Lufthansa should examine Gulf airlines partnership, German official urges

Lufthansa should consider teaming up with one of the Arabian Gulf airlines rather than attacking them with regulators, following the example of British Airways’ parent company and Qatar Airways, a German government official has said.

“Walling off the market won’t help, and the Gulf carriers have a geostrategic advantage due to their location,” Brigitte Zypries, the economy ministry state secretary who coordinates Ger­many’s aviation and aerospace policy, said this week. “One should think about other possibilities.”

Ms Zypries became the first senior German lawmaker to publicly suggest that Lufthansa may be better off becoming a partner with a Gulf airline than fighting expansion by competitors from the region.

Lufthansa’s chief executive, Carsten Spohr, has said there was no level playing field among carriers from Gulf countries and Europe, while US airlines last year claimed the Gulf trio of Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways benefits from more than US$40 billion in subsidies from government owners.

Lufthansa’s stance runs counter to that of London-based International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), the owner of British Airways and Spanish carriers Iberia and Vueling, and Air Berlin.

IAG has brought in Qatar Airways as its biggest investor as well as a partner in the Oneworld global airline alliance. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad has become Air Berlin’s largest shareholder amid efforts to bail out the unprofitable German company.

State-supported Turkish Airlines is Lufthansa’s main Middle Eastern partner. They are both members of the Star Alliance airline grouping, and together own the leisure carrier SunExpress.

Harry Hohmeister, the head of Lufthansa’s mainline brands, said last month that he would prefer to develop that relationship further rather than link up with Dubai-based Emirates, which doesn’t have a European partner.

“There are other nice big carriers which might contribute more to us than Emirates could,” Mr Hohmeister said in Dubai last month.

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