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Lufthansa Says it Will Take Years to Recover from COVID-19 Crisis, Retires Dozens of Planes Early

Lufthansa Says it Will Take Years to Recover from COVID-19 Crisis, Retires Dozens of Planes Early

Employee groups at the German airline group Lufthansa have accused the company of using the Coronavirus crisis as an excuse to “force through” a long-planned restructuring scheme which would involve rewriting terms and conditions for many workers, lowering wages and laying off at least 1,400 cabin crew. Lufthansa painted a bleak picture on Tuesday afternoon, saying it doesn’t expect a return to pre-Coronavirus levels “very quickly”.

The airline group, which also includes Austrian, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings and SWISS, said that while travel bans and entry restrictions may be lifted within months, it will nonetheless take years before demand for air travel returns to the levels seen in late 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic emerged.

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Photo Credit: Lufthansa

As a result, Lufthansa’s executive board says it has decided on “extensive measures” to reduce the impact by slashing capacity in the medium and longterm, and making plans to cut employee costs.

The headline-grabbing announcement was a decision to retire at least 32 aircraft in the very near future and much sooner than originally planned. So far, Lufthansa has confirmed the following early aircraft retirements:

  • 6 Airbus A380’s
  • 10 Airbus A340’s
  • 5 747-400’s
  • 22 Airbus A320’s

Lufthansa explained that it had taken the decision to retire its gas-guzzling four-engined A340’s and 747-400’s because they are no efficient compared to other long-haul aircraft operated by the airline. Meanwhile, the 6 A380’s were already slated for retirement in 2022 but these will now be permanently withdrawn from service early.

Eight Airbus A380’s and the same number of Boeing 747-400’s will remain in Lufthansa’s fleet after the crisis. A further 19 next-generation Boeing 747-800’s will also continue to be a longterm part of the Lufthansa fleet.

Ten of Airbus A320’s set to be retired belong to Lufthansa’s low-cost subsidiary Eurowings and an existing plan to reduce its presence in the long-haul market will be accelerated. Union bosses say Lufthansa also plans to use the COVID-19 as an excuse to close down Germanwings, with the loss of at least 1,400 cabin crew roles.

Lufthansa said it would push for “new employment models” in order to save as many jobs as possible. The vast majority of Lufthansa workers are currently on short-time working because of the crisis.

The situation at Austrian Airlines

A spokesperson for Austrian Airlines said the carrier believes travel demand through the summer would be 25 to 50 per cent lower than in 2019 and believes it will take at two years before “pre-Corona” levels will be reached.

“The world we will be flying into will be a different one. People will travel again, but the economy, tourism and passenger needs will have changed after the Corona crisis. We will align our company to master this challenge,” warned chief executive Alexis von Hoensbroech.

Hoensbroech said the airline would definitely need to reduce its fleet but had not yet formalised those plans. Similar reductions are expected at SWISS and Brussels Airlines.