Every year between Christmas and New Year, a remarkable sight can be seen at the Lufthansa hubs. Aircraft after aircraft, but in this case parked on the ground instead of taking off into the skies.
Taking a breather after a stressful year? No – there is a logical reason behind it all. During the low season when demand drops – and the time between Christmas and New Year is traditionally one of most notable of these periods – Lufthansa reacts by considerably reducing its service and cutting up to 75 percent of all flights. At the end of this year, from Christmas Eve onwards, and for the fifth time running, the larger part of the fleet will be seen parked at the Rhine-Main Airport in Frankfurt.
On Christmas Day, 25 December, there were 134 aircraft out “on the yard”, and by New Year’s Eve this will be 148. An impressive picture – and, above all, a huge logistical challenge. Up to 60 long-haul aircraft will be parked there, all exactly according to plan, many of them in specially marked-out parking areas. The employees at the Hub Control Center manually document the parking site for each individual aircraft. The correct placing of the aircraft is crucial. Working according to the principle of “first in, last out”, the positions of the aircraft in the parking area are carefully chosen so that those which are parked first will be the last to be returned to service.
On New Year’s Eve, work will start to get the aircraft all back into place again, ready for service. As the New Year is still being rung in, around 50 long-haul and at least as many inner-continental aircraft need to be made ready for take-off again – all within a short space of time – and exactly this number of towing maneuvers are required in order to achieve this. “Tow tractor ballet” is what the employees of the Hub Control Center have nicknamed this procedure. From New Year onwards, the airport parking area will be markedly emptier – and the Lufthansa aircraft with their famous crane symbol will one by one resume their regular job of flying.