Qatar Airways Under Fire for Flying Ghost Flights

( – Qatar Airways first came under fire for its practice of piloting so-called “ghost flights” in August 2023. These flights involved planes with 354 seats flying from one major Australian city, for example Melbourne, to a smaller city such as Adelaide, with just a handful of passengers on-board. This flight would come as the final leg of a multi-leg journey, such as a flight departing from Doha, in Qatar. The purpose of this nearly empty final leg was to allow the airline to claim the smaller city as its intended destination.

By claiming the non-major city as its intended destination, Qatar Airways was able to exploit a loophole in Australian aviation law which caps the number of incoming flights to major airports any one airline can make. The Qatari airline is legally permitted to make 28 flights per week destined for the airports of Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney. It can make as many flights as it likes to other minor Australian airports, such as Adelaide. In order to circumvent this restriction, the airline changed the end point of some flights to a small city. The airline was criticized, however, for not treating these flights as standard as it would avoid selling tickets for the final leg of the journey.

Qatar Airways’ loophole exploitation is not the only instance of “ghost flights” that has prompted outrage around the world. When various governments restricted domestic and international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, many airlines were criticized for operating “ghost flights” with few to no passengers in order to maintain their usual flight slots. According to Greenpeace, “ghost flights” account for the same levels of pollution that would be created by 1.4 million cars.

Since August, Australian lawmakers have considered their response to Quatar Airways. The Australian Department of Infrastructure and Transport has weighed in and forced the airline to allow passengers and cargo to board those final-leg flights as would be normally expected of a flight.

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