Cathay Pacific

Lufthansa sees lure of China hub

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 February, 2004, 12:00am

World's No1 international passenger carrier considers move to mainland

Lufthansa German Airlines yesterday said the lure of the mainland market might see it relocate its Asia-Pacific headquarters to China as the carrier unveiled plans for an expanded summer schedule.

Lufthansa vice-president (Asia-Pacific) Uwe Mueller said the move was 'definitely under consideration' and the world's No1 international passenger carrier would reinstate its Munich-Hong Kong service in April.

He indicated a mainland location and not Hong Kong would be the likely choice should it decide to switch. 'Looking at the growth rate of the region, it appears it would make sense to move closer to China,' Mr Mueller said.

From April 3, Lufthansa will fly between Munich and Hong Kong three times a week using an A340-330 aircraft, becoming the only scheduled carrier to fly direct on the route.

The airline, which flew 29.7 million international passengers in 2002, also flies daily to Frankfurt from Chek Lap Kok.

Asked to explain the dual-hub strategy in its home market, Mr Mueller said: 'Frankfurt has reached its limit, in terms of available slots. It's that simple. We need to develop Munich.'

The Hong Kong-Munich market is small, with just 66,000 passengers travelling between the destinations in the year to March last year. Airlines filled more than 470,000 seats between Frankfurt and Hong Kong during the same period.

On Sunday, the airline launched a five-time weekly Guangzhou-Munich service which routes through Shanghai.

From April 1, it will bump that service to daily and initially expects about 30 per cent of the passenger volume to come from the Guangzhou market.

Mr Mueller said Lufthansa had been looking at a Guangzhou service for some time, but when rival airlines began serving it, the launch was brought forward.