New routes and increased frequencies made 2018 a record year in the UK for Lufthansa Group – but its boss has signalled 2019 is unlikely to see large-scale expansion.
The group’s Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and budget brand Eurowings carried 8.4 million passengers to and from UK airports in 2018, up nearly 3%.
It was helped by a new Glasgow-Frankfurt route and more frequencies between Glasgow and Munich and Manchester to Frankfurt. An Edinburgh-Munich service began on December 1.
In all, the UK provides 5% of Lufthansa Group’s total revenue, but this is still mainly from business travellers, which make up 64% of UK sales. Andreas Koester, senior sales director UK, Ireland and Iceland, said he wanted to “significantly” increase leisure passenger numbers this year.
He added: “Already being the biggest foreign airline group in London Heathrow, we would also like to recognise the rise in traffic from the UK’s regional airports year-on-year, which would not have happened without the support from our airport partners throughout the country.”
At group level, there is a cautious view of 2019. Group chief executive Carsten Spohr said he would halve planned summer capacity growth to 1.9%, described as “sustainable”.
He added he believed the airline had done everything to mitigate potential Brexit-related problems. “We did our homework with project teams going through every scenario.”
He said this included how to get catering supplies and aircraft spares to the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit. “The passenger will not notice anything,” he pledged.
Spohr confirmed pre-tax group profits of €2.8 billion last year, only slightly below 2017’s €2.97 billion.
Lufthansa Group placed an order for 20 Boeing 787-9 and 20 Airbus A350-900 long-haul aircraft, and said it would sell six of its 14 Airbus A380s back to the manufacturer as part of the deal. Spohr said the double decker “was a great idea at the time”, but for them had since been superseded by more economical twinjets.