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German International Flights Still Down 20%, Domestic Is Worse: What's Going On?


  • The German aviation market has been slower to recover post-COVID compared to other markets, with reduced seat capacity both domestically and internationally.
  • Factors contributing to the reduced capacity include downsizing by Lufthansa, the disappearance of Air Berlin, higher aviation taxes, and the war in Ukraine.
  • Lufthansa is in the process of regrowing its capacity, restarting operations of its Airbus A380, and having a significant number of long-haul aircraft in order to increase capacity in the future.

While many aviation markets around the world have seen an incredible recovery in the post-covid era, with some markets even performing better than in 2019, the German aviation market has been comparatively slower with its recovery on both the international and the domestic sides.

Reduced capacity

When comparing data for 2023 with the numbers from 2019, as reported by Cirium, the seat capacity available to and from Germany this year is down by 20% when compared to the capacity available in 2019. Worse still, the capacity in Germany’s domestic market is 48% below 2019 levels.

However, when looking at the broader picture, compared to 10 years ago, the international seat capacity is only higher by around 6% today.

At first glance, there is the obvious fact that the German carrier Lufthansa is smaller today than it was in 2019 in terms of the number of seats offered by the airline. Like most other airlines, Lufthansa was forced to downsize its fleet and retire some of its older aircraft for operational efficiency.

Lufthansa's retired Boeing 747-400 aircraft in the desert

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Additional reports suggest that the previously seen levels of corporate travel in the German markets have been relatively slow to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

The bigger picture

Apart from Lufthansa’s downsizing, there are other factors that have contributed to the reduced capacity of the German markets. One being the disappearance of Air Berlin, which ceased operations in 2017 – reports suggest that a lot of the carrier’s capacity was never replaced.

Additionally, the recent increase in aviation taxes and fees has caused airlines to pull out or reduce their presence within the German markets, including both full-service and low-cost carriers. In fact, it was reported last year that low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and Wizz Air had cut services to around 84 destinations from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport (HHN) since 2004.

The war in Ukraine also plays a role in the reduced capacity. Data shows that Russia was Germany’s 13th largest country market in terms of seats offered, and Ukraine was at number 27.

German Markets data by Cirium

Graph: Cirium

It can be noted that, due to the war, the capacity which used to be offered by airlines from Germany, Russia, and Ukraine no longer exists and essentially has not been replaced, which also contributes to the total capacity data.

It might get better

While the carrier had to downsize during the pandemic, Lufthansa is currently on track to regrowing its capacity. In June this year, the airline restarted operations with its Airbus A380, which is the largest passenger jet in the world and, as such, can provide considerable boosts in capacity. Lufthansa has confirmed that four of its A380s will be returning to service this year, of which three aircraft have already left storage.

Moreover, the Lufthansa Group has 108 long-haul aircraft on order, of which the majority will probably end up being delivered to Lufthansa. While some of these aircraft will be to replace older jets as part of the airline’s fleet renewal plan, the remaining jets will definitely help increase capacity for the airline.

Source: Cirium.

  • Tom Boon-169


    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Frankfurt Airport, Munich Airport

    Year Founded:

    Star Alliance

    Airline Group:
    Lufthansa Group

    Carsten Spohr



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