When 'Ghost Flights' From London's Heathrow Airport Caused an Environmental Scandal


For a period of time back in 2007, "ghost flights" with no passengers onboard plagued London's Heathrow Airport and caused an uproar among environmentalists, as Jalopnik reports.

Six times a week, the now-defunct British Mediterranean Airways sent planes that were practically empty—save for crew members—from London to Cardiff, Wales, and back again the next day. And it all had to do with Heathrow's strict policing of runway rights, as YouTube channel Half as Interesting explains in the video below.

Despite being the UK's largest and busiest airport, Heathrow only has two runways. For comparison, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which sees roughly the same number of passengers, has seven. As a result, the 650 daily "slot pairs" that grant airlines the right to take off and land at Heathrow are costly and hard to come by. They also tend to command sky-high prices when they're traded and sold. Oman Air, for instance, paid $75 million for a prime early morning slot in 2016.

Airlines have to use their slot at least 80 percent of the time over a six-month period, lest it be forfeited to another airline. So when British Mediterranean’s service from London to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, was abruptly canceled, it scrambled to ensure it wouldn’t lose its slot at Heathrow. Hence the ghost flights.

Environmentalists, of course, were less than pleased with the fact that each 140-mile flight resulted in five tons of CO2 being released into the atmosphere, according to the BBC. The ghost flights eventually ended and British Mediterranean Airways was sold after suffering a series of losses. As Half as Interesting notes, although extreme cases like these aren't as common anymore, some airlines schedule cheaper flights more often in the winter to ensure they’re making full use of their slot.

And Heathrow is once again taking some heat from environmentalists. The airport is planning to expand by adding a third runway, which sparked protests outside the Houses of Parliament last month.

[h/t Jalopnik]

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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The Northern Lights Storms Are Getting Names—and You Can Offer Up Your Suggestions

A nameless northern lights show in Ylläs, Finland.
A nameless northern lights show in Ylläs, Finland.
Heikki Holstila, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

While all northern lights are spectacular, they’re not all spectacular in the same way. Aurora borealis, or “northern dawn,” occurs when electrons in the magnetic field surrounding Earth transfer energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere. The molecules then emit the excess energy as light particles, which create scintillating displays whose colors and shapes depend on many known and unknown factors [PDF]—type of molecule, amount of energy transferred, location in the magnetosphere, etc.

Though the “storms” are extremely distinct from each other, they haven’t been named in the past the way hurricanes and other storms are christened. That’s now changing, courtesy of a tourism organization called Visit Arctic Europe. As Travel + Leisure reports, the organization will now christen the strongest storms with Nordic names to make it easier to keep track of them.

“There are so many northern lights visible in Arctic Europe from autumn to early spring that we started giving them names the same way other storms are named. This way, they get their own identities and it’s easier to communicate about them,” Visit Arctic Europe’s program director Rauno Posio explained in a statement.

Scientists will be able to reference the names in their studies, much like they do with hurricanes. And if you’re a tourist hoping to check out other people’s footage of the specific sky show you just witnessed, searching by name on social media will likely turn up better results than a broad “#auroraborealis.”

Visit Arctic Europe has already given names to recent northern lights storms, including Freya, after the Norse goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, and Sampo, after “the miracle machine and magic mill in the Finnish national epic poem, ‘Kalevala.’” A few other monikers pay tribute to some of the organization’s resident “aurora hunters.”

But you don’t have to be a goddess or an aurora hunter in order to get in on the action. Anybody can submit a name (along with an optional explanation for your suggestion) through the “Naming Auroras” page here. It’s probably safe to assume that submissions related to Nordic history or culture have a better chance of being chosen, but there’s technically nothing to stop you from asking Visit Arctic Europe to name a northern lights show after your dog.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]