Why Heathrow Airport Had Empty Flights to Nowhere


This video was made possible by Tab for a
Cause. Start raising money for charity with every
tab you open by going to the link in the description. Hello and welcome to the dregs of the last
Wendover video. This is Heathrow airport. It’s the busiest and biggest airport in
the UK and, for complicated reasons, they used to have a flight six times a week to
Cardiff, Wales that no passengers were allowed to take. What you need to know about Heathrow is that
it has only two runways whereas Chicago O’Hare Airport, which flies about as many passengers
yearly as Heathrow, has seven and if my advanced differential calculus class taught me anything
it’s that seven is more than two. What’d be almost as much of a lie as saying
I took advanced differential calculus would be saying that Heathrow is quiet and calm. In fact, it’s the exact antonym of these
words. It’s rowdy and tempestuous? No, what it is is crowded, really crowded,
super crowded. I have the best words. Because of that, airlines can’t just go
and decide they want to start flying there, they need to own a slot pair. These are rights for airlines to land and
take off at the airport at a particular time and they’re tradable and sellable. Because this is the main airport of one of
the world’s largest and most important cities, there’s a huge amount of demand from airlines
to fly there but there are only 650 daily slot pairs. Because of economics, that means prices are
high. Really high. For example, up until 2016, Kenya Airways
owned a slot pair that gave them the right to operate a flight landing at Heathrow at
6:30 AM and departing at 8:25 AM. This is the most popular time of day to operate
flights as its when overnight flights from the US and Asia tend to arrive and Oman Air,
flying from Muscat, Oman, wanted to operate an overnight flight so they bought this slot
pair from Kenya Airways for $75 million. For that price you could buy a car. This was the highest amount ever paid for
a Heathrow slot pair, but they still regularly sell for tens of millions of dollars so once
airlines have them, they don’t want to lose them. Airlines are required to use their slot 80%
of the time or else they’ll be dissolved and given to the next airline on the waiting
list and that was what led to this ghost flight to Cardiff. In early 2007, British Mediterranean Airways
permanently cancelled their flight to Tashkent, Uzbekistan due to long-term civil unrest but
because of that, the Heathrow slots they had been using to fly that flight sat empty. The Tashkent flight was scheduled to leave
Heathrow at 2:35 pm and arrive back the next day at noon but to keep their slots they don’t
have to use them for any particular flight, they just have to use them. Therefore, British Mediterranean flew their
small a320 over to Cardiff at 2:35 pm and returned the next day at 12 noon six days
a week. On each flight, the plane had no passengers,
only the crew, which seems to break the well respected business strategy of making money
but since the cancellation of the Tashkent route was last minute, according to the airline,
it would have been too expensive to set up contracts for baggage handlers, hire gate
agents, find translators, and do everything else needed to actually carry passengers to
Cardiff for the few months they had to hold these slots. Needless to say, environmental advocates were
not amused and it soon became a big scandal, but who cares about the earth anyways. We can always move to the third world countries. British Mediterranean Airways wasn’t the
only airline to protect their slots at Heathrow with empty flights. In 2004, Qantas Airways bought two slot pairs
from FlyBe for $25 million but until they were able to set up the flights to Australia,
which needed to operate via Singapore due to the distance, they needed to hold on to
the slots. Their solution was at least slightly more
practical. As an Australian airline they weren’t allowed
to operate domestic flights within the UK so they chartered a small 112 seat British
Aerospace 146 from a British Airline to fly two flights a day up to Manchester. You were only allowed to book this flight
as an connection to or from a Qantas flight to Australia and the airline already had an
agreement with British Airways to offer connecting flights to Manchester so this flight supposedly
operated on some days with only two or three passengers. Still, two passengers are better than none. These slot-sitting flights certainly do still
exist but they’re often more subtle like how airlines will, in winter when overall
demand is lower, decrease the number of flights to their furthest away destinations, which
are expensive to fly to, and increase the number of flights to their nearest, cheap
to fly to destinations. Now, as we covered, all these empty flights
were singlehandedly responsible for climate change so what if I told you you could help
environment without giving up any time or money. That’d be a dream right? Well you can do exactly that by going to tab.gladly.io/hai
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32 Responses

  1. Parishee Bajaj

    August 16, 2019 12:00 am

    “If you wanna do something to help without doing anything, download tab for a cause.” Idk but that got me. I literally laughed out loud

  2. john donbavand

    August 16, 2019 11:17 am

    Dude your NOT funny please stop trying! Your videos are good enough without all the Christmas cracker jokes, your voice is great for conveying information not jokes

  3. Cpr1234

    August 16, 2019 2:43 pm

    BA still fly to Cardiff without passengers, but not as frequently as it used to be. On holiday last week, I saw two BA's fly low in one day. The first was a 777 for maintenance from Heathrow and the second was a 787 that got diverted there for some reason. The diversion flight was BA132 from Jeddah which was supposed to land at Heathrow

  4. wojtekpolska

    August 20, 2019 11:55 pm

    wanted to try that Tab For A Cause thing but it only works with chrome and firefox and im definitly not switching my browsers xd

  5. Cool Corner

    August 31, 2019 5:10 am

    Wow that's interesting because I spent $200,000 on a degree and 4 years at RIT to tell you that 7, is indeed more than 2. It took years of research and studying to confirm this statement that can now be deemed as 100% true.

  6. Joanie Velles

    September 6, 2019 3:54 am

    Only clicked it because I was hoping for a real life Sherlock "the government is flying dead bodies" conspiracy

  7. Marta Leszkiewicz

    September 7, 2019 9:39 am

    2:50 Why would they need translators for a domestic flight? Everyone in Wales speaks English anyway.

  8. P77777777

    September 17, 2019 11:46 am

    That’s crazy that it’s cheaper to fly an empty plane than give up a time slot
    Also it would be a really cushy job to be a pilot on such a flight

  9. Blake Belladonna

    September 23, 2019 5:21 am

    Is there anything to say they couldn't just fly a small plane like a C-172 during those slots instead of even a small commuter airliner?


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