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German airline giant Lufthansa ‘losing €1 million per hour’

Lufthansa is losing a million euros ($1.1 million) per hour as the coronavirus pandemic paralyses travel, CEO Carsten Spohr said, warning that the German airline giant would need state aid to survive.

German airline giant Lufthansa 'losing €1 million per hour'
Archive photo shows Lufthansa planes at Frankfurt's airport. Photo: DPA

In a video message to staff, Spohr said the Lufthansa group was facing “the biggest challenge in our 65-year history”.

Confinement measures taken around the globe to slow the outbreak have forced millions of people to abandon travel plans and stay home, bringing the airline industry to its knees.

READ ALSO: 'Exceptional crisis': Lufthansa to slash long-haul flights by up to 90 percent

Spohr said the Lufthansa group, which includes subsidiaries Eurowings, SWISS, Brussels and Austrian Airlines, was now carrying fewer than 3,000 passengers daily compared with a pre-pandemic average of around 350,000 a day.

Europe's largest airline group by passenger numbers “will not be able to survive this increasingly longer lasting crisis without state support”, Spohr said in the video to staff on Wednesday and seen by AFP on Thursday.

“We are losing about €1 million in liquidity reserves per hour. Day and night. Week by week,” he added.

Spohr said bailout discussions had already started with governments in countries where its airlines were based.

“I'm optimistic that these talks in Bern, Berlin, Brussels and Vienna will lead to good and positive outcomes.”

Lufthansa had started the crisis with financial reserves of around €4 billion, he said.

But faced with a worsening impact, the group has taken drastic cost-cutting steps to stay afloat.

Lufthansa announced on Tuesday that it was closing down budget carrier Germanwings and getting rid of more than 40 planes out of its 763-strong fleet.

Some 7,000 workers are directly impacted by those moves, among them 1,400 Germanwings staff.

READ ALSO: German airline giant Lufthansa puts 87,000 workers on reduced hours

Spohr said negotiations were ongoing with unions to find alternative jobs within the group “for as many of them as possible”.

The Lufthansa group has also placed more than 87,000 workers — over 60 percent of its workforce — on government-subsidised shorter hour schemes, most of them in Germany.

Around 700 of Lufthansa's aircraft are grounded at the moment as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, bringing the group's flight plan back to levels not seen since the 1950s.

Around the world, the International Air Transport Association recently said up to $200 billion might be needed to rescue airlines.

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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