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LUFTHANSA

Germany’s Lufthansa predicts 2024 return to ‘pre-crisis’ air traffic amid record net loss

German airline giant Lufthansa said Thursday it made a net loss reaching €1.5 billion in the second quarter as the coronavirus pandemic slammed the brakes on travel.

Germany's Lufthansa predicts 2024 return to 'pre-crisis' air traffic amid record net loss
A Lufthansa plane is ready for its first flight in months on July 30th in Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

The German flag carrier carried around 1.7 million travellers during the three months to the end of June — a 96 percent drop from the same period last year as lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus restricted air travel worldwide.

Profit in the same period of the previous year was €754 million.

Lufthansa said demand for air travel would return to pre-crisis levels in 2024 at the earliest, as it predicted a “clearly negative” operating loss in the second half.

The group, which received a government bailout worth €9 billion, had announced in June that 22,000 jobs would have to go.

Although it had said then that it would use schemes for shorter work hours and other crisis arrangements to avoid outright redundancies, the company said Thursday that was now “no longer realistically within reach for Germany either”.

READ ALSO: EU approves huge bailout of German giant Lufthansa

“We are experiencing a caesura in global air traffic,” Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr said.

The collapse in traffic led to an 80 percent drop in quarterly revenue to €1.9 billion for Lufthansa Group, which also includes Austrian Airlines and Swiss. In the second quarter of last year, Lufthansa reported revenue of more than €9.5 billion.

The company said its fleet is to be permanently reduced by at least 100 aircraft, although its 2024 capacity will correspond to that of 2019.

Lufthansa previously said they would reduce its use of Airbus A380s and Boeing 747s.

In June, Lufthansa secured a €9 billion bailout from the German government, which now has a 20 percent stake in the group.

The airline said it now has €11.8 billion in liquidity, including government funds.

The group said it has so far reimbursed around €2 billion to customers in 2020 due to cancelled flights.

Fraport, which controls Frankfurt Airport, Lufthansa's main hub, said this week it plans to cut 3,000 to 4,000 jobs — as much as one-fifth of its workforce.

Passenger traffic at Frankfurt, Germany's busiest airport, fell 94.4 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2020 compared with last year.

READ ALSO: Frankfurt airport operator to slash jobs as air traffic plummets

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COVID-19

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

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