Lufthansa slashes flights as coronavirus hits bookings

Slideshow ( 2 images )

BERLIN (Reuters) - Deutsche Lufthansa LHAG.DE will slash up to half the flights across its stable of airlines from April as passengers balk at flying for fear of contracting the coronavirus, the company said on Friday.

“In recent days, the Lufthansa Group has been exposed to drastic declines in bookings and numerous flight cancellations due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. All traffic areas are now affected,” it said in a statement.

The latest cutbacks mark an acceleration of its response to the crisis after Lufthansa said on Thursday it was cancelling up to 25% of flights across the group up to the end of March due to lower demand.

The company, which includes Swiss International Air Lines and Austrian Airlines, also said it was considering temporarily grounding its entire fleet of 14 Airbus AIR.PA A380 superjumbos in Frankfurt and Munich.

Airlines across the globe have suspended flights or modified services in response to the outbreak.

Norwegian Air's NWC.OL shares lost a quarter of their value on Friday on concerns about its ability to weather a dramatic drop in global travel as the coronavirus spreads.

Lufthansa said other measures it was taking in response to the outbreak included offering staff unpaid leave, reduced hours or bringing forward annual leave.

Reporting by Ludwig Burger, Douglas Busvine and Hans Seidenstuecker; Editing by David Clarke