Lufthansa Cargo is canceling up to three weekly freighter flights to and from China, re-routing other services through Cologne and re-scheduling North American operations in an emergency response to the surprise court ban last week on night flights at the carrier’s Frankfurt Airport hub.
Lufthansa, Europe’s largest single air freight carrier, said it expects some customers will walk away and the German airline will lose tens of millions of dollars due to the ban on flights between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. that becomes effective Oct. 30, in the midst of the air cargo industry’s busiest shipping period.
“Closing the world’s seventh-largest (cargo) airport for six hours each night and thereby entirely decoupling it from the international goods flow constitutes a severe blow to the air traffic industry,” said Lufthansa Cargo Chief Executive Karl Ulrich Garnadt.
Freighter flights to some individual destinations in China have been canceled entirely and U.S. services moved to daytime hours following the decision of a regional court to temporarily ban night flights until a higher court makes a final ruling in early 2012.
The airline will maintain some China-bound flights, but they will have to stop over at Cologne/Bonn airport for three hours after leaving Frankfurt in the early evening to allow freighters to leave at night to fly through Russian air space.
“We’ve managed at great expense to keep our customer services comparatively intact,” Garnadt said. “We can more or less provide our customers with [the] required lift.”
Rescheduling New York and Chicago flights to daytime will lose 12 hours delivery time “and will impact our next-day product,” Garnadt told reporters. “We had to talk to (North American) customers to re-organize the entire logistics chain. … We will lose next-day for some shipments.”
Starting in January, Lufthansa will permanently station at least one of its 18 MD-11 freighters at Cologne to operate “the indispensable overnight flights for the German logistics industry to North America.”
“We will be operating in future with unnecessary take-offs and landings, which will lead to more noise, higher fuel consumption and more costs running into the millions,” Garnadt said.
More than 50 percent of German air freight — some 2.3 million tons a year — flies from Frankfurt, a third of that on night flights. Frankfurt accounts for around 80 percent of Lufthansa’s worldwide cargo tonnage.