India is Lufthansa’s “latest favourite country,” and Air India is one of the two pillars of its growth strategy here, according to its CEO Carsten Spohr.
The airline is also looking to expand its network here, with the possibility of Austrian Airlines returning to Delhi next year as well as Bengaluru being connected to Switzerland
“Our India strategy is a two-fold -- one is to expand our Lufthansa Group metal into India. Bengaluru must be served from Switzerland once we have the airplanes. Think Delhi is ready for Austrian as well but it is a question of capacity,” Mr. Spohr said at a media round-table in Istanbul during the ongoing IATA Annual General Meeting 2023. The airline recently announced the reopening of Frankfurt- Hyderabad flights from January 16, 2024 after last serving the Indian city in 2011. It will also launch services between Munich and Bengaluru from November 3.
“The second pillar [of our India strategy] is to work with Air India where we have not explored all opportunities in the past years, but now with the new leadership and the Tata and Singapore Airlines behind, it we can do more with Air India which,” said the German major’s CEO adding that the two combined was “a reflection of India being our latest favourite place”. He declined to share the specifics about the areas in which Lufthansa will seek to tie up with Air India, but the group is known to be interested in the stake sale of Air India MRO arm, Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL), which was hived off before privatisation as well as developing an aviation training academy in India.
“It is more polite for Campbell to answer,” he said referring to Air India’s CEO.
On whether there were any concerns over India’s air service regime amidst demands from the European Union to implement the promised Open Skies and revisit bilateral air service agreements, he said, “I look at India as being an opportunity, not a concern. We have done nice business and India has loved Lufthansa product. Indian upper middle class very much looks at Europe as a way to spend.”
Annette Mann, CEO of Austrian Airlines explained that its long-haul fleet of 12 aircraft was now down to 9, but it was hopeful of getting the 10th aircraft in January 2024, which would be ready to be deployed on long-haul routes by May when Delhi will be among the destinations that would be considered.