Clear skies for Lufthansa Private Jet

 - September 25, 2006, 1:00 PM

With its Private Jet service, Lufthansa is Europe’s only airline to offer connection flights with business jets to and from its overseas links departing or arriving in Frankfurt or Munich. Point-to-point flights anywhere within the European Union, as well as Switzerland and Norway, are also available.

“Our offer is unique, because our customers buy a Lufthansa product and benefit from all the guarantees a large airline offers,” said Dr. Gerald Wissel, manager of Lufthansa Private Jet. “We wet-lease business jets from NetJets Europe on an exclusive basis, but we manage the entire operation. We check all NetJets crews and airplanes used in the venture. Our customers get a ticket that defines our offer and responsibilities,” he added.

Passengers arriving by Lufthansa Private Jet at the Frankfurt or Munich hubs also receive simplified airline check-in procedures directly from the airside.

The venture began with a six-month trial period. After a slow start last March, Lufthansa Private Jet sales have increased steadily to reach 40 monthly flights by the end of last year. This represents one to two flights a day, with peaks of up to 10 flights on certain days. “In the beginning, we had a lot of phone calls from prospects asking for information,” said Wissel. “Now most calls are for firm bookings.” About half of the passengers are European residents, with the other half coming from overseas via connecting flights.

Asked about profits, the manager replied, “As we are moving forward on the learning curve, our costs come down while sales go up. At one point we will reach the threshold of profitability.” He declined to say when that would happen, but emphasized that Lufthansa’s policy is to make a profit after an introductory period. He pointed out that his venture already offers Lufthansa a windfall profit by attracting long-haul first-class passengers who might have chosen another airline.

Fee Structure

Lufthansa Private Jet applies a tariff structure based on 10 concentric circles applied to the airport of departure. The zero circle for departure at Munich, for example, includes Berlin; Vienna, Austria; Parma, Italy; and Zurich. The applicable rate for flights within this zone on a Citation Bravo is €4,550 ($5,500) for one passenger, plus €300 ($363) for each additional passenger.

The fee for destinations in the next zone, which includes cities such as Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam or Rome, amounts to €6,250 ($7,550). The prices increase, at a slower rate, for each of the remaining zones.

The minimum price for an Excel is €5,650 ($6,830). The service does not charge for positioning flights. The airline claims these charter rates are comparable to those of other operators.

Lufthansa Private Jet started with Cessna Citation Bravos and Excels, and has since added the Hawker 400 and 800 and Falcon 2000. NetJets, which provides all the flight crews for the service, currently has 80 aircraft in its European fleet.

The joint venture with NetJets–as well as first-class seats on long-haul flights, and business-class-only flights operated by PrivatAir on behalf of Lufthansa between Düsseldorf and Chicago, Düsseldorf and Newark and Munich and Newark–is part of Lufthansa’s efforts to attract executive travelers.