News Roundup: Lufthansa trouble,US airlines mask problems, European airlines bumpy start, easyJet…

Lufthansa

Lufthansa Group has one massive major shareholder, a single man, billionaire Heinz Herman Thiele, owner of Knorr-Bremse a brake manufacturer and Vossloh, a German transport technology manufacturer.

His net worth is $15.6 billion USD, and the 79 year old controlled 10% of Lufthansa Group shares. And he doesn’t approve of the bailout terms and conditions the Group has agreed to with the Federal Government and State Government of Rheinland-Palatinate.

Heinz Herman Thiele

He thinks the Group should look at other ways to raise the finances it needs, including selling off parts of it if needed, and to make his point he bought another 5% of the airline groups shares, taking his stake to 15.0%. During Wednesday trading so far he’s added another 0.5% to that stake.

The whole thing has panicked the Lufthansa board, who need 66% of shareholders to agree the bailout on June 25th. If enough don’t show, or Thiele persuades a number to vote with him, and/or he buys up yet more shares – he’s already the largest single share holder, the whole bailout could be in jeopardy.


US airlines mask problems

All of the major US Airlines have agreed to start enforcing mask wearing on flights. Americans seem far too willing to refuse and there is a general malaise about the whole Covid epidemic. Nobody seems concerned that the way America is going it will have more deaths from Covid 19 than in all of World War 2 if it carries on as it is into next year. 200,000 deaths will be passed by the end of September at current rates. That’s more people than died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined on the day of the bombings.

Airlines have been light handed, refusing so far to enforce mask wearing, but it seems crews and other passengers are getting a bit fed up at the irresponsibility of others. In the absence of any leadership from Washington, the airlines are doing their bit to try and mitigate risk.

They accept that some customers won’t like being told, but as the airlines are quick to point out, “if you don’t like wearing a mask, don’t choose our airline”.

There’s been divided response from airlines on keeping middle seats empty. some have, but most aren’t. One reporter noted the bizarre social distancing enforcement at airports, only to board the plane and find it rammed full of passengers only half of whom could have the common decency to wear a mask in such a confined space.


SAS highlights the problems ahead for European airlines

With the resumption of flying, and bookings accelerating, the problem airlines are having is balancing demand with aircraft availability, but even more so the fact that passengers aren’t making themselves aware of the rules in the country they fly to.

Generally the EU acts as one, but each country in the bloc has had different methodologies and rules around social distancing, mask wearing and self-quarantines. Customers seem to not appreciate that they are the ones responsible for dealing with these regulations when they reach their destinations.

Airlines are trying to make it clear at the point of booking, but also don’t want to deter anyone from travelling. It’s a complex line to cross.

SAS has found itself best served operating to start with out of Copenhagen, as the far more liberal rules in Sweden around social distancing, and the fact the country never went into a lockdown (but has some of the worst death rates in care homes and amongst the elderly), leaves people confused.

Meanwhile its picking up a more and more of its old route network, especially to the holiday markets in Southern Europe.


easyJet

The airline has agreed with Airbus to defer 25 A320neo’s until 2025-27 at a cost of £95 million. Meanwhile a piqued Stelios having lost his battle sold off some of his stock, as much as £30 million of it by some counts. In many ways the airlines board really won’t mind. His erratic behaviour and approach to the group as it matured into a major carrier has been more often problematic than helpful.

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