Airlines must use a certain percentage of their designated slots at airports to hold on to them. But low demand during the pandemic has led airlines to fly near-empty flights, often known as “ghost flights,” to meet the requirements. Lufthansa, a large German airline, said it canceled 33,000 trips, or 10 percent of its winter flights, due to low demand but still anticipates having to fly 18,000 “poorly booked” flights to secure its slots.

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