A statement from the company blamed pressures on the aviation industry, which, especially in Europe, is currently suffering from bottlenecks and staff shortages. The knock on effects on airports, ground handling services, air traffic control and airlines in particular mean that everyone involved in aviation is reaching almost daily the limits of the resources that are currently available and, in the coming weeks, the situation is unlikely to improve in the short term. The company said: “To further improve operational stability and thus give passengers planning security, Lufthansa has implemented a number of flight cancellations for the period July to mid-September 2022.” As with many other airlines, Lufthansa is also warning that in addition to this longer-term cancellation of flights and corresponding rebooking of passengers, there may also be short-term cancellations, particularly due to an increased Covid sickness rate.
The issue affecting the repatriation of sick or injured travellers is that lower flight availability means restricted access to stretcher options. The airline said in an email to clients: “As a result, we are currently unable to offer the stretcher service with the reliability that you can rightly expect from us. We are therefore forced to give an embargo on our stretcher services until 31 of August. It was a tough decision we`ve taken, but we are sure that this will cause less challenges to our assistance and insurance companies, than offering the service and not being able to meet your expectations.
As soon as we are able to resume our stretcher service, we will also be able to offer our customers a new stretcher with more comfort and features.”
Marc Banting, Director of Voyageur 24, a UK-based travel and repatriation services provider, commented on the effect this would have on the industry’s ability to meet client expectations for prompt repatriations: “With fewer airlines now offering stretcher carriage as an alternative to an air ambulance, not having Lufthansa in the mix over the summer could be detrimental to commercial repatriations, but good news to the air ambulance companies. The beauty of Lufthansa stretchers were that they covered destinations in Spain and the Canaries, which reduced the need for an air ambulance. This makes Turkish Airlines the main carrier in Europe now for stretchers that can easily be arranged, but not really viable if the patients are located in Spain. Stretchers in Europe can also easily be arranged on TAP, Brussels Airlines to name a few alternatives.”
ACI EUROPE recently published its Airport Industry Connectivity Report for 2022, which reveals that the recovery of European air connectivity from the Covid-19 pandemic is uneven and still difficult. This reflects the combination of yet not fully lifted travel restrictions, the impact of the war in Ukraine and structural changes in the aviation market.