A new wave of flight cancellations is already evident around the globe, with airlines forced to cancel thousands of flights due to the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, despite the relatively high demand for travel around Christmas and New Year.
Most cancellations are on domestic flights within the United States and some international flights in North America and Europe. Airlines have no choice but to cancel flights due to the lack of passengers as well as workforce shortages, as many aircrews are also found positive for corona.
Lufthansa Group, for example, had to admit this led to a disruption of its regular operations, therefore forcing the company to cancel a large number of flights. “We planned a very large buffer for the vacation period. But this was not sufficient due to the high rate of people calling in sick,” according to Lufthansa’s statement.
Lufthansa Group’s airlines have canceled about 33,000 scheduled flights in the next three months as a result of this sharp drop in demand in January and February. In fact, they have removed about 10 percent of their flights from the winter schedule due to the sharp increase in infections and travel restrictions in Europe.
Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr said in an interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “From the middle of January to February, we see a sharp drop off in bookings,” noting the number of canceled flights should actually be even higher, based on the expected decrease in demand.
However, according to Spohr, Lufthansa chooses to continue operating 18,000 “additional, unnecessary flights” as they may otherwise lose crucial take-off and landing slots.
Usually, airlines must use at least 80 percent of their landing slots, but due to the pandemic, the European Commission has approved a usage percentage of 64 percent for the summer of 2022.
And Lufthansa is not the only one to cut its flight schedule. Earlier this week, Ryanair has also announced its plans to reduce the number of flights in January by a third.
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