Today's Paper

Lufthansa to focus on India, China markets

Vinay Kumar

Plans to enter private jet business catering to firms and CEOs

Plans flights to Pune from next month

Promoting ‘Single European Sky’

FRANKFURT: Wolfgang Mayrhuber, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Lufthansa, told visiting journalists here last week that the carrier had launched 16 new destinations and was not going to discontinue any of the current routes, despite the skyrocketing prices of jet fuel.

“Though it is becoming difficult to keep pace with increasing prices of jet fuel, some part of our requirement of fuel is also obtained through hedging. We have to see elasticity of market, depend on different markets, strategise our flexibility and fleet capacity and at the same time meet ecological challenges,” Mr. Mayrhuber said.

Since the 2008 summer timetable Lufthansa was offering 7,112 weekly frequencies to 207 destinations in 81 countries. In the Asia-Pacific region, the airline had 762 weekly frequencies to 63 destinations in 20 countries, including 58 frequencies to India.

The carrier was laying greater emphasis on the growth markets of China, India and Russia.

Lufthansa hoped to get the delivery of super jumbo passenger jet A-380 from Airbus Industrie by 2009 after a delay of nearly one year. “We have put in place adequate infrastructure to induct A-380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft, in our fleet,” the CEO said. Airline officials showed journalists around the new massive A-380 hangar at Frankfurt airport. It can take in two A-380 super jumbos at a time or four Boeing 747-400 aircraft.

“By the summer of 2010 we plan to induct four A-380s and most probably put them on two routes to the Far East and two to the North Atlantic from Frankfurt. Our A-380s will have the capacity to carry 545 passengers in three class configurations – first, business and economy,” Mr. Mayrhuber said.

The airline would also get the new generation Boeing 747-800 passenger jets, close to the induction of A-380. With projected growth in number of global air travellers doubling from two billion a year to four billion passengers in 2025, high ranking Lufthansa officials said the strategy was to constantly innovate, maintain quality in all product processes, reliability and safety.

“We have recently spent nearly 300 million euros in our new business class, 150 million euros for upgrading our lounges at several airports and 30 million euros for building a new first class terminal at Frankfurt,” Thierry Antinori, Lufthansa’s executive vice president, responsible for sales and marketing said.

Eyeing the India, China markets for its future growth, Lufthansa was also planning to enter the market of providing private jets to industrialists, private companies and top CEOs in both countries. “Both India and China are very important markets for us. We are adding the seventh destination of Pune from next month to our network by launching all business-class flights on the Pune-Frankurt sector,” Mr. Antinori told The Hindu.

Terming the fragmented European sky a major problem, he said the airline was vigorously promoting a ‘Single European Sky’ as one of the largest environmental projects.

Mr. Mayrhuber said the media should not only focus on delays in development and delivery of newer aircraft like A-380s but also highlight the need for rapid infrastructure development like new runways, airports, terminals and concepts like Single European Sky that could save substantial flight path detours. If implemented, SESAR would halve direct Air Traffic Control costs, increase safety tenfold and triple available airspace in Europe.

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