Lufthansa Group to ground 700 aircraft

All Lufthansa Airbus A380s are currently suspended from flying. Photo: © Phillip Rohmberger / IFN

Lufthansa Group has announced that it will be grounding around 700 aircraft, almost its entire fleet, amid the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

The German flag-carrier and its subsidiaries operate a total fleet of 763 aircraft. 13 of those are freighters, operated by Lufthansa Cargo.

Just two days ago, the airline group said that it will operate only ten percent of its typical long-haul, and 20 percent of its short-haul capacity. The combined number has since shrunken to a tiny five percent, as Lufthansa is solely focusing on bringing travelers home.

The airline now says it will stop long-haul operations at its hub in Munich (IATA: MUC), and only operate those flights from Frankfurt Airport (IATA: FRA). Furthermore, short-haul flights in Munich will completely be operated by regional arm Lufthansa CityLine, using smaller aircraft, including Embraer E190 and Bombardier CRJ-900 regional jets. In terms of overall short-haul network, Lufthansa will serve ‘only a few European metropolitan areas’ from both Frankfurt and Munich.

In a press conference on Thursday morning, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr talked about the few remaining routes. He stated that only 30 short-haul and three long-haul return trips per day currently will remain at Frankfurt Airport. For Munich Airport, that number is even lower, at ten daily short-haul return trips. The only intercontinental destinations will be Newark, Chicago, Montreal, Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, Bangkok and Tokyo, each served three times per week.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa subsidiaries Austrian Airlines and Italy-based Air Dolomiti have temporarily suspended all scheduled flights on Thursday and Wednesday respectively. The former will not resume operations before the end of this month, and is currently only operating a number of repatriation flights in cooperation with the Austrian government.

Belgian flag-carrier Brussels Airlines, also part of Lufthansa Group, will suspend its flights on March 21 for one month. Brussels is keeping a small number of aircraft on standby, should repatriation flights become necessary.

However, another subsidiary, Zurich-based Swiss, will not stop flying for the time being. But the airline has also drastically scaled-down its flight operations to an absolute minimum. Swiss now only operates one single long-haul flight, Zurich to Newark (IATA: EWR), three times per week, along with just ten daily short-haul return services from the same airport.

Lufthansa itself is operating repatriation/relief flights in cooperation with Germany’s foreign ministry. Over the past few days, the airline had also operated rescue flights on behalf of travel companies, to bring stranded holidaymakers and cruise ship passengers back home from the Caribbean and the Canary Islands. The group airlines combined, also including low-cost carrier Eurowings and Swiss leisure airline Edelweiss, are currently offering around 140 ‘special relief flights’. “Numerous other special flights will follow in the next few days“, the company says.

All cargo flights of Lufthansa continue to operate as normal, except for cancellations in mainland China due to Coronavirus-related lockdowns. In addition to seven Boeing 777F and six McDonnell-Douglas MD-11F, there are four 777F operated by Aerologic. Lufthansa says it is considering operating empty, currently unused passenger aircraft for freight only, to increase cargo capacity.

The Lufthansa Group is among the companies hit the hardest by the Coronavirus crisis, that has just started in Europe. Due to travel restrictions around the world and demand for flights at historic lows, it is essentially impossible to operate an airline business during the current time.

On Wednesday, it was announced that ILA Berlin Air Show 2020 is cancelled due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) spread in Europe. Lufthansa had been a usual exhibitor at the biannual trade fair, even putting one of its Boeing 747-8i on display. Many expected this ‘tradition’ to continue in 2020. However, Lufthansa told International Flight Network three weeks prior to the cancellation announcement, that it was not planning on attending this year’s edition.

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