Monday, 17 January, 2022
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Lufthansa grounds flights over sick pilots

Lufthansa grounds flights over sick pilots

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FRANKFURT: German national carrier Lufthansa cancelled several transatlantic flights around Christmas, after the number of pilots calling in sick was greater than normal for this time of year, a spokesman told AFP Thursday.

Asked whether the absences were linked to the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the spokesman said he "could not speculate" as he did not have any information about the causes of illness.

In total, the airline has been forced to axe six flights between December 23 and 26, including services to Chicago, Boston and Washington.

The lack of personnel came despite Lufthansa's "big planned reserves" of crew, the spokesman said.

The airline industry has been battered since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with countless flights grounded in 2020 as countries closed their borders.

The emergence of the Omicron has raised concerns that the more transmissible variant could lead to more travel restrictions with a knock-on effect for the industry.

Germany has placed stricter limits on travellers coming from the United Kingdom and South Africa, among others, where the new variant has caused a surge in cases.

Lufthansa posted its first operating profit since the beginning of the pandemic in the third quarter of this year, after a difficult 18 months. The carrier booked an underlying, or operating loss of 5.5 billion euros ($6.2 billion) in 2020 and turned to the state for support.

In November, Lufthansa announced it had finished paying back the nine-billion-euro bailout it received from the government earlier than planned.

Swedish national carrier SAS on Wednesday also cancelled nine flights due to the coronavirus, after striking some 30 flights worldwide the day before.