A German federal court will begin a hearing tomorrow, March 13, to decide whether to extend a controversial ban on night flights at Frankfurt airport that has seriously disrupted freighter operations at Europe’s second largest air cargo hub.
Lufthansa Cargo has warned it will cut investment at Frankfurt and reduce its freighter fleet if the Leipzig court upholds the ban, which came into effect at the end of October.
Lufthansa says the ban on flights between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time will cost around $52 million a year, as freight has to be re-routed to airports with 24/7 operations.
The carrier, which has lost customers, mostly in the U.S., because it can no longer guarantee next-day delivery, canceled three weekly freighter flights from Frankfurt to China following the ban. It has been diverting other Asia-bound flights to Cologne-Bonn airport, where it also stationed one of its 18 MD-11 freighters for flights to New York and Chicago.
Lufthansa Cargo was due to operate 10 of 17 night time flights before a local court imposed a surprise ban to curtail aircraft noise.
Fraport, the airport operator, and Lufthansa have sought to placate local residents with further noise reduction measures, including higher flight paths, extra sound proofing of windows and the purchase of houses under the flight path.
More than 50 percent of German air freight — around 2.3 million tons — flies out of Frankfurt, of which a third was transported on night flights.
Lufthansa says it can resume night flights in June or July if the court ends the ban.
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