Lufthansa celebrates 50 years in Asia with the airline commemorating its first flight in November 1959 from Frankfurt to Calcutta and Bangkok. With seven stop-over, it took 39 hours to reach Southeast Asia then. “50 years later, Lufthansa is proud of its achievement in the region: we are the largest European group in Asia offering 225 flights per week to 23 Asian gateways in nine countries. We carry some five million passengers on 18,000 flights in a year, with 50% of our customers being Asian. I am particularly proud of this achievement,” says Uwe Mueller, Vice-President Asia Pacific for Lufthansa. Lufthansa is the only European carrier to serve cities such as Pusan in Korea, Nanjing and Shenyang in China and Pune in India. “Our success relies on a consistent quality product as well as a strong network in Europe. Passengers connecting in Frankfurt and Munich have for example immediate connections to over 120 European destinations,” adds Mueller.
Despite troubled times for the airline industry, Lufthansa is strongly committed to Asian market. According to Mueller, Lufthansa is performing rather well in Asia. “We did not close any destination but rather adjusted our capacity. We have experienced for example a decrease in premium classes. We consequently switched some of our business class into economy class seats. Our load factors reach on average 80%, including for Japan despite the economic crisis. Our total capacity is actually up by 1.5%,” says Mueller.
The carrier’s network seems for the time being fit perfectly to Lufthansa’s objectives in the region. The airline has no intention to convert its Kuala Lumpur flight –currently with a stop over in Bangkok- into a non-stop flight, nor to reopen its flight to Manila. “We acknowledge that Manila has a good potential of traffic, especially with the presence of a large Filipino community in Europe. However, Manila is too far from Europe to operate with our current types of long-haul aircraft. Meanwhile, we cannot also compete with capacities and low fares offered by Middle-East carriers,” adds Mueller. Jakarta also suffers from a similar geographic disadvantage out of Europe, forcing Lufthansa to serve the Indonesian capital with a stop-over in Singapore.
The next big event for Lufthansa in Asia will be the introduction of the Airbus A380 by the middle of next year. “Five aircraft will be delivered and Asia will definitely be one of the destinations served with the Airbus A380,” promises Mueller.