Lufthansa has cut back its 2011 earnings forecast and will consequently slow down its capacity expansion programme further than previously announced.

The German flag carrier no longer expects to exceed last year's earnings of €876 million ($1.2 billion).

Operating profit will reach "the upper end of the three digit million Euro range", the airline said today, without providing a more specific figure.

As a result, Lufthansa is making a second cut to its capacity growth programme. The carrier originally planned to expand capacity by 12% this year, covering the mainline and subsidiaries, such as Eurowings, which are flying under the Lufthansa brand.

This was already halved to 6% in the middle of the year, and will now be cut back further. However, the airline will still register "good" year-on-year capacity growth, a company spokesman said.

The more cautious outlook comes in response to traffic developments in August, which saw Lufthansa's passenger numbers increase by 7.1% year-on-year while capacity, measured in available seat kilometres, grew by 8.4%. The load factor declined two percentage points to 81.4% in the holiday month.

It is not yet clear where capacity will be slashed, the spokesman said. However, it will affect the entire fleet, covering regional, short- and medium-haul, and intercontinental aircraft, he added.

It would be possible to achieve this by rescheduling the maintenance plan for the fleet or accelerating the planned retirement of certain aircraft, such as the carrier's Boeing 737-300s and -500s.

The ongoing cabin refurbishment programme for the short- and medium-haul fleet, which is to create around 2,000 additional seats - 8% capacity growth equivalent to 12 additional A320s - through a space-saving passenger seat will not be affected by the decision.

Also those group subsidiaries which are operating under their own brand, such as Austrian Airlines, BMI and Swiss, will not be affected by the capacity reduction plans.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news