With rising incidences of Omicron COVID-19 variant, German national carrier Lufthansa is reportedly planning to cut its winter flight schedule by 10%.
Confirming the news, Chief Executive of Lufthansa Carsten Spohr added that a sharp drop in bookings from the middle of January to February has forced the airline group to cancel approximately 33,000 flights this winter.
Notably, the global airline sector has faced the brunt of the pandemic, with many flights being canceled in 2020 as governments closed their borders.
In comparison to the pre-pandemic year 2019, Europe's largest airline group, which includes Eurowings, Swiss, Austrian, and Brussels Airlines, is currently operating approximately 60% of flights and carrying about half the number of passengers.
Spohr noted that the number of cancellations would have been higher if the company had not flown 18,000 additional, unnecessary flights solely to guarantee landing and takeoff rights.
Since November 24, especially when the Omicron variant was first reported to the World Health Organization, the number of passengers traveling plummeted by 20%, according to the European airports' group ACI Europe.
A Lufthansa spokesman mentioned that the carrier had already canceled numerous transatlantic flights around Christmas due to a higher-than-normal number of pilots calling in sick.
The airline was also forced to cancel six flights, including services to Boston, Chicago, and Washington. The shortage came despite Lufthansa's large scheduled reserves of the crew.
After a challenging 18 months, the German airline reported its first operating profit since the outbreak began in the third quarter of this year. In 2020, Lufthansa reported an underlying, or operating loss of USD 5.5 billion (USD 8.4 billion) and turned to the government for help, sources cited.
The airline claimed to managed to repay the USD 9 billion bailouts it got from the government sooner than expected.