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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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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point. 

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