Frankfurt The Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings plans to hire 750 additional employees in the cabin and in the cockpit over the next twelve months. This was announced by Eurowings CEO Jens Bischof in a press conference on Monday afternoon. “We now receive tens of thousands of bookings every day for Easter and also for the summer. The indications of a good travel year are increasing,” said the aviation manager. Eurowings had already increased its flying staff by 750 employees last year.
The acquisition of personnel is probably the clearest proof of the confidence that many airline managers have despite the current Omikron wave. Rival Easyjet also assumes that significantly more flight tickets will be booked in summer. The management cites, among other things, the relaxed entry requirements in Great Britain as a reason for optimism.
Easyjet therefore announced on Monday that it intends to hire 1,000 pilots over the next five years. The Irish low-cost operator Ryanair, on the other hand, wants to offer more flights in summer than before the pandemic began. The capacity with which one is currently planning is currently 14 percent higher than in 2019, said Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary on Monday.
Airline managers like Bischof from Eurowings refer to the experience of Easter last year. At that time, the travel restrictions in many countries were lifted, the result was a real “run” on tickets to Mallorca, for example. In order to cope with the strong demand, Lufthansa even used the Boeing 747 wide-body jet for a short time on flights to the Balearic Islands.
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Whether something like this will happen again this year remains to be seen. But there are first indications of a renewed wave of bookings. The analysis and consulting company Travel Data + Analytics (TDA) reports that there has been an increased demand for flight tickets since the turn of the year. In the first two weeks of January 2022, turnover with new bookings in travel sales was higher than that of December as a whole, explained the experts at TDA.
The need to travel increases
According to TDA, the proportion of bookings for the important summer months rose to 64 percent by mid-January. “The trend is right,” says TDA. “The longer contact restrictions last, the greater the need to travel,” said Eurowings boss Bischof. “We were able to experience the ups and downs last year.” It is foreseeable that the run will come as soon as the openings have been announced. “The question is when, whether at Easter or only in the summer,” said Bischof.
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More precise forecasts are still difficult. This has consequences for ticket prices. Ryanair wants to boost business with lower prices, at least in the next few weeks, when many passengers will still be holding back because of the Omicron wave.
But as soon as demand increases, the airline management hopes to be able to push through higher prices. The calculation behind it: Since many airlines are not yet flying at full capacity, tickets on the particularly popular routes could become scarce. This creates scope for more expensive tickets.
These weeks are particularly difficult for aviation managers. On the one hand, they are suffering greatly from the pandemic. “We are now in a very difficult winter again, especially in the business segment,” said Eurowings CEO Bischof. “Only well-utilized flights should take off, it is important to limit losses.” This is also an enormous mental burden for the staff.
Many airlines are still making losses
The current figures from Ryanair show how difficult the situation is. In the third business quarter up to the end of December 2021, the company counted around 31.1 million travelers. After all, that is almost four times as many as a year earlier in the first winter of the pandemic. Therefore, sales increased to around 1.5 billion euros, as can be seen from the figures presented on Monday. Nevertheless, the airline had to close the quarter with a loss of 96 million euros, around 70 percent less than in the same period last year.
For the current financial year, which ends at Ryanair in March, O’Leary assumes a loss of between 250 and 450 million euros. Just a few weeks ago, he had only forecast a minus of up to 200 million euros.
At the same time, in the midst of this loss-making phase, the airlines have to invest in expanding their offer and hope that it will then find enough buyers. Eurowings boss Bischof is confident that this will succeed: “The good reference year could be exceeded in 2022,” said Bischof optimistically. However, the strong growth is operationally a challenge, said the airline manager with a view to possible delays at airports and airlines.
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