The Lufthansa Group on Monday expressed confidence that air travel demand to and from India remains high despite the COVID-19 lockdown disruption, as it welcomed the bilateral air bubble agreement which allowed Germany's largest airline to resume flights from India last week.
George Ettiyil, Lufthansa Group's Senior Director for South Asia Sales, said the airline is offering more than 40 flights from Frankfurt and Munich to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore until the end of August, beyond which it hopes to formally apply for inbound flights to India in consultation with Indian authorities.
For India, one of our most important international markets, we are seeing positive developments after it was more or less cut off from the rest of the world since mid-March, said Ettiyil, in reference to the coronavirus lockdown which grounded flights in March.
"Since travel demand to and from India remains high, we will formally apply for inbound flights to India beyond August in due time and will be in close consultation with Indian authorities concerning this," Ettiyil said. "In this context it is important to note that our flights to and from India are relief flights and not regular flights. They address the continuing need for essential travel to and from India, bringing people together again and to support the travel needs of businesses", he said.
In an effort to open up more flights, India has struck bilateral air bubble arrangements allowing travel to and from certain countries including Germany, the US, UK and France.
The Lufthansa Group has been making use of the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction Test (RT-PCR test) at German airports, which helps detect acute infection linked to coronavirus, as part of this gradual resumption of flights.
Since July, Lufthansa has been offering Indian customers a convenient option at Frankfurt and Munich airports to test for coronavirus on short notice. These PCR coronavirus tests only require a throat swab and are certified by German health authorities, said Ettiyil, who is hopeful that such tests would be adopted at more airports around the world, including India.
He said: Both coronavirus test centres at our hubs in Frankfurt and Munich provide customers the opportunity to avoid being quarantined upon arrival in Germany, with a negative coronavirus test in their hand. Results are usually available within four to five hours after testing and are linked to the customer's flight ticket.
"This also makes it easier to travel safely to other countries worldwide that accept a certified PCR coronavirus test, thereby avoiding quarantine. That is why having PCR corona test centres like the ones in Frankfurt and Munich at airports worldwide, including India, are seen as a key factor to restore international travel.
The airline industry has been particularly hard-hit as a result of the coronavirus lockdown the world over, with the Lufthansa Group reporting an 80 per cent drop in revenue in the second quarter of the year in financial results released earlier this month.
We are experiencing a caesura (break period) in global air traffic. We do not expect demand to return to pre-crisis levels before 2024. Especially for long-haul routes there will be no quick recovery, said Carsten Spohr, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, in reference to the results.
We are convinced that the entire aviation industry must adapt to a new normal. The pandemic offers our industry a unique opportunity to recalibrate: to question the status quo and, instead of striving for growth at any price', to create value in a sustainable and responsible way, he said.
As one of Europe's largest airlines, the group is seeing the first signs of recovery on some tourist routes during what is a summer holiday period in Europe and is keen to highlight the safety aspect of flying.
It is important to mention that the risk of contracting the virus during a flight is very low. This is also due to all Lufthansa Group aircraft being equipped with state-of-the-art hepa filters that continuously clean cabin air: all recirculated air is filtered and cleaned of impurities such as dust, bacteria and viruses, explains George Ettiyil.
Start flying and say hello to the world again there is no safer way to travel than on an aircraft, he adds.