When Carsten Sophr, Lufthansa’s CEO and chairman of the executive board, first came to the U.S. as an exchange student in 1984, the airline operated few flights between the U.S. and Europe.
“We flew to San Francisco three times a week in those days with passengers in the front and cargo in the back. Now, we fly to San Francisco three times a day with a full passenger airplane,” says Sophr. “So that shows just in my little lifespan what has happened to transatlantic travel.”
Now, Lufthansa Group airlines serve 343 destinations in 103 countries, with the U.S. making up the largest market that the company serves outside of its home market in Europe. More than 110 flights depart between the U.S. and Europe on a daily basis, and according to Frank Naeve, v.p. of sales for The America, Lufthansa is consistently experiencing growth.
“We’re seeing a very strong leisure demand from the U.S. in general with double digit growth in the number of passengers using our networks in our home markets but also beyond,” says Naeve.
In response to this demand, Lufthansa continuously adds new routes and increased frequencies to existing routes. This year saw the launch of Lufthansa’s 22nd destination in the U.S. with the inauguration of flights departing from Austin. New flight service from Las Vegas is also expected to begin later this year.
Competing in the Low-Cost Markets
Of the 800 aircraft serving Lufthansa Group airlines, 200 of them operate flights with Eurowings, the low-cost airline that allows Lufthansa to serve a wider variety of markets and customers. The new Eurowings was launched in March 2015 at the ITB in Germany and started by transforming the Cologne-based Germanwings LCC into a European carrier also offering long haul flights.
“In the end, it’s not only about bringing your cost down because sometimes that endangers your premium promise,” says Sophr. “In our case it was also about launching a new airline, Eurowings, as a second brand, which is our answer to those markets where our premium brands—SWISS, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines—are not the right product and brand to deal with the market requirements.”
Eurowings allows Lufthansa to continue servicing the premium clientele that built the legacy of the company, while also expanding to other markets and not “over-stretching” its premium service, Sophr explains, also adding that the company will need more time to grow in popularity.
“We are late in fighting the low cost competition in Europe,” Sophr says. “We found the right strategic answer with Eurowings, but for more commercial success, it will take time.”
While growth is key to the continued success of Lufthansa and the other airlines in the company group, Sophr says this will not come at the sacrifice of providing excellent service.
“We try to keep some element of uniqueness in air travel. For us, this is not just transport. This is more about hospitality,” he explains. “We don’t just fight for quantity and price, but for quality as well. It’s a part of the DNA of our airline.”
For Lufthansa, growing the company in a responsible manner also means taking care of the local communities where the airline operates, as well as addressing environmental issues. Every year Lufthansa invests $3.5 billion in rolling out new aircraft that are more environmentally friendly, and the company also participates in CO2 trading. Every time that Lufthansa staff members from all levels of the company travel, the CO2 they produce with that trip is measured by an environmental agency in Switzerland that then converts those numbers into positive efforts that decrease CO2 such as planting additional trees or decreasing open fires in Africa. The company is also making strides towards its goal of producing zero CO2 emissions for all Lufthansa ground transport by the end of the next decade.
For more information, visit lufthansa.com.