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Lufthansa's claim of 100% pilot fitness jars credibility

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Lufthansa's claim of 100% pilot fitness jars credibility


Germany’s airline Lufthansa, parent company for several other airlines as well, is trying to recover and stabilise its credibility in the aftermath of the Germanwings crash in the French Alps.

This week, Lufthansa revealed that the co-pilot who was at the controls of the doomed passenger jet, Andreas Lubitz, had informed the company’s flight school in Bremen in 2009 that he had suffered a prior serious episode of depression.

This revelation cast doubt on the acceptance and approval process, notably in light of CEO Carsten Spohr’s claim just days earlier that Lufthansa trains the best pilots in the world, ensuring top safety.

Spohr said that Lubitz “…then succeeded in all medical tests and all training, all flight tests and checks. He was 100 per cent fit to fly without any restrictions and without any constraints.”

At least one doctor’s note putting Lubitz on sick leave was found torn up in the co-pilot’s Dusseldorf apartment, and this focused attention on him alone, for a time.

Dusseldorf prosecutor Christoph Kumpa made a clear statement to that effect:

“The fact that torn up sick notes were found, among other things, which were recent and even from the day of the crime, support the assumption based on the preliminary examination that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and his professional colleagues.”

Lufthansa has gone through roughly a year of strikes by pilots, which has also challenged the upper management’s problem-solving abilities and tarnished its image of trouble-free reliability.

Spokesperson Barbara Schadler said: “Thankfully, we have very loyal customers. Although we notice a decline in bookings with every announced strike, fortunately it’s only for a short time. Still, it’s a loss of reputation and obviously something we’d like to put behind us as quickly as possible.”

The strikes cost Lufthansa more than 230 million euros in 2014, coming at a time when it is struggling to reduce costs in the face of mounting competition from long-haul carriers such as Emirates and Turkish Airlines and budget airlines within Europe.

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