Virus Fear Effectively Grounds 150 Lufthansa Group Aircraft

The Lufthansa Group estimates that around 150 aircraft are now effectively grounded due to the ongoing coronavirus situation. The news follows a similar announcement last week which only mentioned 23 aircraft.

Berlin, Brandenburg Airport, Lufthansa
Lufthansa has effectively grounded 125 short-haul aircraft as a response to the virus outbreak. Photo: Lufthansa

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak in East Asia, and indeed the world, is fundamentally changing travel. The situation has prompted a drastic fall in demand for travel to affected areas and, to a degree, in overall global travel. As a result, airlines have been canceling some routes which do not remain financially or ecologically viable. This action taken by the airlines has, understandably, lead to a lower utilization of aircraft across the industry.

What’s new with Lufthansa?

According to information from Planespotters, The Lufthansa Group currently has 761 aircraft. However, the German aviation giant is not operating all of these aircraft, as certain routes have taken a significant dive in demand. Examples include services to China as well as some shorter routes.

Last week, Lufthansa warned that it may need to cancel up to 25% of short-haul and medium-haul flights due to this concern. Now, Reuters has learned the true impact. Around 150 aircraft are affectively grounded across the Lufthansa group. The airline told Simple Flying that this includes 125 short-haul aircraft and 25 long-haul aircraft.

Lufthansa, Airbus A380, Munich
25 long-haul aircraft have also been grounded due to the crisis. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Why are flights being canceled?

The airline is opting to cancel flights due to a significant drop in demand both on flights to China, as well as some other countries like Iran and Japan. However, the issue is it only concerned long-haul aircraft. With the rapid spread of the virus in Italy, demand in the short-haul market is also being affected. Arguably more so than long-haul, given Lufthansa’s figures.

There are two reasons why Lufthansa does not want to operate these flights with significantly reduced load factors. Firstly, because there are fewer paying passengers on the flight, it is far less economical for the flights to be run.

Secondly, however, it is also incredibly irresponsible from an environmental viewpoint to operate half-empty flights. However, it should be noted that these aircraft aren’t in fact grounded. Instead, they are simply operating reduced services. What this means, is that if the cancel flights were consolidated to as a few aircraft as possible, a total of 150 would not be flying.

coronavirus, IATA, aviation impact
IATA recently revealed that the ongoing coronavirus epidemic is expected to cost the aviation industry just under $30 billion. Photo: Getty Images

Yesterday, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr was at a meeting of airline executives belonging to the Airlines For Europe lobby group. Understandably, coronavirus was one of the hot topics. The general consensus among the group appeared to be that the situation with regards to demand would begin to stabilize soon.

Does the number of aircraft effectively grounded surprise you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!