Lufthansa vows extensive revamp as losses balloon

Lufthansa’s April passenger numbers fell 98 percent year on year as the coronavirus pandemic hit the travel sector. (AFP)
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Updated 04 June 2020

Lufthansa vows extensive revamp as losses balloon

  • Embattled German carrier looks to cut costs after posting $2.3bn 1Q loss

FRANKFURT: Lufthansa has pledged a wide-ranging restructuring, from job cuts to sales of non-core assets, as it seeks to repay a €9 billion ($10.1 billion) state bailout and navigate deepening losses in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pledged cost cuts came as the German carrier posted a first-quarter net loss of €2.1 billion on Wednesday, only days after securing the bailout that is intended to help the airline ride out the crisis but will require it to cede some of its prized landing slots to rivals.

“In view of the very slow recovery in demand, we must now take far-reaching restructuring measures,” said CEOCarsten Spohr.

The group, which includes Swiss, Austrian Airlines and Brussels Airlines, is bracing for a significant decline in 2020 earnings and has begun talks with labor representatives over cutbacks, the company added.

Brussels Airlines will reduce its fleet by 30 percent and its workforce by 25 percent while Austrian Airlines’ fleet and personnel costs are to be cut by 20 percent.

The sale of non-core operations is also on the cards in the medium term, the group said, having postponed the planned sale of parts of airline caterer LSG in March.

The first-quarter loss, which widened from €342 million a year earlier, was driven by writedowns of €266 million on its fleet. There were also writedowns on the book value of LSG North America and budget carrier Eurowings, of €100 million and €57 million, respectively.

A slump in fuel hedging contracts was another €950 million burden on the bottom line.

Shares in the group were up 3 percent in early trade, though analysts expect the national carrier to be removed from Germany’s benchmark blue-chip DAX for the first time since the index was launched in 1988.

Lufthansa’s April passenger numbers slumped 98 percent year on year to 241,000, but it laid out plans on Wednesday to increase capacity in September to reach 40 percent of what it had scheduled before the pandemic.


Greek town bets on slow tourism to overcome virus

Updated 12 August 2020

Greek town bets on slow tourism to overcome virus

  • The pandemic is an opportunity to promote alternative tourism, fishing tourism

PREVEZA, Greece: Yannis Yovanos scans the waters of the Ambracian Gulf with his binoculars for dolphins shooting into the air before curving back down into the sea.

His early warnings prompt just a dozen tourists on the deck of Yovanos’ small boat to scramble for their smartphones, hoping to secure a snap of the aquatic mammals’ aerial acrobatics.

Officials in his home town of Preveza hope that it’s just this kind of small, family-run business that will help them overcome the coronavirus’ impact on travel — while sparing the region the environmental impact and economic distortions of the mass tourism more common on Crete or the Ionian islands.

“We don’t want to stay all day on a beach, we’re looking for a different experience,” said Dutch tourist Frederika Janssen.

“The pandemic is an opportunity to promote alternative tourism, fishing tourism,” as well as local life and culture “directly related to the natural resources that date from Antiquity,” said Constantin Koutsikopoulos, who heads the agency charged with managing the Ambracian Gulf.

Inside the gulf is a protected wetlands park, some 400 sq. km that is one of Europe’s Natura 2000 wildlife diversity regions.

One hundred and fifty dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles and 300 species of aquatic birds including the rare Dalmatian pelican live in the lagoons and reed beds of the gulf.

Nestled between green hills, the Ambracian Gulf is fed by rivers descending from the mountains of the Epirus region of northwestern Greece.

Yovanos’ hometown guards the little strait that connects the gulf with the Ionian Sea.

Dolphin watching trips like these mean “I am realizing my dream of living the life of a fisherman among our natural riches,” said the 49-year-old from behind a greying beard.

For Greece as a whole, a gamble on reopening its borders to tourists as early as June appears to have paid off for now.

New coronavirus cases have appeared only slowly since then, with fewer than 6,000 cases and just over 200 deaths nationwide from the pandemic.

Although Preveza has opted for a slower, more family-oriented approach to travel compared to better-known Greek destinations, it hasn’t renounced Mediterranean holiday clichés altogether.

With the sector suffering a big hit from the coronavirus epidemic, Preveza city officials launched a promotional campaign, securing the title of safest place for a European beach holiday from website European Best Destinations.

“Monolithi beach, the main beach of Preveza, is ... the longest one in Europe... you won’t have to struggle to get a nice spot, fix your beach umbrella and spend relaxing days in the sun,” it wrote.

And new infrastructure in the shape of a marina has helped draw sailors away from packed ports on the islands.

“Preveza is the right place compared to Corfu which is a very nice island but very crowded,” said Nick Ray, a British businessman, from the deck of his yacht that had put into the town’s port.

With its fishing and fish farming, the Ambracian Gulf is already the region’s economic motor.

Sustainable, environment-focused tourism should give the authorities even more reason to deal with the threats to the gulf such as pollution, poaching and illegal fishing.

There’s even something for ancient history buffs in the ruins of Nicopolis, founded by Caesar Augustus in honor of his naval victory nearby in 31 BC, where some Roman mosaics are still preserved.