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Lufthansa


‘We are selling more tickets in India than in China’

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May 18, 2008

The completion of air services talks between India and Germany has seen the number of weekly flights that can be operated increase to 69 from 50.

The German Airline Lufthansa is bullish about its prospects in the Indian market. The airline recently got permission to operate a 48-seater all-business-class flight six times a week to Pune from Frankfurt and is now eagerly awaiting next February, when the next round of talks between India and Germany will take place. In an interview to Business Line, the airline’s Director, South Asia, Mr Werner Heesen, spelt out the plans for the airline.

Excerpts from the interview:

How has the conclusion of air services bilateral talks between India and Germany helped Lufthansa?

The completion of air services talks between India and Germany has seen the number of weekly flights that can be operated increase to 69 from 50. Besides, both the sides have agreed to meet latest by February next year.

The agreement allows Lufthansa to increase frequency to both Mumbai and Kolkata. From Kolkata we will soon operate daily flights as against a five times a week connection at present.

Similarly, from Mumbai we will offer a daily connection to Munich — a route on which the airline currently operates three times a week.

How does the growth in the Indian market compare with that in China?

Since 2003, when I came here, India has been selling more tickets than China. Besides, Lufthansa operates to more cities here than we connect to in China.

On Indian routes 60 per cent of the traffic carried is ethnic Indian, be it Non-Resident Indians or people of Indian origin. In China it is the opposite.

Why was the decision taken to launch flights to Pune?

The conclusion of the talks in Berlin allows us to operate a flight to Pune, which is a boom town and a good corporate and business destination. There is potential but the problem is infrastructure. So we had to take a decision on whether we should wait or start a flight with limited seats on offer.

The Pune flight will be operated six times a week from July 1 by Business Air, which has a fleet of Airbus A-319 aircraft and offers only business-class seats.

The aircraft is wet-leased by Lufthansa and the flight is totally marketed, sold and administered by us.

We have decided to charge the same fare that a passenger travelling by business class from Mumbai to Germany pays.

We estimate that the launch of the flight will save a passenger travelling to London about 5 hours.

But with fears of a global recession is this the right time to launch an all-business class flight?

We have also entered into and will be concluding more long-term corporate agreements for marketing the flight.

There are several German companies, including Daimler Chrysler, Volkswagen and the pharma and IT industries in and around Pune, and the flight will help their executives.

Eventually, we would like to operate a wide body aircraft, such as an Airbus A-330 or Airbus A-340 to Pune but that will not happen before 2009-10 as the infrastructure will not be ready before that.

thehindubusinessline.com

‘We are selling more tickets in India than in China’
thehindubusinessline.com



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