BBC investigation reveals some airlines are flying longer, less fuel-efficient routes to save on ATC charges
Mon 3 Dec 2007 – A month-long investigation by BBC South East has discovered some airlines are deliberately flying longer routes over the Atlantic Ocean to avoid paying extra air traffic control charges. The BBC singled out leisure operators Thomas Cook Airlines and Monarch Airlines on their flight between the UK and the Canary Islands.
Known as the tango route, the 100-mile diversion avoids flying over French, Spanish and Portuguese airspace and therefore saves the airlines an average of £99 ($200) per flight. The BBC produced experts to calculate the flights burn an extra 1.6 tonnes of fuel and produce an additional three tonnes of CO2.
Both airlines admitted to the practice but said the tango route was more efficient as they avoided lengthy ATC delays caused by congestion in European airspace and helped maintain flight schedules. Thomas Cook Airlines maintained that by its own calculations, flights using the routes between November 2 and 16 actually saved fuel.
A spokesman for Monarch Airlines told the BBC: “In a highly competitive marketplace, where customers demand increasingly low fares, we have to manage our costs as tightly as possible. Ultimately, the environmental impact comes down to whether the travelling public is prepared to pay.”
Reacting to the investigation, Friends of the Earth’s aviation campaigner, Richard Dyer, said: “Despite their green claims, some airlines are clearly causing unnecessary pollution and increasing their contribution to climate change. Action must be taken to stop this outrageous practice by removing these incentives to pollute.”