Lufthansa posts wider losses as winter takes toll

DEUTSCHE Lufthansa yesterday posted a bigger-than-expected first-quarter operating loss as high fuel costs, strike measures, a harsh winter and the lagging performance at some of its units weighed on earnings.

Its operating loss widened to €330m (£283m) from €44m a year earlier, the German flagship carrier said as it published key first-quarter results a day ahead of schedule. The figure was worse than the €218m average loss estimated by analysts, but Lufthansa still confirmed its 2010 outlook.

Airlines have been hit by a toxic mixture of soaring fuel prices, increasingly price-sensitive customers and shrinking corporate and private travel budgets.

The world’s airlines lost about $9.4bn last year as customers curbed spending during the recession, and they stand to lose another $2.8bn this year, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

On top of the fallout from the global economic crisis, Lufthansa took a hit of nearly €50m from a day-long pilots’ strike in February that led to about 2,000 flight cancellations and stranded thousands of travellers.

The company said recent acquisitions Austrian Airlines and bmi also dragged on first-quarter earnings.