Lufthansa Cancels India Flights Until Late October

Germany’s Lufthansa has axed its flights to India until October 20. Until now, the airline was running around 20 flights a week to India. But tensions arose between India and Germany over a real or perceived bias towards Lufthansa on routes between the two countries. The Indian Government then knocked back Lufthansa’s proposed October schedule for India-bound flights. In response, Lufthansa has suspended its flights to India between September 30 and October 20.

Lufthansa has suspended its services to India until October 20. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying

Indian government unhappy with Lufthansa’s market dominance

In July, the creation of a travel bubble began facilitating travel between European Union countries and India. But the Indian Government says there are still barriers in place for its citizens trying to go to Germany.

‘There are restrictions in place for Indian nationals desiring to travel to Germany which was putting Indian carriers at a significant disadvantage resulting in an inequitable distribution of traffic in favor of Lufthansa,” the Times of India reports a Government official saying.

“As against Indian carriers operating three to four flights a week, Lufthansa operated 20 flights a week. Despite this disparity, we offered to clear seven flights a week for Lufthansa, which was not accepted by them.”

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After resuming regular flights to India in August, Lufthansa had scheduled flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore across October. Throughout September, Lufthansa operated 160 flights in and out of India from both Frankfurt and Munich. India is an attractive market for the German carrier. It knows there is significant demand there for outbound travel towards Europe.
“Lufthansa has been and always will be deeply committed to the Indian market and its customers,” the airline said in a statement.
“It is regrettable that Lufthansa has currently been unnecessarily restricted in its ability to serve its loyal Indian customers.”
Lufthansa was planning to fly to Chennai, Mumbai, New Delhi, and this October. Photo: Tom Boon/ Simple Flying

Allegations Lufthansa is abusing terms of travel bubble

On the surface, this appears to be a play by the Indian Government to even up flight frequencies between and its own beleaguered airline, Air India. But dig a little deeper, and there are allegations of European carriers abusing the terms of the travel bubble between India the European Union countries.
The terms of the travel bubble provided for point to point travel, say between New Dehli and Munich. But there are allegations airlines from EU countries currently flying into India, Lufthansa included, allowed onward travel. That gave the premium European airlines a further advantage against Air India on routes between India and the EU.
In its statement, Lufthansa didn’t specifically address the allegation. Instead, the airline alluded to its role as a global airline and its key German airports as transit hubs.
“Lufthansa is set to continue serving the Indian people in these unprecedented times as it has done for decades; by offering safe travel to and from Germany and other countries worldwide.”
Lufthansa is being careful with its messaging in this dispute. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying

Lufthansa carefully massages its message

Regardless of who’s a fault here and the rights and wrongs of the dispute, Lufthansa is positioning itself as a public good when it comes to India and the Indian people. According to Lufthansa, it’s the Indian Government that’s being recalcitrant. In doing so, it’s impeding the ability of its citizens to travel freely.
“Lufthansa sincerely urges Indian authorities to work together with the German Government,” the airline’s statement said.
Lufthansa wants to head back to India. The airline says there are tens of thousands of travelers wishing to move between the two countries. Despite its softly-softly PR message, things may be more hardball behind the scenes. Lufthansa said;
“India has so far not accepted the invitation by the German Government to discuss details regarding a temporary travel agreement between both countries.”