Eurowings Lufthansa Doubles Down on Eurowings

Lufthansa's new budget carrier is struggling to recover after the troubled launch of its long-haul service. Eurowings is now expanding its fleet of aircraft to prevent further embarrassing flight delays.

Eurowings, Lufthansa's new budget carrier, is hoping to turn things around, after a shaky few months.

Parent company Lufthansa hopes to end a series of scheduling bottlenecks through the acquisition of nearly two dozen Airbus aircraft.

"The 23 aircraft are hopefully just a first step," Karl Ulrich Garnadt, the head of Eurowings, told Handelsblatt.

With only two Airbus A330s available for long-haul flights, the budget carrier has been unable to reliably operate its connections outside of Europe.

In January, one of the A330s experienced technical difficulties in Cuba. With the other aircraft unavailable, 300 passengers were stuck waiting for a lift back to Germany for nearly three days.

I consciously chose this assignment because I can further develop a successful concept that we began years before with Germanwings. Karl Ulrich Garnadt, head of Eurowings

According to calculations by Fairplan, which specializes in airline passenger rights, some 30 percent of Eurowing’s long-haul flights were delayed in the period immediately following Christmas.

The budget carrier has postponed new connections to Miami and Boston until June, a month later than planned, due to the shortage of aircraft.

With the acquisition of four A330s, however, Eurowings plans to get its long-haul service back on schedule. Two of the aircraft will arrive in May and the other two will arrive in the fourth quarter.

"Then we will have six long-distance jets and the necessary reserves to offer the planned network of routes," Mr. Garnadt said. "The long-haul service is now running smoothly and on schedule as one would expect from us," he said.

Eurowings-long haul routes map 01

Lufthansa faces increased competition in the long-haul sector from premium air carriers such as Emirates and Etihad, which are subsidized by the United Arab Emirates. Germany's national carrier has also been squeezed in the short-haul sector by cut-throat budget carriers like Ryanair and EasyJet.

In an attempt to reduce costs in the face of this competition, Lufthansa overhauled its corporate structure and expanded low-cost air travel by rolling its previous budget carrier, Germanwings, into the new Eurowings.

Germanwings experienced tragedy in March 2015 when a co-pilot deliberately crashed flight 4U9525 into a remote area in the French Alps, killing the 144 passengers and 6 crew members on board.

Lufthansa wants to use Eurowings as leverage to further the consolidation of European air travel by developing a network of routes that it controls, thereby keeping its low-cost rivals at bay. Airlines that choose to cooperate with Eurowings would be able to participate in the network.

"We are discussing Eurowings' growth concept with many interested parties," Mr. Garnadt said.

Lufthansa may eventually bring all of its subsidiaries under the roof of Eurowings. Brussels Airlines and Air Dolomti are already considering the idea, Mr. Garnadt said. Swiss carrier Edelweiss Air, on the other hand, is less enthusiastic about the proposition.

Though Mr. Garnadt joined the board of directors at Edelweiss, he dismissed rumors that the Swiss airline would fall under Eurowings' umbrella. "We have other issues to deal with," Mr. Garnadt said.

Despite the rocky start, Mr. Garnadt is confident that he can turn Eurowings into one of Europe's three largest budget airlines.

"I consciously chose this assignment because I can further develop a successful concept that we began years before with Germanwings," Mr. Garnadt said.



Jens Koenen leads Handelsblatt's coverage of the aviation and space industry. To contact the author: [email protected]