Lufthansa has suffered an “IT outage,” prompting the German airline group to delay and cancel all its flights.
“Currently, the airlines of the Lufthansa Group are affected by an IT outage,” the company said in a social media post on Wednesday morning. “This is causing flight delays and cancellations. We regret the inconvenience this is causing our passengers.”
The software error is affecting its global network. Lufthansa also operates Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Swiss and Eurowings.
Various Swedish companies have recently been hit by presumed cyber attacks, including broadcaster SVT which said a group called “Anonymous Sudan” had taken credit for the attack posting on Telegram that Swedish media would be attacked as a result of Koran burnings in Sweden.
German rail operator Deutsche Bahn saw demand for connections between its trains and flights operated by Lufthansa increase 25 percent last year. The increase comes after the railroad and airline expanded their partnership, including more direct trains to the Frankfurt airport, in 2021.
“Where aviation and rail cooperate, we record double-digit growth rates,” said Michael Peterson, the head of Deutsche Bahn’s long-distance rail division that includes high-speed ICE trains, on Monday. “Our expanded feeder services to the largest German airport in Frankfurt am Main are part of this success.”
While Deutsche Bahn did not release passenger numbers, it said demand for these joint air-rail itineraries — or travelers who book both a flight and train connection on a single ticket — fully recovered from the pandemic by October 2021, and then grew in 2022. The data does not include travelers who bought flight and train tickets separately.
Lufthansa has previously said that it sold roughly 575,000 joint air-rail tickets with Deutsche Bahn in 2019.
Increasing the use of rail and ground transport over flights is a big push in Europe’s efforts to cut carbon emissions. France has banned short flights on routes where trains can make the journey in two-and-a-half-hours or less, while airlines and rail operators in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland have all unveiled expanded partnerships in recent years. Deutsche Bahn, which has partnered with Lufthansa since the 1980s, even plans to join the global airline confab, Star Alliance, as its first intermodal partner.
However, major challenges remain, many related to the passenger experience and physical infrastructure. Wayfinding between flights and trains is limited at some airports, making the transfer experience potentially difficult for those unfamiliar with the process. And, outside of key high-speed rail routes in Western Europe, trains often take significantly longer than the flights they compete with.
Deutsche Bahn, in its statement Monday, highlighted the need for more infrastructure investment in order to expand the number of air-rail passengers. A new high-speed line between Munich and Stuttgart that opened in December will eventually link the Stuttgart airport, and the operator said a high-speed rail link to the Munich airport was needed in the future.
The European Union and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have signed a new open skies agreement aimed at recovering and expanding airline links between the two regions.
The agreement is unique as it covers two blocs of countries — the EU has 27 members and ASEAN 10 — rather than two countries or between the EU and, for example, the U.S. The agreement, unveiled Monday, will drop all restrictions on flights between the EU and ASEAN for airlines based in either region. It goes into effect immediately.
“It will support the aviation sector’s recovery after COVID-19 and restore much-needed connectivity,” EU Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said. She added that the agreement provides a “platform” for the EU and ASEAN to collaborate on “economically, socially and environmentally sustainable aviation.”
Airlines based in ASEAN, which includes Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, are currently the largest in the market. Singapore Airlines and and Thai Airways flew the most passenger capacity between the blocs this year, according to scheduled data from Diio by Cirium. KLM and Lufthansa are third and fourth, respectively.
The agreement also appears to be a way for the EU to offer its own airlines a leg up in competition with the Gulf carriers, which include Emirates and Qatar Airways that carry large numbers of connecting passengers between the two regions. The bloc described the pact as helping “EU and ASEAN airlines to compete with competitors targeting the lucrative EU-ASEAN market.”
Airline capacity between the EU and ASEAN will be down 28 percent compared to 2019 in the fourth quarter, Diio data show.
The Lufthansa Group cannot catch a break. Pilots at its budget subsidiary, Eurowings, will go on strike Thursday unless a last minute deal on wages can be reached.
Pilots union Vereinigung Cockpit said Tuesday that wage negotiations had “failed” and called for a one-day strike on October 6. The move came after 10 rounds of talks between the union and Eurowings without an agreement, Vereinigung Cockpit said.
The strike would be the second to hit the Lufthansa Group in as many months. Pilots grounded more than 800 flights at Lufthansa when they struck on September 2. Additional one-day industrial actions planned for later in September were averted when the airline and Vereinigung Cockpit reached a deal on wages.
The industrial actions come after a rough summer for airlines and travelers in Europe. Staffing issues at airports and airlines, as well as strikes at several carriers including bankrupt SAS, made flying on the continent a challenge for many. Adding to the woes was strong travel demand and full flights that made it difficult to reaccommodate disrupted flyers.
“The return to full normalization in terms of personnel, in terms of reliability, punctuality and our products … we believe we will reach this phase next year,” Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr said in August.
Eurowings is the 11th largest airline in Europe and is scheduled to operate 507 flights on Thursday, according to Diio by Cirium schedules. Its operations are concentrated in Germany with large bases in Dusseldorf, Cologne-Bonn, Hamburg, and Stuttgart.
In a notification to airlines by operator Fraport on Friday, Frankfurt will reduce the number of aircraft movements — a takeoff or landing is considered one movement — to 88 an hour from 96 beginning the week of July 18. The reduction is expected to remain in place through at least August, and follows an earlier cut from 106 movements in June.
Jens Ritter, the CEO of Lufthansa Airline, the largest carrier in Frankfurt, on Friday called the reductions “right” in an otherwise muted statement about the poor state of operations at the airport.
“In recent weeks, we have already cancelled flights in several waves to relieve the overall system,” he said. “Since the already increased capacities of the ground handling services in Frankfurt are still not sufficient due to a high sickness absence rate, even for the flight schedule that has already been reduced several times, the decision taken by Fraport today is right.”
Ritter added that, since Lufthansa has already cancelled thousands of flights through the end of the summer, other airlines “will now also contribute to an even reduction and stabilization with flight cancellations.”
The cap is likely to raise an outcry at some other airlines. Following a new cap on passenger numbers at London’s Heathrow airport, Emirates called the cap “entirely unreasonable and unacceptable,” and said it would not implement them.
Lufthansa and Eurowings have cancelled more than 1,000 flights in July as airport staffing issues take a toll on air travel in Europe this summer.
Lufthansa has cut 900 domestic Germany and European flights in July, and its discount affiliate Eurowings “several hundred flights” in order to stabilize their operations, Eurowings said Wednesday. Lufthansa’s cuts are concentrated on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and represent 5 percent of weekend system capacity.
“The upcoming summer will undoubtedly be a major operational challenge for the whole industry,” Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr warned in May. “We are maximally flexible can adapt to changes immediately, and we have improved our operational processes even further wherever feasible. But we’re also fully aware that many partners, such as airports, air traffic control, caterers, are currently struggling with significant staff shortages.”
Amsterdam and London have born the brunt of Europe’s airport and air traffic control staffing issues in recent weeks. KLM was forced to fly empty planes to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on June 4 after issues at the airport led to overcrowded facilities and cancelled flights. British Airways has cut its schedule at London Heathrow by 10 percent through October in response to what it says is understaffing by the airport operator. And EasyJet cancelled hundreds of flights over the weekend of June 4 due to its own operational woes.
Lufthansa and Eurowings will notify passengers immediately and rebook them if possible, the airlines said. They also recommended that German travelers use the country’s rail system to travel to either the Frankfurt or Munich airports if their domestic flight is cancelled.
The Lufthansa Group plans to return to its pre-pandemic level of flying sooner than expected, CEO Carsten Spohr said Tuesday.
“Until now we assumed that we would not fully return to pre-crisis levels before the middle of this decade. But in view of the present strong demand dynamic, this forecast may prove too conservative, and we may well return to pre-crisis capacity levels earlier than planned,” he said at the group’s Annual General Meeting.
A fully-recovered Lufthansa Group, which includes its namesake airline plus Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings, and Swiss International Air Lines, would be a big boost to the travel industry. Prior to the crisis, the group was the second largest in Europe with a 10 percent share of capacity on the continent.
The group plans to fly 85 percent of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2022.
Lufthansa is mixing up its Boeing order as the manufacturer struggles with getting regulatory approval for its largest aircraft, the 777X. The German airline now is changing its order for that airplane to seven Boeing 787-9s, to be delivered in 2025-2026.
But that comes with its own risks. Boeing currently can’t deliver any 787s, as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has mandated more inspections on the aircraft. Boeing last month said it had provided the regulator with its plan for fixes on the 787. The FAA has not provided a timeline for when it will sign off on the plan and deliveries can resume. Air Lease Corp. has estimated the 787 delivery delays have cost it hundreds of millions of dollars.
The 777X, or 777-9, similarly has come under regulatory scrutiny, with its entry-into-service slipping from next year to 2025, although the final decision rests with the FAA and other regulators. Lufthansa’s order signals that the airline believes the schedule could slip again.
Lufthansa’s order also includes 10 freighters, as the airline said it believes surface cargo bottlenecks now will continue for the foreseeable future, and shippers will divert more cargo to air freight. The airline is ordering three 777Fs for delivery beginning this year, and seven 777-8Fs, to be delivered from 2027.