Lufthansa has painted a grim impression of the airline industry’s short-term prospects, assessing it will take “years” until consumer demand for air travel returns to pre-crisis levels.

After concluding that it will be months before the global travel restrictions are completely lifted, the Star Alliance airline has announced an “inevitable downsizing of flight operations”.

The decisions announced this week will affect almost all flight operations of the Lufthansa Group.

Lufthansa to retire big jets

At Lufthansa, six Airbus A380s, seven A340-600s and five Boeing 747-400s will be permanently decommissioned, and 11 Airbus A320s will be withdrawn from short-haul operations.

The six A380s were already scheduled for sale to Airbus in 2022, while the decision to phase out those A340-600s and 747-400 planes was taken “based on the environmental as well as economic disadvantages of these aircraft types,” Lufthansa said.

The changes will lead to a reduction in capacity at Lufthansa’s hubs in Frankfurt and Munich.

Cuts will hit Swiss, Austrian and Brussels too

Swiss is said to be adjusting its fleet size by delaying deliveries of new short haul aircraft and considering early phase-outs of older aircraft, though no further details were given.

Restructuring plans already initiated at Austrian Airlines and Brussels Airlines would be "further intensified", Lufthansa said, adding that both airlines were working on reducing their fleets.

Lufthansa Cityline and Eurowings changes

Lufthansa Cityline, the regional carrier that operates flights to long-haul tourist destinations for Lufthansa, will withdraw three Airbus A340-300 aircraft from service.

Eurowings also plans to reduce the number of its aircraft, phasing out ten Airbus A320s and scaling back its long-haul business.

Summing Up

Lufthansa Group has moved swiftly to reduce capacity as demand for air travel falls to practically nil while the coronavirus crisis continues.

It has accelerated plans to retire bigger jets and terminated almost all wet lease agreements with other airlines.

With the loss of so many A380 and B747 aircraft, Lufthansa’s first class capacity stands to be particularly hit.

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