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Lufthansa warned that it will not return to pre-crisis levels of business until at least the middle of the decade, after it slumped to the worst loss in its history in 2020.

The German group, which includes brands such as Austrian, Brussels, Swiss and Eurowings airlines, made an operating loss €5.5bn for the full year, compared with €2bn in profit in 2019, and is burning through €300m per month.

However its logistics unit, Lufthansa Cargo, which is involved in vaccine distribution, achieved pre-tax earnings of €772m, as prices for cargo capacity rose sharply due to the grounding of passenger aircraft, which tend to carry freight in their bellies. 

Lufthansa’s results come a week after British Airways owner IAG slumped to its worst-ever annual operating loss, of €7.4bn. The rival group also said it was burning through €185m per week.

Despite the worldwide vaccine rollouts, global passenger traffic was down 72 per cent in January, when compared to the same month in 2019, according to industry body Iata. That figure is even worse than the 69 per cent drop registered in December.

In an effort to entice more travellers, Lufthansa recently extended its free rebooking period to the end of May. 

“Internationally recognised, digital vaccination and test certificates must replace travel bans and quarantine so people can once again visit family and friends, meet business partners or learn about other countries and cultures,” said chief executive Carsten Spohr.

Lufthansa said it expected its capacity level “to return to 90 percent” by the middle of the decade, but warned that it would likely offer just 40 to 50 per cent of its 2019 capacity in 2021.

The carrier, which employed almost 140,000 people before the pandemic, has already cut almost 30,000 jobs, and warned it will have to axe roughly 10,000 more in Germany.

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