Competitive fares Lufthansa has big plans for Italy
Frankfurt/Rome · The Lufthansa group is taking over the Ita airline with its 66 jets. Ita is the successor company to Alitalia. CEO Carsten Spoor says it will make Lufthansa “more international.” What does it mean for airfares and passengers?
What does the takeover of the Italian Ita mean for Lufthansa as well as for passengers? At least one connection from Düsseldorf could become more expensive: In order to win passengers in the fierce competition against Lufthansa's offshoot Eurowings, Ita is offering roundtrip flights from Düsseldorf to Milan, in some cases for around 100 euros. "That could become more expensive," says aviation expert Gerald Wissel: "Lufthansa will already try to enforce a certain price discipline within the group.”
For Cologne-Bonn, on the other hand, the takeover will not have any direct consequences for the time being: While Ryanair has withdrawn from Düsseldorf with its Laudamotion spin-off, the Irish low-cost carrier is very active in Cologne-Bonn. Especially on routes to Italy, the offers are abundant. Ryanair is pushing the top dog Eurowings on routes to Milan, Bologna, Venice, Rome and Palermo. In July, a round-trip flight to Rome can be booked for 70 euros. Eurowings even offers 13 destinations in southern Italy from Cologne, and 14 from Düsseldorf.
Irrespective of individual routes, Lufthansa is using the Ita takeover to set itself apart even more from competitors such as IAG (British Airways, Iberia), Air France/KLM and Ryanair as Europe's largest airline group. In recent years, the Frankfurt-based airline has already swallowed up Swiss, Austrian and Brussels, and now the successor airline to Italy's Alitalia, which currently operates 66 jets, is joining the network with a total of nine brands. "This is an important step for our Group," says Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr: "It will make us even more international.”
Several steps are now in the pipeline. Lufthansa plans to establish Rome as another hub for overseas flights - so anyone wanting to book a flight to the U.S., Latin America or North Africa could in future be offered Rome as an option for connecting flights in addition to Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich or Vienna. Second, the airline wants to route even more passengers to and from Italy through its Frankfurt, Zurich and especially Munich airports to better utilize the capacity of overseas flights. Third, Ita is to be integrated into the Group's reservation systems, and the purchase of aircraft or fuel will be centralized. And fourth, Spohr plans to take over TAP from Portugal as well. "Small airlines have no chance of survival in the long run," says Wissel, "they have no alternative but to join a group.”
How does Lufthansa proceed from here? First of all, the Group is acquiring 41 percent of Ita for 325 million euros. The government in Rome is contributing 250 million euros. In the medium term, the Germans want to take over all Ita shares, but they are keeping all options open. "We have no pressure to take over Ita if the company is not successful," Spohr said at Friday's press conference: "If it is successful, which we believe it will be, we will reach 100 percent relatively quickly.”
´Spohr does not expect the EU to stop the deal. At ten percent, Ita's market share in Italy is only fourth behind the low-cost airlines Ryanair, Wizzair and Easyjet, which together account for around 60 percent. The EU must fear "a near monopoly of Ryanair," he said. The Ita and Lufthansa alliance would ensure more competition, not less, he said. Spohr did not mention that Alitalia also went under because of tough competition from Lufthansa.
(Orig. text: Reinhard Kowalewsky / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)