October 20, 2011 / 9:41 AM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 2-Lufthansa Cargo reshuffles ops on night flight ban

* Some flights cancelled, 1 freighter to switch to Cologne

* Cargo boss sees double-digit million euro costs

* Hopes Leipzig court will reinstate Frankfurt night flights

* Lufthansa shares fall 1.2 percent

By Victoria Bryan

FRANKFURT, Oct 20 (Reuters) - German airline Lufthansa AG said a court ruling halting night flights from its cargo unit’s Frankfurt hub would cost it tens of millions of euros in rescheduled flights, result in lost customers and hurt the logistics industry.

Lufthansa Cargo has yet to come up with a long-term alternative for its operations should the night flight ban be upheld by a new court ruling, due in 2012, the unit’s CEO said on Thursday.

In the meantime, the company has adopted an emergency winter schedule, which includes cutting two flights a week to China, moving flights to daytime, and introducing stop-overs in Cologne/Bonn for flights to China.

It will also station a freighter in Cologne from January to serve North American routes.

“We’ve managed at great expense to keep our customer services comparatively intact,” Lufthansa Cargo boss Karl Ulrich Garnadt said.

Along with a fleet of 18 MD-11F freighters, Lufthansa Cargo also uses the ‘belly space’ on passenger aircraft operated by parent Lufthansa, which is also based in Frankfurt, thus making it difficult to switch its cargo operations to other airports.

“We are currently looking at options; the combination of freight and belly in Frankfurt is so important to us,” Garnadt told journalists.

More than half of German air freight flies out of Frankfurt, Garnadt said, with about 80 percent of Lufthansa Cargo’s worldwide tonnage being handled there.

“Closing the world’s seventh biggest airport for six hours each night and thereby decoupling it from the international goods flows constitutes a severe blow to the air traffic industry,” he said.

Before a court in Hesse earlier this month banned night flights from Oct. 30, Lufthansa Cargo’s winter schedule was planned to have around 10 to 11 of the 17 landings or take-offs available at Germany’s largest airport between the hours of 2300 and 0500 local time.

A higher court in Leipzig is due to rule on whether to allow the night flights in the first quarter of 2012.

Shares in Lufthansa were down 1.2 percent at 9.76 euros at 1221 GMT, underperforming a 0.2 percent rise in the Stoxx Europe 600 Travel and Leisure index .

Garnadt said there were no plans to delay an order for Boeing 777 freighters, with the first delivery due in 2013, but should the night flight ban be upheld, Lufthansa would have to look at where to station the freighters.

“It would have an impact on the number of freighters and the size of the investment in Frankfurt,” he said, but rejected the suggestion that Lufthansa Cargo could move all of its freighters out of the hub.

In order to use the night flight paths scheduled over Russia and China this winter, Lufthansa will now load up freighters in Frankfurt, fly them the 20 minutes to Cologne in the evening, park them for 3 hours and take off again.

Garnadt said using Cologne - not currently a big cargo site for Lufthansa but closer than its other cargo hubs in Munich and Leipzig - was only a temporary solution as night flights there were also limited.

Frankfurt Hahn, used mostly by low-cost carriers such as Ryanair , was not an option because it lacked long-haul connections.

Garnadt said last week the freight market, an important indicator of the strength of the world economy, was getting tougher, as growth in Asia slows.

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