With an eye on maintaining its coveted position in the Indian skies, the largest European airlines group – Lufthansa – has deployed its newest aircraft, A350-900 in the market. At a time when West Asian Carriers have captured a significant marketshare, this move makes all the right noises. In an exclusive interview with TourismFirst, Dieter Vranckx, VP – Asia Pacific, Lufthansa Group Airlines opens up on the group’s strategy for the Indian market and the European aviation market, and more.
The Indian aviation scene, of late, has been more dominated by West Asian carriers and we are witnessing a relative silence from European ones? Would you agree? Is your appetite for Indian market lessened, comparatively?
The aviation sector in India has been growing consistently and in view of recent initiatives introduced by the Indian government, we believe this trend will only continue in years to come. This steady growth in international air traffic to and from India has served as a catalyst for leading airlines across the world to expand their operations within the Indian market.
However, at Lufthansa Group our commitment to creating enriching passenger experiences by offering our most innovative products and services has always been very well received by our Indian customers. Moreover, by increasing our offerings by providing unrivalled connectivity while working closely together with our Joint Venture and Star Alliance partners, we are confident to continue our success story here. As a matter of fact, we have currently more weekly frequencies for the Lufthansa Group to India as to China. This shows our commitment to India.
How does the European aviation scene look like to you, with Brexit round the corner, and many of the EU economies under pressure? What is your forecast for the LH Group in particularly?
Lufthansa as the largest European Airlines Group can cope with whatever the consequences of Brexit might be.
Mobility and air transportation have always been an important part of Europe. As an airline group, we are used to face all kind of challenges and disruptions. We have learned to adapt to the fast changing business environment with innovative products and services, new business models and process improvements as well as significant efficiency gains.
Oil prices have supported the airline industry in the last year or so. How has it affected the bottom line for LH and how has your Group taken advantage of this price? How much has it helped streamline the aviation business in general? How does this look to you in the coming months?
Obviously, the lower fuel prices have given relief to airlines. However, the pressure on costs remains high. The Lufthansa Group is undertaking many efforts to reduce the fuel bill with several initiatives. On the other hand, we invest heavily in modern aircraft like for example the Lufthansa Airbus A350 recently launched on the Delhi-Munich route which is 25% more fuel efficient and thus makes us less vulnerable. This game changing aircraft marks the entry of the Lufthansa Group into the 2 litre class.
Do you have any plans for entering the domestic space in India? Years ago, LH made an entry with Modi Group, you will recall. India has recently become aggressive in regional connectivity, and I should think there are advantages having an Indian arm. Like Air Asia and like SQ?
No, we do not have plans to enter the domestic market. Though we are always exploring new options and/or destinations in the Lufthansa network we focus on our home markets in Central Europe when it comes to mergers & acquisitions. At the moment we are busy integrating Brussels Airlines into the Lufthansa Group. This will expand our global network and we are happy to announce that as of end of March, Brussels Airlines will connect Mumbai with Brussels five times a week.
How are your flights doing to India? How is the business growing and how do you see LH’s dominance over Indian routes in the coming years?
Under the Lufthansa Group umbrella, we offer our Indian passengers two very strong and distinctive airline brands – Lufthansa and SWISS. For decades, our services and offerings on both these airlines have been very well received by our Indian passengers.
On Lufthansa, our Indian passengers appreciate our “Quality made in Germany” approach giving them good value for money. Moreover, through our “More Indian than you think” philosophy we have demonstrated that we are an airline with a “Soul of Germany and a Heart of India.” While travelling on SWISS, ‘the airline of Switzerland’, our passengers appreciate the classic values of “Swiss hospitality” and – thanks to the airlines manageable medium size – the personal attention and care for individual needs.
Going forward, we are positive of the future as we continue to invest in innovative products and services and increase our offerings by providing unrivalled connectivity. This in turn creates enriching passenger experiences when they fly on the Lufthansa Group.
Lufthansa is also proud to have introduced world’s most modern and environmentally friendly long haul aircraft – the A350-900 between Delhi and Munich on February 11, 2017. India became the first destination worldwide to welcome the new aircraft and Lufthansa is the first airline to start commercial operation with this latest plane to India. Lufthansa A350-900 marks a generational change on long-haul routes with 25% less fuel consumption, 25% less carbon dioxide emissions and 50% less noise. Starting summer schedule of 2017, Mumbai will be the third destination after Boston to receive the Lufthansa A350-900. In addition, Brussels Airlines which is part of the Lufthansa Group, will be starting non-stop Mumbai to Brussels flights from end of March 2017.
We understand your new acquisition, namely Brussels Airlines, is coming into Mumbai from next month. How do you see the spread from within LH emerging over Indian skies in the coming years?
Starting March 31, 2017, Brussels Airlines will connect Brussels Airport 5 times a week to the Indian metro Mumbai. With this Lufthansa Group will offer Indian passengers connectivity to many European, African and North American destinations within the Brussels Airlines network. Moreover, with its Star Alliance partner – Air India, Brussels Airlines passengers will be able to connect seamlessly on domestic flights to other Indian cities and regions.
What does bringing A350 to India mean for the airline?
On February 11, 2017, India became the first destination worldwide to receive the Lufthansa A350-900 and Lufthansa the first airline to start commercial operations with this latest plane to India. The Lufthansa A350-900 is the world’s most modern and environmentally friendly long-haul passenger aircraft. The new aircraft offers a higher level of cost efficiency with higher passenger comfort along with 25% less fuel consumption, 25% less carbon dioxide emissions and 50% less noise.
With more than half a century of presence, Lufthansa has demonstrated on several occasions that India is an important strategic market. Moreover, by flying its best and newest product the A350-900 to India, Lufthansa further reaffirmed its commitment to the Indian market. In addition to increased capacity, the innovative new aircraft raises the benchmark on efficiency and travel comfort by delivering best in class quality while ensuring safety, reliability and excellent connectivity across its vast global network.