Lufthansa says ban on over flights intended to shift refuelling hub to Russia

Lufthansa has denied any connection between its rights to fly over Russia and the relocation of its refuelling hub from Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, to Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. The carrier''s clarification has come in the wake of comments by German transport minister, Wolfgang Tiefensee, which gave the impression that talks between Russia and Germany on the issue were mainly centred around a likely timeframe to move Lufthansa Cargo to Krasnoyarsk.

At the start of the week, on 4 November 2007, Moscow abruptly suspended Lufthansa Cargo''s over-flight rights claiming that a temporary permit had expired. That permit allowed Lufthansa cargo jets flying between Europe and Asia to use Russian airspace to reach a refuelling station in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

According to minister Tiefensee, talks with the Russian ministry of transport on over flight rights are continuing and were mainly about a timeframe to move Lufthansa Cargo to the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. The carrier''s chief executive, Wolfgang Mayrhuber, has now denied this saying that there was no short-term plan to relocate the cargo hub from Kazakh capital of Astana. He further asked for a clear separation of the cargo hub issue and over flight rights.

Mayrhuber said it was true that Lufthansa originally had considered using Krasnoyarsk as a refuelling station for flights to Asia, mainly because of its favourable location. But there was no immediate decision to move the hub, as the airport did not have the necessary technical facilities. He said that Lufthansa had told Russian representatives long ago that Krasnoyarsk wasn''t an option for a cargo hub, as there was insufficient technical equipment available at the airport.

Mayrhuber said that Lufthansa was not married to Astana and would certainly consider relocating its hub, but only if it made economic sense. This would include issues such as landing fees and fuel price.

Mayrhuber also pointed out that he was still unaware as to the reason why Russian authorities had not yet signed a bilateral contract with Germany on flyover fees. He called for a long-term agreement to be reached soon.

According to Tiefensee, the Russian flyover ban for Lufthansa Cargo had been lifted until November 15.