Lufthansa Buys Brussels Airlines… Could It Be The End Of The Brand?

Despite their overall struggles, Lufthansa is looking at some significant acquisitions. I’ve written repeatedly about how Lufthansa is planning on taking over many of airberlin’s planes and routes. Airberlin is doing horribly financially, so on the surface it seems a bit odd that Lufthansa would want to take over their competitor’s money losing routes. However, Lufthansa realizes that the alternative is that EasyJet and Ryanair could expand to/within Germany, and that’s something they want to prevent.

Ryanair

Well, that’s not the only significant expansion goal that Lufthansa has at the moment. Just this morning it was announced that Lufthansa will be buying the rest of Brussels Airlines, a deal that’s expected to close in 2017. Lufthansa already owns a 45% stake in Brussels Airlines, so through this deal they’re buying the other 55% as well.

Brussels-Airlines-Tomorrowland-Frankfurt-24
Brussels Airlines A330

Austrian and Swiss are already part of the Lufthansa group, so on the surface this might seem like a pretty innocent takeover, as those airlines continue to operate independently, simply sharing a frequent flyer program with Lufthansa, and operating as part of a joint venture in many markets.

However, in practice Lufthansa’s takeover of Brussels Airlines could be a bit different. Per Reuters:

Lufthansa said earlier this year it was discussing how to bring Brussels, which has a fleet of 49 planes, into its Eurowings low-cost platform, which currently has around 90 planes.

As a reminder, Eurowings is Lufthansa’s low cost carrier. It used to be called Germanwings, but they rebranded last year, given their goal of expanding throughout Europe, and not just to/from Germany. They’re basically Lufthansa’s way of trying to compete with EasyJet and Ryanair, which are the biggest competition they face for their intra-Europe flying.

We don’t know what exactly Brussels being integrated into Eurowings would look like in practice. In theory I suppose this could go a few different ways, including:

  • Brussels Airlines could continue to operate independently as their own brand, but just use the Eurowings booking platform and service model
  • Brussels Airlines could be fully integrated into Eurowings, and wouldn’t maintain their own brand identity

In practice I suspect it’s more likely that Brussels Airlines maintains their brand identity. After all, they have a loyal following in their home market, and they’d probably lose some of that if they eliminated their brand altogether.

Also keep in mind that while most of Brussels Airlines’ route network is regional, they also have nine A330 aircraft that they use for longhaul flying. If Brussels Airlines is in fact integrated into Eurowings, I’ll be curious to see what that means for their longhaul routes.

Brussels-Airlines-Tomorrowland-Flight-26
Brussels Airlines A330 economy

Bottom line

Regardless of how they end up branding it, it seems likely that Brussels Airlines will be part of the Eurowings “concept” pretty soon. Between this and their acquisition of airberlin planes, Eurowings is growing at a fast pace. Brussels Airlines is a quirky, fun airline, so I hope they don’t lose their identity with this deal.

Comments

  1. This is a bit of deja vu. Does anyone else remember when Swissair bought the financially troubled Sabena, which led to the collapse of SR?

  2. I think the brand will be retained; it’s a matter of cultural and political sensitivity. Lufthansa didn’t debrand Austrian or Swiss. There is strong opposition to LH, read Germany, dropping flag carriers. LH wanted to buy LOT and the fear factor went skyhigh that LH was becoming the airline uber alles; the sale didn’t go through after Warsaw pushed back and doubts that the EU would approve it. Same with British Airways and Iberia, Aer Lingus: One stipulation that the Irish government made was that the Aer Lingus name/brand/long haul service remained.

  3. From what I can gather SN have a strong brand in Africa and this has proved quite lucrative over the years. Not sure why they would want to damage that by merging into Eurowings. Perhaps they merge a lot of the shorthaul network though

  4. The more alarming part is that Brussels doesn’t charge ridiculous fuel surcharges and Lufthansa does. Brussels just started flying out of Toronto and the reason I’m flying them is that the awards flights are ridiculously cheap. Lufthansa would have cost THOUSANDS for a family of four.

  5. I think Brussles will more or less stay like it is now. With their long haul focus laying on Africa, they’re a great addition to the existing Lufthansa Group and Star Alliance network. Many of those Europe-Africa routes are operated in competition with KLM so I can’t really see why Lufthansa would make them drop those flights. Neither can I see them being taken over by Eurowings.
    So I guess the plan for EW is to open up a base in BRU and operate alongside SN, just like they’re doing it with OS in VIE. Maybe they’ll get to take over a few SN A320s or it will be EW operated by SN.

  6. Europe may be on the path to the USA’s oligopoly. If they keep going down this path, they might just be left with British Air, Air France and Lufthansa as their only legacy carriers.

  7. I’d hate to lose star alliance benefits when connecting at BRU if SN goes the way of Eurowings. I love that airport, and the Schengen lounge is techy, modern, and fun.

  8. @ iv I know! I flew to Scotland last year and tried to completely avoid AC so went Toronto to chicago, to paris, to brussels, to scotland……then scotland to brussels, to madrid……..and then had to take an AC flight back with no other options/availability. Should have run me about $130 total but the AC flight jacked it to $690. Ridiculous that they still charge those fees!

  9. I’d say Brusseles Airlines merge into Eurowings would make sense, as
    – their business model (hybrid airline) is quite similar to Eurowings,
    – also Eurowings operates A330s already (and of course flying them on long haul routes). So that is also no issue here 😉
    (OK, to fit in the fleet of Eurowings a downgrade of the existing business class seats as well as the service is “needed”.

  10. Brussels fuel surcharge waiver for star alliance only applies to Aeroplan.

    Aeroplan doesn’t charge for Swiss either, and that’s already under lh group

  11. Pretty sure the programs that charge fuel surcharges already do so on Brussels. United and life miles program doesn’t acknowledge fuel surcharges to begin with

  12. I recently flew Brussels Airlines Toulouse – Brussels – Prague and back. Four legs. All of them far more budget-feeling than the numerous easyJet flights I take each year within Europe.

    Back in the 1970’s and 80’s I was a big fan of SABENA and often flew transatlantic aboard the airline’s 707’s, DC10’s, and 747’s. The jumbo’s featured a truly elegant First Class Lounge on the upper deck. Actually, my first ever transatlantic ‘Business Class’ flight was aboard a SABENA 747, back in 1981. The Business cabin was “E” Zone – at the very back of the plane!

    I still miss glamorous SABENA. But I won’t be sorry in the least to see the end of lackluster Brussels Airlines.

  13. Now will everyone at your desk stop lauding the ability of Christoph Mueller and see him for what he is! His two “successes” – according to you – are Aer Lingus (sold to Avios/BA) and now Brussels sold off to Lufthansa. He probably left MH as he couldn’t see the way to making it a saleable proposition. Heaven only knows what he has in mind for EK – Sale to Qatar/Avios!!!!! The man is just a low cost heritage five star wrecker

  14. Long-haul will not stay if it’s the Eurowings model. Even on the slight chance it did remain, LH will wack rewards with fuel surcharges. Sad day for Europhile Star Alliance ff members.

  15. Being Brussels based I fear that they will go the Eurowings way and lower their standard even further. SN has really deteriorated a lot in the 10 years I’ve been a fequent flyer with them. If they cut any more, I may as well fly B**** Air, as there’s not much of a difference left except at times the price.

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