German airline Lufthansa said it plans to bring back its double-decker Airbus A380 jumbo jets for summer 2023. At the same time, executives of the group are warning disruptions that have been roiling the industry in the U.S. and Europe will continue.
In a letter from six top Lufthansa Group executives to members of its Miles & More loyalty program, the company said it simply isn’t able to keep up with the speed of travel’s rebound. The group includes Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings and Swiss.
“[As] the Northern Hemisphere summer begins and with global travel restrictions now almost all lifted, everyone involved in aviation worldwide is reaching almost daily the limits of the resources that are currently available. And the ramp-up of the complex air transport system from almost zero to now almost 90 percent is clearly not proceeding with the reliability, the robustness and the punctuality that we would like to offer you again,” they wrote.
After apologizing for service failures, the letter continues, “[W]e want to be completely honest: In the coming weeks, as passenger numbers continue to rise, be it for leisure or business travel, the situation is unlikely to improve in the short term.”
The executives say, “Too many employees and resources are still unavailable, not only at our infrastructure partners but in some of our own areas, too. Almost every company in our industry is currently recruiting new personnel, with several thousand planned in Europe alone. However, this increase in capacity will only have its desired stabilizing effect by the time winter comes.”
The carrier also laid some of the blame on Russia. “In addition, the ongoing war in Ukraine is severely restricting available airspace in Europe. This is leading to massive bottlenecks in the skies and thus, unfortunately, to further flight delays.”
“[We] hope we may count on your understanding, too, should your journey not yet go quite as expected or planned,” the executives asked.
In addition to returning the A380s, which were grounded during the pandemic, the group is adding 50 new Airbus A350, Boeing 787 and Boeing 777-9 long-haul aircraft and over 60 Airbus A320/321s in the next three years.
The company is assessing how many A380s will be reactivated and where they will fly, according to a separate announcement. After selling six of the jumbos, it owns eight.
In addition to CEO Carsten Spohr, members of Lufthansa’s Group Executive Board signing the letter to frequent flyers included Chief Customer Officer Christina Foerster, Chief Commercial Officer Harry Hohmeister, Chief Operations Officer Detlef Kayser, Chief HR & Legal Officer Michael Niggemann and CFO Remco Steenbergen.
Earlier this month, the operator of London’s Heathrow Airport ordered airlines to cut flights there as it struggles to hire workers. The airport’s largest tenant British Airways has been so short-staffed it hasn’t been able to load baggage onto some flights.
In the U.S., 744 flights in the U.S. have been canceled so far today, according to CNN. Over 1,500 flights were canceled Saturday and Sunday. The last-minute cancelations are creating havoc for both business and leisure flyers.
Airline consumer advocate Bill McGee is calling for the U.S. Transportation Department to “step in.” He wants the DOT to force airlines to notify passengers of cancelations further in advance, so they have more time to make alternative arrangements.
In an interview with Insider Travel Report, McGee says he doesn’t expect improvements anytime soon. “This summer, there is no good scenario…We’re not going to be able to fix this by Labor Day.” He adds, “The airlines are failing all of us by these last-minute cancelations.”
A former airline dispatcher and journalist, he says the major airlines know about crew shortages weeks in advance. He criticized them for using the weather as an excuse.