs to operate these flights (solely to prevent the release of these slots to competitor airlines), then they should be required to sell these seats to the public at low fares.

“The German and EU public have already bailed out Lufthansa with billions of State Aid to Lufthansa and their subsidiaries, Brussels Airlines, Swiss and Austrian, and instead of operating empty flights just so they can block slots, Lufthansa should release the seats on these flights for sale at low fares to reward the German and European taxpayers who have subsidised it with billions of euros during the Covid crisis.

“If Lufthansa doesn’t want to operate ‘ghost flights’ to protect its slots, then simply sell these seats at low fares and help accelerate the recovery of short and long haul air travel to and from Europe.”