Lufthansa cancels 33,000 flights as Omicron kills air travel demand
German airline Lufthansa has confirmed its intention to cut 33,000 flights of its winter schedule, approximately 10% of its total flight plan.
Demand has fallen due to measures put in place across Europe to combat the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that the company experienced a “sharp drop” in bookings from mid-January to February.
Lufthansa is the largest airline group in Europe. Besides the Lufthansa brand, it includes Eurowings, Austrian, Swiss and Brussels Airlines. The group declared a profit in the third quarter until 2021 for the first time since the start of the pandemic, despite around 60% of thefts compared to 2019.
Germany hard hit by Omicron
Like many European countries, Germany has experienced a record fourth wave of Covid-19 triggered by the Omicron variant. While more than 32 million people have already received a third dose of a vaccine, the German Minister of Health said that a 15 million more people should receive a third injection to slow the spread of Omicron.
In November, the United States issued a warning against visits to Germany, although fully vaccinated American tourists are allowed to enter the country. Germany also imposed a quarantine and negative requirement on visitors from the UK in December, although this has now been lifted. But it’s the passengers closer to home where Lufthansa experiences the biggest drop in demand.
âAbove all, we are short of passengers in our home markets of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium, as these countries have been hit hardest by the pandemic wave,â Spohr said.
The pilots’ illness also played a role in the downtime of at least 12 flights over the Christmas and New Years period. The canceled flights included those from Germany to Boston, Houston and Washington and destinations in Japan.
No more cancellations expected across Europe
Other airlines may well follow Lufthansa’s lead with many cancellations expected for January and February.
According to Business trip, Wizz-Air, Ryanair and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) are among the European airlines to have already canceled flights for the coming months.