Lufthansa mulls cargo-only PAX flights while it cuts capacity

By Damian Brett

While announcing its 2019 financial results, Lufthansa said that it was considering using its idled passenger aircraft for freight-only flights while it also revealed drastic capacity cuts in response to the coronavirus.

The German airline group said it would reduce capacity by 95%, parking up 700 aircraft, as part of measures to respond to the coronavirus.

Deutsche Lufthansa chairman of the executive board Carsten Spohr said: “The spread of the coronavirus has placed the entire global economy and our company as well in an unprecedented state of emergency.

“At present, no one can foresee the consequences. We have to counter this extraordinary situation with drastic and sometimes painful measures.”

He added: “We are doing everything we can to bring as many passengers as possible home on relief flights. In addition, we are doing our utmost to help ensure that supply chains for many thousands of businesses do not break down by mobilising additional capacity for air freight transport.

“The longer this crisis lasts, the more likely it is that the future of aviation cannot be guaranteed without state aid.”

Lufthansa Cargo continues to fly its regular programme, except for cancellations to mainland China, keeping the entire freighter fleet in the air.

This currently consists of seven Boeing 777Fs, six MD11Fs and four B777Fs from Aerologic.

In addition, the company is currently examining the possibility of using passenger aircraft without passengers as pure cargo aircraft in order to further increase cargo capacity, it said.

Looking at cargo performance last year, Lufthansa’s logistics division, which includes Lufthansa Cargo, ULD management firm Jettainer, its Aerologic JV with DHL, and time-critical forwarder time:matters, saw revenues decrease by €9m to €2.5bn and earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) slipped to a loss of €33m from a profit of €263m last year.

“The airfreight industry is traditionally very volatile and saw declines across the market in 2019,” Lufthansa explained.

“The political situation, especially the trade disputes and uncertainties related to the Brexit, had a significant impact on demand in the sector.

“Despite reacting early to the challenging market situation and rapidly reducing its MD-11F fleet, Lufthansa Cargo was still unable to match its earnings in the previous two years.”

Cargo traffic for the year was flat at 8.9bn revenue tonne kms, but the cargo load factor slipped by 4.6 percentage points to 61.3%.

In terms of fleet in the reporting year, two more B777F aircraft joined the Lufthansa Cargo fleet and four MD-11F freighters were retired from service.

The fleet modernisation is scheduled for completion by the end of 2020.

From 2021 Lufthansa Cargo will then operate a uniform fleet of nine highly efficient B777F cargo aircraft. Lufthansa Cargo also brought another two leased B777F freighters into service at AeroLogic.

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