Lufthansa soars, despite early growing pains

 - May 18, 2008, 12:04 AM

When Lufthansa started offering executive jet flights through its subsidiary Lufthansa Private Jet in March 2005, the intention was to carry first-class passengers to and from its hub airports in Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich, providing a seamless connection with scheduled services. The airline was also offering point-to-point flights between some 1,000 European airports. In fact, that point-to-point service has grown much faster than long-range flight connections and today makes up for about 70 percent of all Lufthansa Private Jet flights.

From the beginning, all Lufthansa Private Jet flights were sold as Lufthansa services, but with aircraft wet-leased from fractional ownership provider NetJets Europe.
However, according to the German flag carrier, as point-to-point flights developed faster than feeder flights for scheduled links, Lufthansa and NetJets effectively found themselves competing and there was a strain on aircraft availability. This evolution prompted NetJets to pull out of the agreement late last year, and the airline had to find replacement aircraft. It found them at new partner DC Aviation, the former DaimlerChrysler flight department now part of the Cirrus Group.

Lufthansa has since announced that while it will continue working with DC Aviation, it will also build up its own fleet of executive aircraft. In a first move, the airline ordered two Cessna Citation CJ3s and two Citation XLSs. The first CJ3 was delivered in March and will start revenue flights before the end of this month. The other three aircraft will be delivered within one year.

The airline also reassigned to Lufthansa Private Jet (Booth No. 461) three Citation CJ1+s ordered earlier for pilot training. In addition, two Bombardier CRJ200s of the airline’s regional fleet will be outfitted with executive interiors. All aircraft feature interior colors and materials similar to those used in first-class sections of the company’s airliners. They will not carry the Lufthansa name on the exterior, but their paint schemes will reflect those of the airliners.

By March 2009, Lufthansa Private Jet expects to have a fleet of nine executive aircraft with interior configurations accommodating four to 12 passengers. Lufthansa subsidiary Swiss International Airlines will operate these aircraft, while the sales and marketing office will remain in Frankfurt. Employment will increase at Swiss, as additional pilots and operating personnel are hired. Lufthansa also plans to add another two partner companies later to be able to respond to peak demand.

Lufthansa Private Jet does not publish passenger figures, but has indicated that the number of flights sold increased by 26 percent from 2006 to 2007. The company reports it has been most successful in Germany, Scandinavia, France and Italy, with the majority of customers from these areas making point-to-point flights within Europe and Russia. Most non-European customers come from the U.S. and New Zealand and predictably use the service in connection with long-haul first-class flights.

The operation made up to 10 flights per day in 2007 and was prevented from providing more only by lack of available aircraft. Although the average number of passengers carried per flight was less than two, demand for medium-size jets increased more than for the smaller categories.

To help customers understand its prices, Lufthansa Private Jet distributes a map of Europe and a transparent sheet with concentric distance circles. If the center is placed over the departure point, distance and price to destination is immediately evident. Prices indicated depend on the size of aircraft and include all costs. All flights earn credits in Lufthansa’s Miles and More frequent flier bonus program and passengers are entitled to simplified boarding of long-range flights with Lufthansa or Swiss at Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich.