This European carrier is connecting the aspiring international traveller from Tier-II and Tier-III cities of India to its larger global network through codeshare agreements with Indian airlines such as Air India and Vistara. George Ettiyil, Senior Director, Sales (South Asia), Lufthansa Group Airlines, shares more.
Q. How has Lufthansa performed in India in terms of commercial ops between 2017 and 2019?
Lufthansa’s business performance in India has grown steadily over the last few years. We registered a robust year-on- year growth of over 12 per cent so far in 2019 alone. As part of the larger Lufthansa Group, we are the biggest European airline group catering to the needs of the Indian market with 56 weekly flights and soon growing to 61 flights per week.
Q. What’s the passenger load factor you are seeing from them?
In India, we register a demand from all four gateways. The seat load factor on all our India flights is well above 90 per cent. Emerging markets across India are registering an exponential increase in consumer appetite for unique, premium travel experiences. Lufthansa is well-poised to capitalise on this trend through codeshare agreements with leading Indian airlines such as Vistara and Air India. These partnerships enable us to connect the aspiring international traveller from Tier- II and Tier-III cities to our larger global network. For instance, we have recently announced a new flight on the Bengaluru- Munich route effective April 1, 2020, and will serve to bring the region of Munich – along with the German and Austrian Alps – closer to South India. This also unlocks access to Europe’s only five-star airport for Indian travellers and will enable more seamless transits to any point on the Lufthansa Group and partner network. The new flight will be operated by A350-900 – the newest addition to our international fleet – and will be operated five times a week.
Q. Any new routes that would interest the India market?
We continue to evaluate opportunities to expand our operations in more cities across India, whether through owned aircraft or further code- sharing agreements with other airlines. We also consistently invest in the modernisation of our fleet to ensure fuel-efficient and environment-friendly operations. In keeping with this, we will revamp our Miles & More program from January 1, 2021. This new iteration of our loyalty programme is designed to be the simplest-ever airline loyalty programme and will introduce greater transparency in points allocation. Through this, we are personalising rewards and simplifying the points accumulation process.
Q. How do you see the dynamics of the Indian aviation market play out in the future?
The Indian travel market has grown substantially over the past couple of years. More encouragingly, the appetite for premium travel experiences amongst Indian consumers – even those hailing from Tier-II and III markets – has increased as they are no longer seeking simple trips and holidays. This evolution is reflected in the industry numbers. Indians spent more than US$94 billion on travel in 2018, with over US$22 billion spent on international travel. With the number of international travellers expected to increase to 50 million by 2020, these numbers will only grow further. This represents an even more lucrative business opportunity.
Q. How has LH incorporated AI and how will it reflect in the service that it provides?
The Lufthansa Innovation Hub with offices in Europe and Asia ensures that all Lufthansa Group airlines remain at the helm of latest digitization trends. AI is a critical driver of the technological renaissance that we are spearheading. For instance, Lufthansa is amongst the world’s first airlines to introduce self- service rebooking through the Facebook Messenger App. This feature allows customers to seamlessly choose from alternate flight options in case of a flight irregularity.
We are looking at other functions and channels, such as WhatsApp, that we can use to add more value to this offering. We have also launched ‘Pepper’ in Munich, an AI-powered humanoid robot that helps customers at the terminal.