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Germany’s largest airline cancels hundreds of summer flights

As airlines continue to struggle with post-Covid staff shortages after cutting back, Germany's Lufthansa has announced that numerous flights will be scrapped this July.

Lufthansa in Berlin
A Lufthansa flight takes off from the former Schönefeld airport in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Patrick Pleul

The flight operator plans to dispense with a total of 900 services around Germany and Europe, with passengers flying from Munich and Frankfurt set to be the worst hit by the cancellations.

In total, five percent of flights on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays will no longer be running, leaving customers with more limited options for weekend flying.

Two of Lufthansa’s subsidiaries – Eurowings and Swiss – will also be reducing their services this summer.

Eurowings is set to cancel several hundred flights in July, while Swiss will run fewer flights between Germany and Zurich. 

According to Lufthansa, the scheduling changes are a result of the staffing challenges posed by the pandemic.

READ ALSO: How airports in Europe have been hit by transport chaos

At the height of Covid when travel was severely restricted, many people who worked for airlines and airports were sacked or forced to look for other jobs due to reduced work.

Despite bailouts from the government, Lufthansa embarked on a major job-cutting programme, axing more than 30,000 full-time jobs during the pandemic. 

Since the number of staff has not been built up again, flight operators are struggling to cope with increased summer demand. 

“Across all locations, the service providers involved in passenger handling are about 20 percent short of ground staff compared to the pre-Corona period,” Ralph Beisel, CEO of the German Airports Association ADV, said recently.

“This can lead to bottlenecks at peak times, especially at check-in, when loading suitcases and in aviation security control.”

READ ALSO: Lufthansa pays back German bailout early – but job cuts still stand

‘Cancellations possible’

Despite the reduced timetable, Lufthansa said it was still possible that there would be delays and cancellations over summer due to staffing issues and bottlenecks.

However, the airline said it was doing everything possible to ensure that passengers could travel as planned.

If a flight is cancelled, customers are generally informed via text or email and rebooked on the next available flight- Lufthansa has also indicated that domestic travellers can also choose to travel by train to their destination.

Following the travel chaos reported at several European airports over the Whitsun weekend, the airline has advised customers to arrive at the airport as early as possible when travelling over summer and to use online check-in the night before.

It also suggested that passengers try and reduce their hand luggage to the bare minimum to avoid long waits at security.

However, with school holidays and the peak travel season fast approaching, experts have warned that crowded airports, long queues and flight cancellations could become a mainstay of the first restriction-free summer since Covid. 

READ ALSO: Germany may face airport chaos in summer, warns minister

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TRAVEL NEWS

UPDATE: When will Germany’s €49 ticket start?

Germany announced a €49 monthly ticket for local and regional public transport earlier this month, but the hoped-for launch date of January 2023 looks increasingly unlikely.

UPDATE: When will Germany's €49 ticket start?

Following the popularity of the €9 train ticket over the summer, the German federal and state governments finally agreed on a successor offer at the beginning of November.

The travel card – dubbed the “Deutschlandticket” – will cost €49 and enable people to travel on regional trains, trams and buses up and down the country.

There had been hopes that the discount travel offer would start up in January 2023, but that now seems very unlikely.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €49 ticket

Martin Burkert, Head of the German Rail and Transport Union (EVG) now expects the €49 ticket to be introduced in the spring.

“From our point of view, it seems realistic to introduce the Deutschlandticket on April 1st, because some implementation issues are still unresolved”, Burkert told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland on Monday. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that they believe the beginning of May will be a more realistic start date.

The federal and state transport ministers have set their sights on an April deadline, but this depends on whether funding and technical issues can be sorted out by then. In short, the only thing that seems clear regarding the start date is that it will be launched at some point in 2023. 

Why the delay?

Financing for the ticket continues to cause disagreements between the federal and state governments and, from the point of view of the transport companies, financing issues are also still open.

The federal government has agreed to stump up €1.5 billion for the new ticket, which the states will match out of their own budgets. That brings the total funding for the offer up to €3 billion. 

But according to Bremen’s transport minister Maike Schaefer, the actual cost of the ticket is likely to be closer to €4.7 billion – especially during the initial implementation phase – leaving a €1.7 billion hole in finances.

Transport companies are concerned that it will fall to them to take the financial hit if the government doesn’t provide enough funding. They say this will be impossible for them to shoulder. 

Burkert from EVG is calling on the federal government to provide more than the €1.5 billion originally earmarked for the ticket if necessary.

“Six months after the launch of the Deutschlandticket at the latest, the federal government must evaluate the costs incurred to date with the states and, if necessary, provide additional funding,” he said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn has warned that the network is not prepared to cope with extra demand. 

Berthold Huber, the member of the Deutsche Bahn Board of Management responsible for infrastructure, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a big part of the problem is the network is “structurally outdated” and its “susceptibility to faults is increasing.” 

Accordingly, Huber said that there is currently “no room for additional trains in regional traffic around the major hub stations” and, while adding more seats on trains could be a short terms solution, “here, too, you run up against limits,” Huber said.

So, what now? 

Well, it seems that the federal states are happy to pay half of whatever the ticket actually costs – but so far, the federal government has been slow to make the same offer.

With the two crucial ministries – the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry – headed up by politicians from the liberal FDP, environment groups are accusing the party of blocking the ticket by proxy. 

According to Jürgen Resch, the director of German Environment Aid, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Transport Minister Volker Wissing are deliberately withholding the necessary financial support for the states.

Wissing has also come under fire from the opposition CDU/CSU parties after failing to turn up to a transport committee meeting on Wednesday. 

The conservatives had narrowly failed in a motion to summon the minister to the meeting and demand a report on the progress of the €49 ticket.

“The members of the Bundestag have many unanswered questions and time is pressing,” said CDU transport politician Thomas Bareiß, adding that the ticket had falling victim to a “false start”. 

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