Service, particularly for premium passengers, will remain a top focus under new Lufthansa German Airlines CEO Karl Ulrich Garnadt. A 35-year company veteran, he most recently headed parent Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s powerful cargo operation before transferring back to head the passenger airline earlier this year.
Lufthansa will expand into new cities in the latter half of 2015 with a fleet of reconfigured Airbus A340-300s. Whereas its Boeing 747-800s offer 8 First Class and 80 Business Class seats and are targeted for markets with high business travel such as New York and Chicago, the special 340s will offer only 18 of the new style Business Class seats that convert into a fully horizontal, flat bed. Speaking to a group of journalists this morning in New York City, the new boss cited Tampa and Cancun as well as leisure markets in Southeast Asia or Central America such as Panama for new routes.
Business Class passengers will be getting “more personalized” service based on the result of current testing. It will mean “restaurant style” service via trays instead of rolling carts up and down aisles.
Garnadt noted the airline is in the middle of a capital program upgrading First and Business Class seating across its 100 strong long-haul fleet that equates to over a one million Euros per day investment. He said the program is about 60 percent complete. He also said he believes service on the ground is as important as in the air, and to that end premium check-in at Frankfurt and Munich are being improved.
While its First Class Terminal in Frankfurt gets lots of press attention, he called it “a signature product” and “a clear sign of commitment” to front of the plane passengers. Additional First Class lounges have been opened and other lounges have received significant upgrades. Fleet wide amenities such as internet on all of its long haul planes is in place with the ability to stream live television (The CEO said he watched an American football game while flying recently from Germany to Asia). Phone calls aren’t in the future. He said customers don’t want them.
Garnadt added that Lufthansa’s chase and reception of various awards, and its focus on being a “Five Star Airline” is “an internal signal to staff” in addition to the marketing and public relations benefits.
The airline has been hit this year with several industrial actions with a negative effect of 170 million Euros. However, the carrier has been able to maintain its service benchmarks for premium passengers, he said.
Lufthansa is planning to continue its relationship with NetJets offering Lufthansa Private Jet service for customers, however he was adamant that the airline will not go back to operating its own private jets. Qatar Airways earlier this month ordered 20 long-range private jets from Gulfstream, and last year Emirates Airlines launched a private jet offering with an executive version of the Airbus A319. Air France recently announced an alliance with Wijet offering private jet charter to its customers. In North America, Delta Airlines has been expanding its Delta Private Jets fleet, which offers jet cards and charters in addition to aircraft management for owners. In Asia, Korean Air has a small fleet of private jets it offers on a charter basis.