July 4, 2012 / 8:52 AM / in 7 years

Frankfurt curfew grounds Lufthansa Cape Town flights

A Lufthansa Boeing 737-500 aircraft flies in to land at Frankfurt's airport February 28, 2012. REUTERS/Alex Domanski

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A ban on night flights at Frankfurt has caused Lufthansa to withdraw its service to Cape Town this winter, the German national airline said on Wednesday.

Imposed eight months ago, a strict ban on flights after 11 pm leaves no leeway when it comes to weather or medical delays and has resulted in over 10,000 passengers being stranded overnight in Frankfurt since the ban took effect, Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) manager Kay Kratky said.

The night flight ban is an extra headache for Lufthansa, which is currently cutting costs to battle low-cost competition and rising fuel prices.

“Cape Town will no longer be served from Frankfurt this winter because we can’t leave our passengers stranded,” said Kratky, in charge of flight operations at Lufthansa’s passenger airlines division.

He cited the example of a plane due to fly to Johannesburg being forced to turn round on the Frankfurt tarmac last Thursday night after a problem loading a container.

Instead, the Cape Town flight will be shifted to Munich, which itself has been dealt a blow to expansion plans after a proposed third runway was voted down by residents.

“Munich will start hitting bottlenecks in three, four or five years’ time,” Kratky, a former pilot, said. “But we have those problems in Frankfurt now.”

Lufthansa has previously warned the restrictions at Frankfurt could lead it to shift investment elsewhere to seek growth. “Our ability to compete depends on being able to scale up,” Kratky said. (Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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