Why Did Lufthansa Cancel India Flights And What’s Next?

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A week ago, Lufthansa canceled all of its flights to India until October 20, after Indian authorities said they wanted to level the playing field. Negotiations are, however, ongoing, with a resolution possible as early as today. In July, India formed a travel bubble with the European Union to allow Indian and European Union citizens to fly freely between each others’ countries.

Lufthansa Airbus A350
Talks between Germany and India about resuming flights are ongoing. Photo: Lufthansa

The Indian authorities were not happy with Lufthansa’s 20 flights per week compared with Air India’s three or four weekly flights to Frankfurt. On top of the 20 flights per week to Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, Lufthansa proposed adding Chennai flights in its October schedule.

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Lufthansa canceled all flights to India

To alleviate the disparity between the number of flights Lufthansa and Air India were operating, the Indian government said they would restrict Lufthansa to seven weekly flights. On receiving this news, the German national flag carrier immediately canceled all India flights until October 20.

When reporting the on the situation, the Business Standard newspaper quotes a Lufthansa spokesperson as saying,

“Lufthansa sincerely urges the Indian authorities to work together with the German government in order to establish a temporary travel agreement between both countries. Such an agreement is necessary to address the urgent need of tens of thousands of Indians and foreign nationals for travel to and from India and would also help balance the interests of both countries.”

Bosses at several airlines have complained that the Indian government is placing restrictions on flights and the nationalities of who is allowed to enter the country. They say that passenger loads are already insufficient and that the conditions make operating flights to India unviable.

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Where we are today

Meetings are taking place today between Germany and the Indian authorities about resolving the situation. While speaking this morning on Bloomberg Markets Asia, Alain Chisari, vice president of sales for Asia-Pacific at Lufthansa Group Airlines, said he was optimistic about a resolution. Lufthansa had plans to resume its flights to Chennai in October, a destination it flew to before the global COVID-19 medical emergency.

Lufthansa A380 tailfins
travel bubbles could be the norm for some time. Photo: Lufthansa

When asked about flying when different counties restrict individual passengers based on the infection rate of where they are coming from, the Lufthansa executive said that, for now, at least, it was the norm. Governments worldwide know that these restrictions hurt airlines, international trade, and emergency travel for friends and relatives. Lufthansa believes that travel bubbles, for now, are the best way to facilitate travel until the pandemic is under control.

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Screening for COVID-19 might be the answer

When asked if Lufthansa explored the possibility of travel bubbles between Germany and certain Asian countries, Chisari said, “absolutely.” Without naming any specific countries, he went on to say that it was not just the airlines but the hospitality industry that was suffering and that they were all lobbying governments to allow more flights.

Lufthansa, Airbus A320, Grounded
Lufthansa is looking into pre-departure rapid COVID-19 testing. Photo: Getty Images

Regarding Lufhansa’s lucrative flights between Frankfurt and New York, Lufthansa and its partner United Airlines are looking at rapid pre-flight COVID-19 screening. They are also looking into the possibility of screening on arrival to ensure authorities that arriving passengers are virus-free.

News about a deal with India could come as soon as later today. India has to budge on its stance, so we’ll have to wait and see how far they are prepared to go.

Do you think that Lufthansa will resume flights to India soon? Please tell us what you think in the comments.

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