Lufthansa yesterday faced its future head on with further swingeing cuts planned to staff numbers and aircraft.
The airline said that bookings were now in decline again and where they had hoped to be at 50% of 2019 in Q4 they’d be lucky to see that reach 20-30%.
As a result, with 6 A380’s already withdrawn, the remaining 8 would be withdrawn and sent to deep storage, in effect indefinitely. The only way they would return to service would be a massive increase in demand that justified doing so. The indication was the airline just didn’t see that happening any time in the foreseeable future.
The remaining 7 A340-600’s currently in light storage will be scrapped.
The 744’s of which just four are operating seem to have had a reprieve based on their belly cargo capabilities, but their long term future is limited.
The airline committed to a reduction of 150 aircraft in the next two years and on top of the 22,000 staff already departing, as many as another 6,000 would likely join them.
From an analysts point of view Lufthansa has to be admired for facing the problems and being upfront about them, clearly and unambiguously so that customers, shareholders and staff all understand why. The comparison with British Airways in this respect is stark, they couldn’t be more opaque and uncommunicative if they tried.
Even so the consequences of the A380’s being lost from Munich and Frankfurt, the loss of staff, the massive reductions in aircraft sizes and their implications for the future of travel are significant. In some ways Lufthansa is the model airline for how and what to do in a crisis of this magnitude.
The crisis is very visible to me. Lufthansa now rarely flies an A320 into BHX, mostly CRJ’s now. Emirates is back but only 773ER’s. Since the end of the summer season the number of flights in and out of BHX a has dropped sharply.
I wonder, in all seriousness now if we ever will see 2019 levels of flying again. Has COVID presented us with a jolt so profound that we’ll change our habits fundamentally? Business travel certainly will not be the same again. Companies have seen a cheaper equally viable alternative, but trade shows, in person contacts are still going to matter when normalcy returns. Perhaps not quite so much.
However, I don’t believe for a second that tourism won’t be back. The travel bug is not easy to give up and it will return with a vengeance – and probably higher prices as demand soars will help airlines recover.