Lufthansa posts record annual loss, sees long recovery

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Europe's biggest airline said it expects to book an operating loss again

German flag carrier Lufthansa said Thursday it lost a record 6.7 billion euros in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic wiped out demand for travel and left flights grounded.

Europe's biggest airline said it expects to book an operating loss again in 2021, though a smaller one than last year, as capacity will reach only 40-50 percent of pre-pandemic levels for the full year.

Underlining the long road to recovery, it added that capacity will climb to 90 percent of 2019's level in "the middle of the decade".

After borders slammed shut as governments scrambled to halt contagion in the first wave of the Covid-19 crisis, the airline faced an uncertain future.

In June, it was offered a lifeline by the German government, which pumped in nine billion euros of liquidity for a 25 percent stake.

"The past year was the most challenging in the history of our company - for our customers, our employees and our shareholders," said Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr.

In the airline's home base, demand is sluggish with work from home orders curtailing business travel.

Across Europe, restrictions are also in place as governments continue to battle rising infection numbers.

Lufthansa expects demand to pick up again in the summer with a vaccination rollout progressing and more capacity for tests available.

"Internationally recognised digital vaccination and test certificates must replace travel bans and quarantine," stressed Spohr.