Lufthansa Still Unhappy With Super Cheap Fares

Lufthansa is still unhappy with the super cheap fares operated by some of its European low-cost rivals. In a recent interview with a German language newspaper, the airline’s CEO, Carsten Spohr, confirmed views he made clear earlier in the year.

Lufthansa Low Fares
Lufthansa’s CEO disagrees with super low fares. Photo: Lufthansa

Back in May, Simple Flying questioned whether low fares were irresponsible as Ryanair’s Laudamotion used Mr. Sphor’s comments in its advertising. However, the issue has clearly not died down yet, as an interview Lufthansa’s CEO gave earlier this week to the Swiss newspaper NZZ’s Sunday edition goes to prove.

What was said?

Lufthansa’s CEO told NZZ,

“some competitors are working with prices per flight less than €10. This is economically, ecologically and politically irresponsible.” (Note that this is a translation of a quote in German).

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He goes on to claim that as a result of low fares, a number of problems arise. These range from clogged airspace to attracting criticism of the industry.

However, upon reflection, you may remember that the Lufthansa group has a low-cost arm of its own; Eurowings. I flew on Eurowings earlier this year, and while it wasn’t as basic as some other airlines, there was a distinct difference to the full-service Lufthansa offers. However, despite criticizing €10 fares for being irresponsible, Sphor defends Eurowings fares which can often be as low as £25.

Lufthansa Low Fares
Ryanair can offer incredibly low fares. Photo: Ryanair

He defends the fares by stating that there is a need to defend their home markets. He adds that low fares have made the “democratization of flying possible”. However, Eurowings has recently been streamlining its operations with some optional extras being removed from certain fares.

Are low fares really irresponsible?

This is the second time that Lufthansa’s Carsten Spohr has called low fares irresponsible, but are they really? Personally, I’m not completely sold by the argument. In fact, in certain cases, I’d argue that low fares are more responsible than those offered by full-service carriers such as Lufthansa.

Let us take a look at the ecological argument. It could be argued that by encouraging more people to fly, low-cost carriers are increasing the detrimental environmental effect of aviation. However, I’d argue this is not necessarily the full picture.

Lufthansa, Low Fares, Carsten Sphor
The comments were made by Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr. Photo: Lufthansa

Take Manchester to Frankfurt as an example. While Ryanair operates the route once a day, Lufthansa operates five connections. Now, take a look at each carrier’s average load factor. Ryanair cites that its passenger load factor for January was 91%. Meanwhile, in the same month, this sat at 76.4% for the Lufthansa Group.

What about this point of view?

Given that Lufthansa’s CEO has voiced his concerns twice now, it is unlikely that his opinion will change any time soon. However, while I may not agree with his point of view, it is certainly valid. As such, I’m not going to argue that his opinion is outright wrong.

Do you think low fares are irresponsible? Let us know in the comments.

6 comments
  1. It looks like Mr. Spohr is somewhat out of touch.
    The 10 euro fares to which he refers are promotional “first seats” fares, to grab attention. As the plane fills, the fares go up; if the plane stops filling, the fares go down again. I’ve had a few very low fares (25 euros per segment) on Ryanair for early bookings, but I’ve also had higher fares (75 euros per segment) for later bookings. Mr. Spohr might want to consider following that model, so as to improve his 76% load factor: a low load factor is — as the author points out — environmentally (and commercially) irresponsible.

    Train companies also work with promotional fares: the Thalys high-speed train regularly stunts with 30-euro fares for Amsterdam-Paris. If you look in more detail, this price only applies to a limited number of seats, at limited times.

    A related comment regarding seat price. I’ve been on many longhaul flights on which the business class cabin was either completely empty or had only 1-2 occupants. An empty seat does not generate revenue! Full-service airlines need to go back to the drawing board and address this issue (e.g. using the up-bid/down-bid pricing system alluded to above), instead of bitching about the success of LCCs.

  2. I don’t think low fares r wrong.Lufthansa is earning still enough.I’m German,went in 2015 from Accra,Ghana,to Frankfort and further to Düsseldorf and return,as I’m permanently living in Ghana.I wasn’t satisfied with their service,as the food offered was too little and the water either.So I arrived extremely hungry and dehydrated.The gates were changed,but nobody told me.Arriving nearly at the announced gate,I asked and got that it’s starting at a far away other gate to Düsseldorf.So someone took me by a car to there,but I arrived late..no food at all during that flight!!Arrived in Düsseldorf I had immediately to go to a bakery not to fall down.So CEO Spohr is only envious on Ryanair and others,but earning much more incl. pilots,flight attendants etc.and having excuses.

  3. “In 2018, the airlines of the Lufthansa Group carried a total of 142 million passengers, setting a new passenger record. With more than 1.2 million flights and a seat load factor of 81.4 per cent, the aircraft load factor was higher than ever before.”

    An updated figure, but still not exactly stellar!

  4. I’m not against environmental regulations, but please leave the environment out of this commercial argument.

    Both airlines’ fleet is comparable as far as emissions go, and they’re subject to the same regulations. If the EU would raise environmental taxes, they’ll affect both airlines.

    Additionally, I would argue that filling a plane better (higher load factor in a plane that has more seats) has a better effect on the environment than not filling one (as LH is doing). Sure, if those cheaper fares didn’t exist, some of these customers may not travel, but the trade-off here is mobility levels vs. environmental damage, and Lufthansa’s argument is again thrown under the bus.

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