Lufthansa Wants To Launch Longhaul Flights Out Of Berlin (Sort Of)

Berlin is by far the largest city in Germany, though doesn’t have a single longhaul Lufthansa route. Instead Lufthansa operates a vast majority of their longhaul flights out of Frankfurt and Munich, with a few longhaul flights being operated out of Dusseldorf.

Why does Lufthansa have such limited operations out of Berlin?

  • Frankfurt and Munich are the business hubs of Germany; while Berlin has lots of demand, it’s mostly leisure (in other words, low yield)
  • Airberlin operates some longhaul flights from Berlin, and their planes are much more appropriately configured for the leisure market (for example, the airberlin A330 seats 298 people, while the Lufthansa A330 seats 217)
  • Berlin’s new airport has been delayed for years, and it looks like it may never open; the old airport has limited capacity, so it could be that Lufthansa was waiting for the new airport before expanding operations

airberlin-lounge-berlin-airport - 23
Airberlin has the most market share at Berlin’s Tegel Airport

Anyway, Lufthansa is seriously considering adding longhaul flights out of Berlin, though it would be under the Eurowings brand (previously known as Germanwings, though they’re in the process of rebranding).

Germanwings
Germanwings A319 (in the process of being rebranded as Eurowings)

Eurowings should get seven A330s by the end of next year, which they plan to mostly use for longhaul flights out of Cologne. However, they’re also considering using these for longhaul operations out of Berlin.

Via Bloomberg:

Eurowings is looking at stationing Airbus Group SE A330 wide-body jets in the German capital, Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr said at the city’s Tegel airport Monday. It’s already due to get seven of the planes by the end of next year for flights from Cologne to destinations including Dubai and Mauritius.

While Berlin is “one of the fastest growing air-travel markets in Europe,” three in four passengers fly for private rather than business reasons and are more price sensitive, making the Eurowings model ideally suited, Spohr said. Lufthansa’s last long-haul route from the city, to Washington, was scrapped in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

It’s interesting to see a legacy European airline adapt to the market by splitting out their operations into a “premium” and “low cost” operation; this seems to be more and more common nowadays. Eurowings is taking over all Lufthansa European flights which aren’t to/from Frankfurt or Munich, and Lufthansa has even introduced a new high density sub-fleet for longhaul leisure flights out of Frankfurt.

Bottom line

What Lufthansa is doing is ultimately needed to compete with low cost carriers (Norwegian Air Shuttle, Ryanair, etc.), as well as the “big three” Gulf carriers (Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar), which are quickly taking over global market share.

Qatar-Airways-A350-Business-Class-97
The Gulf carriers are giving the legacy European airlines a lot of competition

It would be great to see more longhaul flights directly to/from Berlin, even if it’s not the most luxurious product out there.

(Tip of the hat to Geoffrey)

Comments

  1. Lucky, as a German, you should know that, aside from Tegel’s woeful infrastructure, the main reason that Lufthansa built itself up in cities other than Berlin was that until 1990, because of Berlin’s special legal status due to the Cold War, the only airlines allowed to fly into and out of Tegel were airlines headquartered in the US, France, or the UK. Additionally all flight crewmembers on flights to/from Tegel had to hold a passport from one of those three countries.

    True, its been 25 years since then, but at that point Lufthansa’s operations were already fairly solidly centered in Frankfurt and Munich.

  2. I´d like to add to the analysis of chasgoose that there´s also a number of pretty good commercial reasons: Berlin may be the largest city of Germany, but there is virtually no metro area around – it´s, simplified, all farmland, forest and lakes. In addition, the relatively small total catchment area population is also not really one with a lot of purchasing power. Compare that to Düsseldorf, where some parts of the Ruhrgebiet are equally low-income, but the whole area has an excess of 7M inhabitants, a completely different market size.

    There´s also a reason Air Berlin is routing most of the connecting traffic through DUS. That said, Berlin could probably fill some more leisure routes, however will never be at the scale of the other hubs.

    A side note on Eurowings – it seems that most legacies insist on having inhouse-LCCs and having them fail to some extent and making this experience themselves, not learning from others. On the other hand, EW is quite useful to send some signals, including the unions that, so far, have been less than cooperative. There are people that consider a a complete transfer of LH operations to EW possible, should the negotiations with pilots and FAs not be fruitful. They have done it at OS/VO and, while an ugly move, certainly better than a slow death.

  3. chasgoose beat me to it.

    Berlin’s limited long-haul service has nothing to do with it being a leisure market or the configuration of airberlin’s current fleet. As the capital and largest city of the most powerful country in Europe, it also has lots of premium demand.

    LH’s current hub structure is a legacy of the Cold War, when Berlin was a divided city completely surrounded by Communist territory. That’s hardly a recipe for a successful hub.

    As a German, you should know this. Hell, everyone should know this!

  4. As a kid born in 1980 we had to learn in Dutch elementary school about Germany divided in Bundes Republic Deutschland and Deutsche Demoratic Republic, and the capital Berlin also being divided. Whereas the western half chose Bonn as its new capital and later after unification Berlin became the unified capital again, though Berlin still had Templehof(west) and Tegel/Schonefeld(east) airports. Lufthansa was by then focussed on the easier accessible Frankfurt, Munchen, Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Köln.

  5. Frankfurt as LH hub is certainly a product of the cold war, but that’s not the case with Munich – LH’s presence here only increased after the new airport was opened in 1992, and a proper LH hub wasn’t installed in Munich before the early 2000s, notably 2003, when LH opened its own terminal.

  6. Indeed, as others have mentioned, not only was LH not allowed to fly out of Berlin for many years, but Airberlin was founded as a US-based airline in order to enable its operations there.

  7. As long as Berlin has no decent airport, no serious carrier should use it more than necessary.
    I got stuck there (TXL) once with a non-serious carrier (AB) and it was no fun at all.
    TXL has no infrastructure being able to handle hub operations.
    AB has the big benefit to have most of its hub operations in DUS due to the LTU acquisition some years/decades back and DUS seems to handle this reasonably well.
    However, AB (still) is not a serious airline, it is a charter/leisure airline and a joke.

    Axel

  8. Thank your for your great website and coverage.

    Just let me add some observations about Lufthansa trying to establish a long-haul operations from Berlin. Back in the 1990s (long before rigorous regulations about travel to the US) Lufthansa tried to establish a route from Berlin to New York with one stop at Hamburg.

    Experiencing the long-haul wide-body aircraft on the short intra-German hub was really great. They even allowed “local passengers” to book (and naturally pay) for one of the 2-2-2 First Class seats.

    The transatlantic route lasted exactly one traffic season and then the passengers had to travel through Frankfurt, Dusseldorf or Munich again. If I remember correctly the stated reason was that Economy sales was fine there was a lack of Business and First Class pax.

    The lesson learnt was that even a combined route with two origin airports of Berlin and Hamburg was notg enough to feed a comparatively small Airbus A 310 Extended range. Since then large parts of the government have relocated to Berlin but the problem remains: To less of value-traffic.

    That said I am not optimistic about long-haul from Berlin. Eurowings may fill the Economy Class with saver fares. It will be difficult to fill the “BEST” seats in front (should be 21 seats in 2-3-2 instead of 2-4-2) .

    If you would like to feed passengers from the other hubs:
    And the flights BerlinMunich and BerlinDüsseldorf, BerlinFrankfurt are Lufthansa mainline and not Eurowings no-frills services. So why should passengers shuttle to Berlin and then change to Eurowings?

    That sub-fleet doesn’t make any sense. Except it’s a kind of flagship operation showing the new brand at Berlin.

    Additionally this small sub-fleet is not very robust regarding delays of all kind. So the Berlin station will be “capital of the EU 261 compensation” for the Lufthansa group.

    I am convinced that Lufthansa will regret this move.

    Better way would be to introduce some kind of “international” flight from Berlin-Tegel (non-Schengen) to Frankfurt (non-Schengen) and clear immigration and customs at Berlin. This would be an advantage over the other airlines which shuttle their guests with short-haul operations (Schengen to Schengen) and then clear immigrations/customs at a central hub.

    A sub-fleet of A 321 would do it and could transfer passengers to Frankfurt where a vast choice of intercontinental connections of the LH core brand is available.

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