In recent months, the spread of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus has caused extensive disruption to air travel. It has also prompted changes to restrictions, some of which have come and gone rather suddenly. While this is frustrating for passengers, airfreight has also been affected, with Lufthansa Cargo’s Frankfurt operations being hit hard.
A total halt for transiting cargo traffic
Lufthansa is one of many airlines around the world still coming to terms with the impacts of Omicron, and indeed COVID-19 in general. Having recently made the news for potentially having to operate 18,000 ghost flights to retain slots, it is now also facing difficulties on the cargo front. The focal point for these is its Frankfurt hub.
“We unfortunately see no other option at the moment than to take some measures at the Frankfurt hub. As of now, there will be a transit embargo for Frankfurt.”
It is worth noting that there are three destinations that have remained exempt from this embargo. They are Bathinda (India), Buochs (Switzerland), and Valencia (Spain).
Feeling the impacts of a COVID outbreak
The reason for the disruption faced by Lufthansa Cargo is an outbreak of COVID-19 among its staff. Germany is presently seeing high case rates with the spread of Omicron, and Frankfurt is a particular hotspot. The German flag carrier’s airfreight division explained:
“We are facing an increasing number of Coronavirus cases within our organization, especially at the Frankfurt hub. This is leading to a reduction in staffing levels, which is delaying our operations at this stage.”
However, Lufthansa Cargo hopes that the temporary measures that it has subsequently implemented will allow it to recover quickly. The worldwide airfreight specialist added:
“We firmly believe these measures will contribute to stabilization and that we can gradually return to normal operations. (…) We hope that the measures will show a positive effect within days, so we can go back to normal.”
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Frankfurt is a key European cargo hub
On the whole, Frankfurt Airport has fared rather well on the cargo front throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, Simple Flying reported in February 2021 that the global health crisis had actually seen its importance as a cargo hub increase in 2020, in contrast to that year’s drop in passenger numbers. Preighter aircraft played a key role in this.
More recently, the airport announced last week that it had handled a record amount of cargo in 2021. The 2.32 million tonnes of airfreight that passed through last year represented an 18.7% increase compared to 2020, and it was also up 8.9% vs 2019. As such, all involved will hope that Lufthansa’s operations there can get back to normal as soon as possible.
What do you make of the recent disruption to Lufthansa Cargo’s Frankfurt operations? Has the Omicron variant forced your travel plans to change? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.