Lufthansa is set to cancel at least 34,000 flights over the summer season, Reuters and German business journal WirtschaftsWoche are reporting. Even more flights could still be removed from the summer flight schedule if the group also makes changes to its Eurowings budget offering and its SWISS operations.
“Lufthansa has adjusted the 2023 summer flight schedule from Frankfurt and Munich,” said a spokesperson for the airline, adding there was always the possibility of “further daily cancellations.”
Germany: #Lufthansa plans to cancel 34,000 flights from 2023 summer schedule at Frankfurt and Munich airports following staff shortages— Travel Watch (@BCDtravelwatch) February 19, 2023
Lufthansa has the most passenger traffic in Europe, followed by Air France-KLM, according to aviation analysts, the Centre for Aviation. The latest reduction in schedules is designed to pre-empt and avoid the last-minute cancellations that created havoc for passengers in summer 2022. But while the airline might like to paint this approach as foresight, it is hard not to view today’s troubles as the result of its own previous policies.
Back in 2020 Chief Executive Carsten Spohr said that Lufthansa had 27,000 too many full-time equivalent employees. Despite taking a nine billion euro pandemic bailout from the government, the airline took advantage of COVID-19 to make mass redundancies and perhaps unsurprisingly now faces a staffing crisis.
Having paid back the subsidy and after a major recruitment campaign last November for 20,000 new staff, the airline remains ill-prepared for high passenger numbers caused by the public’s post-pandemic appetite for travel.
Further disruption is likely as a result of industrial action by ground staff belonging to the Ver.di Union, who are demanding a 10.5% pay increase. 1300 flights were affected on Friday. Germany’s two biggest airports, Frankfurt Airport (FRA) and Munich Airport (MUC) were effectively shutdown by the 24-hour walkout.
There is still a catastrophic labor shortage among ground handling workers – travellers felt this clearly last summer. To change this situation, an attractive wage increase must take place for them. And aviation security employees are entitled to an increase in the surcharges in the collective wage agreements.Christine Behle, Ver.di’s Deputy Chair
To make matters worse, the beleaguered company saw flights grounded last week after construction work in Frankfurt severed a cable. German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom said fiberglass cable about five metres underground had been damaged by a concrete drill, causing an outage of the airline’s IT systems. It was the second time in less than a week that building work had resulted in a devastating power cut in Germany, with North Rhine-Westphalia state police and government data offices affected for several hours.