German national carrier Lufthansa has a very clear service philosophy: “We are a full service premium carrier offering the right product and service to all various segments of travelers. And as a full-service premium carrier, we are dedicated to provide more comfort to all passengers,” explained Thierry Antinori, head of marketing and sales for Lufthansa German Airlines board during an exclusive and private press conference at the recent ITB. “We invest €2.4 billion dollars of which 1.9 billion alone are dedicated just to our airlines. Over the next five years, we plan to invest one billion Euro to upgrade our products in all classes of service,” he said.
Service improvement will be visible in the air and on the ground. Lufthansa continues to invest in new technologies to speed up with check-in procedures. “Passengers doing effectively their check-in outside the airport – through their mobile phone or through a PC – represents already 15 percent of all our customers. We can easily reach this year 20 percent, and it is no utopia to believe that this number could one day reach even 50,” he told.
Last year, newly-introduced check-in services on mobile phones already topped over a million in operation. Lufthansa continues to open or refurbish its lounges, investing some €50 million. A first-class lounge was recently opened in New York, as well as a welcome lounge for arriving passengers in Frankfurt. “We will soon offer a world premiere in Munich on March 23 with the first business lounge integrating a Bavarian style ‘Beer Garden’. We are also becoming more flexible by allowing our Frequent Flyer passengers to buy an access to our lounge for a partner on a same flight,” explained Antinori.
Lufthansa will also start a complete revamping of all classes from this April across its entire fleet. New seats will be installed on all short-haul aircraft, offering more comfort and more space to all passengers. “On our long-haul routes, we will introduce a brand new first class product with the introduction of the Airbus A380 from June. The product will then be installed in all other long-haul aircraft such as the Airbus A330 and A340. We will, in parallel, introduce from April a new economy class with a more ergonomic seat and integrated individual video,” said Mr. Antinori. In 2011, cabin revamping will be completed with the unveiling of a new business class following the delivery of the airline’s first Boeing B747-800.
Lufthansa will take in May delivery of the first of four Airbus A380. In total, the airline will integrate 15 units of the new flying giant. However, future destinations flown by the German carrier will only be revealed by April. Meanwhile, Mr. Antinori highlighted the program for the coming summer season. Network capacity will grow by 3.6 percent with the airline offering 12,800 weekly flights to 81 countries “with the highest number of destinations in Europe,” highlighted Mr. Antinori.
New destinations include Bari, Chisinau (Moldavia), Rostock, Tashkent, and Zadar from Munich, as well as Palermo from Milan. Flights to Iraq are also in planning out of Munich and Frankfurt. “We also continue to grow out of Milan Malpensa with 22 percent more capacity and new flights to Stockholm, Warsaw, and Olbia. But we would love also to get traffic rights to fly from Milan Linate to Rome, which is still denied by Italian authorities,” added Thierry Antinori.
New code share agreement have recently been signed in Africa with Ethiopian Airlines. The Lufthansa vice president does not hide that Lufthansa is officially supporting the East African carrier to enter Star Alliance. “Beyond the strong relation existing for many years between both presidents of Ethiopian Airlines and Lufthansa, we believe that Ethiopian is the most reliable carrier in this part of Africa,” told Mr. Antinori. Ethiopian Airlines is likely the next to join the world’s largest alliance following the expected integration of TAM Brazil by the middle of the year and then of Air India by the end of the year.
Asked about the recovery of traffic, Mr. Antinori is cautiously optimistic for 2010: “We definitely start to see the first signs of a recovery with Asia Pacific bouncing back more rapidly. However, we are still not out of the woods yet, but 2011 looks more promising. We made a profit last year of €130 million. We succeeded to remain in the black, but this financial result is ten times smaller than in 2008,” reminded the Lufthansa vice president.