Lufthansa announced to temporarily take their fleet of 14 A380s out of service. The intention shows how dramatic the consequences of the coronavirus spread are for the group and aviation in general. The projected fleet reduction is part of a broader savings program to reduce the drain of cash as effectively as possible.
In contrast to the woes of its parent company, Lufthansa Cargo is much less hit by the economic impact provoked by the coronavirus pandemic.
The passenger business of Lufthansa and its group members Austrian Airlines, Swiss Air Lines, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings are in crisis mode. Booking figures are plummeting, aircraft seats remain half-empty before takeoff, businesspeople in particular are massively cancelling flights, tix bookings are falling sharply, and the now show rate of travelers with purchased tickets reaches new heights.
Rigid savings program
In view of these alarming circumstances, management has decided to take drastic measures to stabilize the situation and mitigate the financial consequences of the collapse in demand. Which business areas operational changes this affects, was announced by the management last Friday.
Main consideration is to ground Lufthansa’s 14 big A380s for an unspecified time, although this is still pending final decision. They would add to the 150 Lufthansa passenger aircraft that had been grounded already. In addition to this fleet reduction the management has decided to halve the number of pax flights, applying to the entire Group (Austrian Airlines, Swiss, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings, Germanwings). Practically this means that at Lufthansa alone, 7,100 roundtrips will be skipped until the end of March, with more probably following in April, shouldn’t demand pick up soon again. Similar operational cuts report the other Group members. Combined, they operated 3,200 flights per day in average throughout 2019.
Another key part of the savings plan is to send many staff in short time work or take unpaid leave, most on voluntary basis, but at Austrian Airlines up to 7,000 employees are facing that fate involuntarily.
LH is in “good company”
Similar steps, although less radical, report other carriers such as AF-KLM, British Airways or Alitalia. While two BA baggage handlers have tested positive for coronavirus leading to their isolation and recovery at home, badly indebted Alitalia cut services on 38 domestic and international routes.
Even harder hit by the crisis are Chinese, Korean and Japanese carriers including Gulf Airlines that have suspended China flights and reduced many frequencies. EK has asked their staff to voluntarily take a month of unpaid leave.
“The worst is over”…
… reacted a Lufthansa Cargo speaker when asked about the impact of the pandemic on his company’s business. He assured that the entire freighter fleet is in service, although routine technical maintenance has been moved up in time for some aircraft. Until the end of March, a special flight schedule has been determined, providing 5 weekly B777F services to Shanghai, supplemented by two Beijing and one weekly Chengdu service. That’s seven down to LH Cargo’s average China ops in winter times. Alike Shanghai, Hong Kong is serviced 5 x per week as well, with three extra cargo flights scheduled until 31 March.
Crews are changed at Novosibirsk Airport
The speaker didn’t exclude that the provisional itinerary will be extended in April, depending on market conditions and the virus spread. All other connections are running according to schedule, he emphasized.
As to China, he pointed out that there is no crew change at any of the airports served, in order to protect against the risk of infection by local ground personnel. Instead, all flights are routed via Novosibirsk in Russia where crew change takes place. Under normal circumstances, the B777Fs fly nonstop between Germany and China.
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