Lufthansa has scrapped all flights to India in an escalating feud over access to world’s second most populous nation. India declares that Germany is not being fair in terms of entry restrictions for its own citizens. Lufthansa claims it is unreasonably being held hostage to those negotiations and the boycotts against India are necessary. Now Germany has responded by blocking Air India in retaliation.
After Lufthansa Boycotts India, Germany Blocks Air India
Lufthansa had planned 23 weekly flights to India during the month of October. That included the resumption of service to Chennai (Bangalore, Delhi, and Mumbai began operating in June).
But India said not so fast. While Germany has offered to resume discussions with India over reciprocal travel, India is currently the world’s worst COVID-19 hotspot and will soon overtake the United States in holding the dubious honor of the nation with the most cases.
India, however, says that German travel restrictions against Indian citizens put “Indian carriers at a significant disadvantage resulting in inequitable distribution of traffic in favor of Lufthansa.”
India’s Transport Ministry adds:
“As against Indian carriers operating three to four flights a week, Lufthansa operated 20 flights a week. In spite of this disparity, we offered to clear seven flights a week to Lufthansa, which was not accepted by them. Negotiations continue.”
Negotiations may be continuing, but Lufthansa has pulled all flights. Instead of accepting seven flights per week, Lufthansa has suspended all flights until October 20, 2020. In a statement, Lufthansa urged Germany and India to reach a solution:
“Lufthansa sincerely urges the Indian authorities to work together with the German government in order to establish a temporary travel agreement between both countries. Such an agreement is necessary to address the urgent need of tens of thousands of Indians and foreign nationals for travel to and from India and would also help balance the interests of both countries’ airlines.”
India seems to be conflating the German government issue of restricting entry of India citizens with Lufthansa’s desire to ramp up service to India. However, in response to India’s denial of Lufthansa’s October flight schedule to India, Germany has blocked all Air India flights through October 14, 2020.
Two observations. One, COVID-19 is growing rapidly in India. Any notion that Germany must reciprocate entry regulations does not seem proportionate with the facts on the ground. Second, now neither Air India nor Lufthansa are offering flights between Germany and Europe. While the move helps carriers like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, it hurts business travelers, citizens looking to get home from both nations, and dual legal residents. Time to work out a compromise…