Lufthansa latest to adjust winter capacity

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German flag carrier Lufthansa is axing services to Rio de Janeiro, Bogota and Tashkent this winter as part of a cut in planned capacity growth as its shuffles its long-haul network to counter the economic downturn.

The move comes just a day after another European carrier KLM announced it was reducing its capacity year-on-year by 3% this winter, as airlines work to minimise the impact of the global slowdown. Lufthansa says the network reshuffle amounts to a reduction in planned capacity the equivalent of two Boeing 747-200s.

From the start of the winter timetable Lufthansa will cease its thrice-weekly Frankfurt-Rio de Janeiro service, though the carrier will continue to have a connection to the Brazilian city through its codeshare with Star Alliance partner Varig. It will also cease its thrice-weekly services to Bogota in Colombia and the Uzbekistan capital Tashkent early next year.

The carrier will also reduce capacity on North Atlantic routes, deploying smaller aircraft on some routes and cutting two weekly flights on its high frequency Frankfurt-New York link.

The airline says that over the first half of the year it has increased its share of the premium market segment on all relevant connections, but Lufthansa executive vice president network management and marketing Ralf Teckentrup explains: “On prime North Atlantic routes, we also made clear gains. But there are markets, whose structure principally generates tourist demand, like Rio. High capacity utilisation does not in itself suffice to serve those routes profitably.”

Lufthansa is also keeping a check on future growth on the intercontinental sector, and only “moderate” growth is planned for the next few years. “We cannot afford excess capacities. Market driven growth has always been Lufthansa’s strategy and will remain so in the future,” says Teckentrup. The airline says annual capacity growth originally planned for 7% it to be cut to around 3%.