Lufthansa aims at business customers in 2005
THE year 2004 has been among the most successful for Lufthansa in the UAE, said Uwe Wreidt, general manager, passenger sales UAE and director, Gulf and Pakistan.
“In terms of passenger sales, we’ve seen a 17 per cent increase over last year.” Revenuewise, too, the company has posted double-digit growth, he says, indicating that the country is not just a leisure destination for tourists with cheaper fares but also a high-yield business centre.
Part of that has been reflected in the airline’s increased Munich-Dubai frequency to seven weekly services as of October. The airline also introduced its own online check-in system in the UAE last year, in line with its high standards.
“For 2005, we hope to grow five or six per cent in terms of services to Westbound destinations,” said Wreidt. This year, Lufthansa plans to position itself as a high-quality business travellers’ airline. “We aim to look after the comfort and service needs of customers that really pay money, such as long-haul passengers flying two or three times a week,” he explained.
The recently-opened First Class terminal in Frankfurt is part of this plan. The airline will also emphasise the high-technology aspects of its products. The new Business Class seat, for example, in addition to a flat bed, has features no other airline offers, such as a real massage function and 15 different motors so the seat moves with the customer. A new inflight entertainment and Flynet, the in-cabin high-speed broadband choice complement this offering.
“Additionally, we have a BBJ tie-up with Private Air, and the Hon Circle black card add-on to our frequent-flyer programme, Wings and More, which has just been launched for customers who fly more than 600,000 miles within two years,” said Wreidt.
Overall, he says, the airline is trying to automise as many processes as possible. “Lufthansa aims to use technology to make handling processes seamless. At major hubs, it is possible to check-in automatically with your luggage and ticket, at the press of a button. There is no line and this saves many of the hassles associated with flying.” The airline even offers its electronic ticket (E-tix) passengers automatic self-boarding at international hubs, something which has yet to be implemented regionally, given local airport requirements.
While sales of E-tix are rising in Europe – with as many as 57 per cent of passengers choosing the electronic ticketing system – the local market has a good way to go yet, said Wreidt. Future technological processes in the pipeline include eye scanning and other security-enchancement procedures.
Lufthansa also plans to further capitalise on its network with Star Alliance, an asset that already makes the airline a real global carrier with 755 destinations in 182 countries. “We’re not a point-to-point carrier – we offer seamless travel from point A to Z.” While the alliance’s Visit USA and Visit Europe passes sell out almost as soon as they go on sale, putting out a similar Visit the Middle East pass depends on a regional partner airline. “We are evaluating various airline options, it’s obvious that we need a partner here. In the interim, we have inter-airline agreements with national carriers.”
Despite the resurgence in the travel industry being attributed to a rise in budget travel, Wreidt said Lufthansa’s Business Class has seen a rising number of passengers. “While more corporates have downgraded to Economy Class, funnily enough, the number of passengers in our Business Class is still increasing, which only shows that if you provide the right product for the right needs, it will be the preferred option.”