A German court today upheld a controversial ban on night flights at Frankfurt airport, a major setback to Lufthansa Cargo and Europe’s second largest air freight hub.
Lufthansa Cargo has warned it might sell its entire freighter fleet if the Federal administrative court in Leipzig ruled in favor of a local court’s provisional ban on flights between 11 p.m. and 5 p.m. at its global hub.
The state of Hesse, where Frankfurt is located, allowed a maximum 17 takeoffs and landings during the night, but a local court imposed a surprise ban that came into effect at the end of October in response to local residents’ complaints about aircraft noise.
The Leipzig ruling “is a big blow for Germany as a place to do business and there is no doubt that one of Europe’s biggest hubs will slip in international competitiveness,” said Lufthansa Chief Executive Christoph Franz.
Frankfurt, Europe’s second largest cargo airport after Paris Charles de Gaulle, handles half of Germany’s air freight, including 80 percent of Lufthansa’s international traffic.
The night flight ban mainly impacted Lufthansa Cargo’s 18 MD-11 freighters which account for around half of its traffic, with the remainder carried in the “bellies” of passenger aircraft.
The court also reduced the number of flights permitted in the so-called shoulder hours from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. to 133 from 150.
The state of Hesse could make a new decision on night flights, but warned there is little room for maneuver, the court said.
Local transport minister Dieter Posch said Hesse would implement the ban “one hundred percent” and would not push for night flights.
Lufthansa Cargo estimates a permanent night flight ban will cut profits by $54 million a year and reduce sales by around $133 million.
The carrier, which has five Boeing 777 freighters on order and operates a further eight in its Aerologic joint venture with DHL Express, postponed a final decision on investments in Frankfurt, including a new logistics center, pending the outcome of the court ruling.