Germany’s airline and travel industry receives a “gut punch” from COVID-19
Updated: Mar 30, 2020
By Emma Harvey
The global aviation industry has been severely affected by the coronavirus outbreak. US airline executive Gary Kelly called COVID-19 a “gut punch” to airlines worldwide, whilst the International Air Transport Association (IATA) stated that coronavirus could cost the global aviation industry up to 113 billion US dollars. As a result, many airlines have taken emergency cost-cutting measures, as well as imposed cutbacks and changes in their flight schedules, to avoid collapse.
For some airlines, the punch has already hit. Flybe, previously Europe’s largest regional airline - flying to locations such as Berlin, Düsseldorf and Stuttgart - announced that the coronavirus was the final blow that “made a difficult situation worse” before entering administration this week. British Airways and Ryanair also cancelled hundreds of flights to Europe, including to Germany, amid the travel demand drop.
As of Friday evening, the number of COVID-19 cases in Germany has increased to 630, with North Rhine-Westphalia being the most affected area. Currently, no deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported in Germany.
Due to increasing coronavirus concerns and consequent plummets in travel demand, German airline giant Lufthansa has cancelled more than 7,100 flights in March, especially from some of Germany’s biggest air hubs such as Frankfurt and Munich. The Lufthansa group stated that in recent days it had been “exposed to drastic declines in bookings and numerous flight cancellations due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.” The airline has grounded planes and cancelled flights, mainly domestic flights and inter-European flights, especially those along routes to Italy, as the virus continues to spread throughout Europe.
Grounded: half of Lufthansa's flights
The company also plans to cut half of its flights and is considering keeping its entire fleet of A380 superjumbos grounded, in order to “reduce the financial consequences of the slump in demand.”
From April onwards, in response to this dramatic drop in flight bookings, coinciding with the growing number of COVID-19 cases worldwide, the company will reduce half of its flights. Lufthansa has also cancelled all of its flights to mainland China until 24 April 2020.
The Lufthansa group has also implemented a hiring freeze. The airline is waiving its change fees for passengers on existing and future bookings, thereby offering passengers greater flexibility in the hope of alleviating falling air-travel demand.
German airlines including the aforementioned Lufthansa and its subsidiaries Swiss and Austrian Airlines, have cancelled all flights to Israel until 28th March, after the Israeli government implemented entry controls, banning almost all non-resident arrivals from five European countries, including France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Switzerland, adding to the already imposed restrictions on arrivals from mainland China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Macau, South Korea, Japan and Italy, over coronavirus fears. Lufthansa stated it felt forced to make these cancellations for “economic and operational reasons, as many passengers are no longer entitled to enter the country.”
Whilst there are some travel restrictions for people arriving in Germany from the worst-hit regions German Health Minister, Jens Spahn (at least for the moment), has dismissed the idea of EU-wide travel restrictions; no regions have been sealed off and the situation is being monitored closely.
For the time being, the priority of German airports is to keep passengers informed and to implement measures to curb the virus spreading: multilingual information brochures are on board most German flights; German airports have information signs concerning coronavirus; and travellers from the worst hit areas are required to fill in landing cards providing information on where they will be staying and their current health status.
Health Minister Jens Spahn
But looking ahead to the coming months, the future of air travel is uncertain.
It remains to be seen whether the airline industry will keep its head afloat over the coming months or, on the contrary, suffer through cuts, cancellations and delays as COVID-19 continues to spread.
For information and travel advice concerning COVID-19 visit:
British Government Advice concerning COVID-19
British Government Travel Advice concerning COVID-19
Bundesgesundheits Minisiterium Hinweise und Informationen zum Coronavirus