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Lufthansa expects air travel chaos until 2023

June 25, 2022

German airline Lufthansa has said it is canceling over 2,000 additional flights at its Frankfurt and Munich hubs due to staff shortages. Its low-cost subsidiary, Eurowings, is also expected to cancel flights.

Lufthansa and Eurowings aircraft at the Munich airport, with a stop sign in the foreground
The announcement comes two weeks after Lufthansa said it would cancel 900 connections in JulyImage: Vasco Garcia/dpa/picture alliance

German airline Lufthansa said it doesn't expect flight operations to return to normal until next year.   

"Unfortunately, we will hardly be able to realistically achieve a short-term improvement now in the summer," Lufthansa board member Detlef Kayser told the Saturday edition of Die Welt newspaper.

"We expect the situation to return to normal by 2023," he added.

The company believes reducing the number of flights is the only solution at the moment, and said it's canceling over 2,000 additional flights at its Frankfurt and Munich hubs due to staff shortages.

The announcement comes two weeks after it said it would cancel 900 connections in July.

Lufthansa's low-cost subsidiary Eurowings is also expected to cancel flights.

Why are airlines facing staff shortages?

Both Lufthansa and Eurowings, however, plan to largely avoid slashing the number of flights to classic holiday destinations.

Instead, flights within Germany and Europe where there are alternative travel options, such as rail, are to be cut.

Why is there a shortage of staff at airports?

The civil aviation industry has had a rough couple of years since the onset of the COVID pandemic, which triggered massive curbs on travel worldwide.

Passenger numbers dropped by 60% in 2020, and in 2021 it was still down 50%. Airlines lost nearly $200 billion (€189 billion) over the two years.

The battered sector was forced to lay off thousands of workers during its worst-ever crisis. It's now scrambling to hire more workers as demand recovers — but recruitment has been inadequate. 

How is inflation hurting firms and travelers?

It was clear very early on that staff shortages would be a problem in the civil aviation industry, Kayser told the newspaper.

He pointed out that Frankfurt Airport, for instance, had invested heavily in recruitment but recognized that it was not possible to hire the necessary staff as quickly as it had hoped.

Although demand is recovering, fears are growing that it will again falter due to high inflation, which is also increasing the operational costs of airlines, in the form of higher jet fuel, which makes up around 25-30% of airlines' spending.

If airlines decide to pass on the higher costs to travelers to preserve their profits — at a time when price rises are already eroding people's purchasing power — it could dissuade many from embarking on expensive air travel, which will hurt the companies again. 

sri/fb (dpa, Reuters, AFP)