Lufthansa may park Airbus A380s as coronavirus impact worsens

Mar 6, 2020

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Lufthansa may park its fleet of Airbus A380s in what would be a superjumbo symbol of how badly fears of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak are hitting travel demand.

The Star Alliance carrier is “examining” temporarily removing its 14 A380s from service if the demand environment continues to worsen, Lufthansa said Friday. The move would come as the airline and its sister carriers — Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings and Swiss International Air Lines — plan to slash global capacity in half in the coming weeks.

Lufthansa called the slump in demand around fears of COVID-19 “exceptional circumstances” and said the capacity cuts aim to “reduce the financial consequences”.

The airline has not said what destinations and routes will be impacted by the planned cuts.

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Lufthansa is not the first airline to say it may park jets in response to the COVID-19 virus. Delta Air Lines has indicated that it could retire its fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-88s and MD-90s up to two years early in response to weakening travel demand.

Airlines like Cathay Pacific Airways, whose Hong Kong hub is near the epicentre of the outbreak, has already parked dozens of wide-body jets amid broad cuts to its global schedule.

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Lufthansa flies the A380 from its hubs in Frankfurt (FRA) and Munich (MUC). Prior to the spread of COVID-19 to Europe in late February, the airline flew the jets to Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA) and San Francisco (SFO) plus four more cities around the world, according to Cirium schedule data.

The impact on bookings from COVID-19 in the U.S. is just beginning to take its toll, airline executives at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Aviation Summit on Thursday sad. At least two senior airline leaders likened the drop in bookings to what they saw after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

“This isn’t economic in that people who want to travel can’t”, said Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly at the summit. “We could discount prices and it wouldn’t do any good”.

JetBlue Airways and United Airlines have already trimmed domestic schedules. The CEOs of both Alaska Airlines and Southwest have warned that they may make cuts if bookings continue to plummet.

“We expect all airlines to make meaningful adjustments to their network given what is happening to demand”, wrote Cowen aviation analyst Helane Becker in a report Friday. On top of parking older aircraft, she expects flight numbers to be trimmed and planned international seasonal routes to be cut.

Featured image by Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy.

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