Lufthansa Considers New Bizjet Vendor As Swiss Private Aviation Hangs in the Balance

 - February 1, 2011, 4:30 AM

Lufthansa is weighing possible new options for providing executive charter services through its Lufthansa Private Jets service. The process could lead to a resumption of its alliance with NetJets Europe, with a decision expected during February.

The German flag carrier’s subsidiary Swiss International Air Lines has spent the last few weeks engaged in a formal consultation process over the future of its Swiss Private Aviation division, which is currently the main provider of flights for Lufthansa Private Jets. The consultation is required under Swiss labor laws whenever a company is considering the closure of an operation and the possible loss of jobs.

A spokeswoman for Swiss told AIN that the consultation was completed in mid-January and the various options for the future of Swiss Private Aviation are being considered. The final decision will have to be approved at several management levels, including by the board of Lufthansa. Closure of Zurich-based Swiss Private Aviation appears to be the likely outcome.

The Swiss Private Aviation fleet consists of a mix of Cessna Citation CJ1+s, CJ3s, XLSs and Hawker 800s.

A spokesman for Lufthansa told AIN that decisions about possible future partners for the Private Jets operation had not been taken. He said that 2010 had been the division’s most successful year to date.

NetJets Europe said it would not respond to “rumors” about the possibility of a resumption in its partnership with the German flag carrier. The fractional ownership provider had provided aircraft for Lufthansa Private Jets until the two companies suspended their cooperation in late 2007.

The original business plan for Lufthansa Private Jets had been that the service would provide feeder flights within Europe for Lufthansa first-class passengers to and from scheduled long-haul services. In reality, there was stronger-than-anticipated demand for point-to-point services. According to pilots who flew for NetJets Europe at the time, Lufthansa, which had bought an unspecified number of fractional shares, used up the number of hours it had budgeted for three years in the first year of the agreement.

Gerald Wissel, the former head of Lufthansa Private Jets, told AIN that he expects the company to strike a new deal with NetJets Europe and that Swiss Private Aviation will likely be shut down in the process. He indicated that Lufthansa had had problems providing Private Jets flights through Swiss Private Aviation due to difficulties over traffic rights. Switzerland is not part of the European Union, and so its operators are not legally entitled to full cabotage rights within Europe.