Lufthansa, Other European Airlines, Halt Flights to Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -
A flight information board shows canceled flights during a pilots’ strike of German airline Lufthansa at Frankfurt airport, Germany, in 2016. (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch, File)

Flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport and Eilat by Lufthansa and subsidiaries Swiss and Austrian Airlines will be canceled from Sunday until the end of the winter timetable on March 28, the group said in a statement.

Israel on Wednesday barred entry to non-Israeli residents arriving from France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Switzerland.

Earlier, the Health Ministry had already ordered citizens and Israeli residents from the same countries into quarantine.

The measures come on top of restrictions previously imposed on arrivals to Israel from mainland China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Macau, South Korea, Japan and Italy.

Lufthansa has cut its flight capacity in a move equivalent to grounding almost a fifth of its fleet, it said on Wednesday, confirming what company sources revealed about the German airline’s response to the coronavirus epidemic.

“We are dynamically adjusting our plans to reflect extraordinary circumstances,” a Lufthansa spokesman said.

The company said the move was equivalent to grounding 150 aircraft, with around a sixth of the capacity cuts related to long-haul flights.

Lufthansa Group, which includes Swiss, Brussels and Austrian Airlines, has a total fleet of 770 aircraft.

Last week, Lufthansa said it had slashed capacity equivalent to grounding 23 long-haul aircraft.

European airline bosses warned on Tuesday the worst is still to come for the airline industry in terms of economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak, but also predicted travel demand could stabilize in the coming weeks.

Lufthansa had already said on Friday it would reduce the number of short- and medium-haul flights by up to 25% in the coming weeks depending on how coronavirus spreads.

On Monday, it said it was extending the suspension of flights to China until April 24, to Tehran until April 30 and reducing services to northern Italy due to the coronavirus outbreak there.