Lufthansa Cargo’s freighter services are facing serious disruption and sizable financial losses after a court banned night flights at its Frankfurt airport hub.
The ban on flights between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. will go into effect on Oct. 30 at the start of a new winter flight schedule and a week after Europe’s largest cargo airport opens a new runway.
The court banned night flights because of complaints regarding noise from local residents.
Airlines and shippers criticized the lack of planning time they will have to change internationally agreed flight schedules.
The regional court in Hesse said the night flight ban must remain in place until a final ruling by the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, which is expected in early 2012.
Lufthansa said implementing the ban at short notice would create “significant economic consequences.”
“As an internationally scheduled carrier we have only very few possibilities of adjusting our flight schedule, which is firmly planned right through spring 2012, at such short notice,” a Lufthansa Cargo spokesman said.
Lufthansa Cargo will examine whether it can transfer some night flights to daytime. “It is not yet clear” how many flights will be canceled, he said.
Fraport, the owner of Frankfurt airport, said the ban “poses an extremely difficult situation” for airlines and logistics companies.
“Germany cannot afford to decouple its airport at night from the world economy,” the Federation of German Industries said. About 40 percent of German exports by value are transported by air.
Lufthansa Cargo has warned in the past it might have to ground its entire freighter fleet of 18 MD-11s in the event of a permanent ban. In August, Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz warned a ban would allow the Middle East to overtake Europe as a global air cargo hub.
Following complaints about noise from local residents opposed to the construction of a fourth runway, Frankfurt cut the maximum number of night flights from 41 to 17 in 2009.
The state government approved the airport expansion and the new night flight ceiling, but a regional court ruled the latter was not compatible with laws protecting citizens from aircraft noise.
Lufthansa Cargo had planned to operate 10 night flights through the winter season.
--Contact Bruce Barnard at firstname.lastname@example.org