‘Harder than ever’: Germany’s Lufthansa says 30,000 jobs at risk over pandemic

German giant Lufthansa has warned that 30,000 jobs are under threat as it scaled down its winter schedule to levels not seen since the 1970s as demand for travel collapses because of the coronavirus pandemic.

'Harder than ever': Germany's Lufthansa says 30,000 jobs at risk over pandemic
An employee walks past Lufthansa planes parked at Munich's airport in June. Photo: DPA

The executive board of Europe's largest airline said in a letter to employees that it was now “harder than ever” to predict how the aviation industry will develop, given there is little clarity over how long travel warnings would be applied or how quickly any recovery could come.

The use of video conferences may have also changed attitudes to travel against the backdrop of environmental prerogatives, while pressures on income could also weigh on tourism, the board wrote in the letter seen by AFP.

“No one can reliably predict these effects. We are determined nevertheless to preserve at least 100,000 of the Lufthansa Group's 130,000 current jobs. Even if we do not currently have nearly enough jobs for a workforce of this size,” it added.

READ ALSO: How Germany's Lufthansa is lifting off again as lockdowns ease

Lufthansa in September said more jobs would go beyond the 22,000 previously
announced but did not give a clear figure then.

The German state in June stepped in to take a 25 percent stake in the airline, pumping nine billion euros of liquidity to prop up one of the nation's most internationally visible companies.

The carrier — including its subsidiaries Swiss, Austrian, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings — said it would ground 125 more planes than planned in the winter, offering a maximum of a quarter of 2019's capacity as it anticipates “less than a fifth” of the previous year's passengers.

The season would be an “immense challenge”, it said.

“After a summer that gave us all reason for hope, we are now once again in
a situation that is tantamount to a lockdown in effect.”

As the travel industry adapts to a post-pandemic world, the airline's board said “we will be a smaller but also a more efficient Lufthansa. The road there will be long and arduous”.

The German flag carrier has succeeded in cutting its outflow of funds at the start of the pandemic from €1 million per hour to “only” one million euros every two hours, it said.

READ ALSO: EU approves huge bailout of German giant Lufthansa

It will reduce administrative functions to around 30 percent, and shutter most of its main office in Frankfurt. Eurowings will entirely give up its office space in Düsseldorf.

The company will also keep employees on shorter work hours for a longer time — up to the end of February from mid-December previously.

 Lufthansa reported an operating loss of €1.3 billion in preliminary third-quarter figures but the three months to the end of 2020 are looking far gloomier.


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German health agency expects number of Covid ICU patients to rise

The Covid pandemic is continuing to cause problems around Germany, with concerns that the number of patients needing treatment will rise in the coming weeks.

German health agency expects number of Covid ICU patients to rise

In its weekly Covid report, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said that confirmed infections appeared to be rising in some German states, and falling in others.

But experts warned that the situation remained tense, with many infections not reported. 

Therefore, in the coming weeks, “hospitalisations, an increase in intensive care treatment and deaths are to be expected, especially among the elderly”, said the RKI.

People over the age of 80 “continue to be most affected by severe courses of the disease”, the experts said in their report. 

The incidence of infections is continuing to rise for this age group, and the number of outbreaks of Covid-19 in medical treatment facilities as well as in old people’s and nursing homes is going up.

READ ALSO: Which Covid rules are likely to return to Germany in autumn?

The number of patients with Covid-19 being treated in intensive care units (ICUs) is also rising slightly. In the previous week, the number was reported to be around 1,330. And on Thursday July 28th, 1,550 people were in ICUs in Germany with 484 receiving ventilation treatment, according to the DIVI intensive care register. 

The number of deaths in connection with the virus is currently around just over 400 per week. The RKI says this trend is a plateau.

When it comes to the overall picture of Covid in Germany, the RKI said there was a “sideways movement rather than a decreasing trend”.

Last week, the nationwide 7-day incidence decreased slightly compared to the previous week. The overall picture shows falling incidences in most western German states and Berlin, with incidences still rising slightly in the other eastern German states and Bavaria.

The RKI estimates there’s been a total of 800,000 to 1.5 million people with Covid (who also have symptoms) in the past week alone in Germany.

Last week experts warned that they expected the Covid situation to get worse in the coming weeks as many schools in Germany return after the summer break.

READ ALSO: Germany’s summer Covid wave set to get worse

The Omicron sub-variant BA.5, which has dominated in Germany since mid-June, has almost completely displaced other variants. It accounts for 89 percent of samples in the past week, the RKI said.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned people against underestimating getting Covid again.

The SPD politician pointed out that it was very easy to become infected with BA.5 – even for those who were infected with a previous type.

He warned that many could become seriously ill or die, plus there’s the risk of picking up Long Covid.

“Therefore, we have to solve the problem not by constant infection, but by better vaccines,” Lauterbach said.

‘Call things as they are’

Lauterbach, meanwhile, defended himself against his choice of words when describing the possibility of a new dangerous Covid variant emerging in autumn. 

In an interview with Bild newspaper in April he said: “It is quite possible that we will get a highly contagious Omicron variant that is as deadly as Delta – that would be an absolute killer variant.”

He was slammed for his dramatic choice of words. 

This week Lauterbach said: “I use few vocabulary that is apocalyptic. But sometimes you have to call things as they are.”

If there were a virus that linked the contagion of the BA.5 variant with the severe course of a Delta variant, “that would be a killer variant”, he maintained.

But he stressed that he had “not said that such a variant is definitely coming, but that we have to be prepared for such a variant”.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister calls on under 60s to get next Covid jab