Lufthansa cuts flights to region, predicts 15pc traffic slump


The German flag carrier, Lufthansa, has combined its services to Dubai with Abu Dhabi and Muscat, and cut the frequency of flights through Abu Dhabi in response to the testing times for the aviation industry, described by one top-ranking official as the 'worst ever in history'.

Now, it touches down four times a week in Abu Dhabi against daily earlier.

Elsewhere in the region, it has cut the number of flights to Beirut and Amman to five a week.

Lufthansa, which is celebrating 25th year of flights to Dubai, has also put on hold any plans it may have had of raising the frequency to the region, especially to the emirate, during the winter schedule.

Seat load factor declined by 15 per cent in the immediate aftermath of September 11.

For the full winter season, it is forecasting a 10-15 per cent drop against last year's average.

"However, we have no plans to reduce our fares. If there are less people flying, why should we? We will keep our rates where they are now," said Uwe Mueller, vice-president for Southeast Europe, Africa and Middle East/Pakistan.

"We will not try to fly in lower capacity aircraft. We will still have the new A340s. As of now, our incoming traffic into the Middle East is less, especially from North America. But outgoing continues to be good."

On the cargo side, where the regional hub is at Sharjah airport, Lufthansa will stick to its six flights a week schedule, officials added.

Said Wolfgang Mayrhuber, chief executive for passenger airlines and member of the executive board: "The situation right now is the worst experienced by the aviation sector so far. The accumulated results of the last 20 years will be erased by the last four months of 2001.

"The industry is facing losses of $12-$15 billion this year and job losses or redundancies will be between 120,000 to 150,000. We have grounded 40 of our aircraft, which represents 20 per cent of core fleet.

"But while the future is uncertain, it also offers opportunity. We have reacted adequately and carefully to the situation. In times of turbulence, we will maintain a stable course."