Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr today revealed that he would operate flights that cost passengers just €9 ($11) if it allowed the airline to keep its slots at major airports. Previously Mr. Spohr has been known for calling out such fares offered by his competitors as irresponsible.
Slots at major hub airports are usually tightly controlled. If you don’t use them, you lose them. The threshold where they are typically lost is if they are utilized less than 80% of the time. In the past, this has seen carriers operating ghost flights to fulfill their slot needs during the quieter winter months.
These rules led to a problem when the pandemic entered full swing. Airlines were keen to cancel flights given the massive drop in passenger numbers. However, they also didn’t want to lose their precious slots. Thankfully, those in control decided fairly swiftly to implement waivers for airlines. The European Commission is looking to reintroduce slot rules for the summer 2021 schedule.
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€9 Lufthansa flights?
Lufthansa’s CEO, Carsten Spohr, today told an interview with Eurocontrol that he would consider offering €9 fares for flights if the airline should need to operate empty flights to maintain slots. After all, gaining €9 from one passenger would be €9 more than if the flight had run empty. Spohr commented,
“Any airline like us who depends on the hub system will do whatever it takes to safeguard their slots. If we have to fly empty, we’ll probably offer nine euro tickets ourselves to keep those flights in the system… Giving up essential slots at a hub is a damage to generations of Lufthansa staff or Air France staff or British Airways staff or KLM staff to come.”
Why are the comments surprising?
Spohr’s comments come as a surprise, as we’re used to heading him attacking Ryanair’s €9.99 fares. Spohr reignited the debate in July when he called €9.99 fares ecologically and economically irresponsible, saying that such fares damage the aviation industry’s reputation.
It seems that Spohr believes such empty flights would quickly gain the disapproval of the media and the public, forcing the European Commission’s hand at extending slot waivers. He went on to comment,
“On the one hand, European Commission wants to reduce the CO2 footprint. On the other hand, if they would force us to fly empty, that’d be crazy. I think it would be public very quickly. That’s why I’m still optimistic that the slot waiver one way or another will be extended.”
What is the European Commission proposing?
The European Commission released its new proposal for slot waivers on December 16th. The commission proposes that the 80% use it or lose it rule be reduced to 40%. This is based on traffic operating at 50% of 2019 levels. In the first quarter, Lufthansa expects to run just 20% of its usual capacity.
Do you think Lufthansa will offer €9 fares? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!