Joachim Steinbach, Lufthansa's vice president of sales and marketing on the German airline's developments in the Middle East.
What destinations do you currently serve in this region?
In the past three years, Lufthansa has inaugurated new destinations in the Gulf, like Bahrain and Doha and has increased its frequencies and market presence as part of our Middle East and Gulf strategy, which is based on the continuous expansion in this market.
Our daily flights from Abu Dhabi to Frankfurt will operate with the beginning of the winter schedule as non-stop flights six times a week.
As the demand for premium travel is on the rise, we will increase our frequencies on the Doha-Frankfurt route by four flights a week to a daily service, offering more choices to the customer.
Lufthansa serves all the main gateways in the Gulf with 13 destinations and 10 countries on the route map such as Doha, Bahrain, Dammam, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Are you securing mostly business or holiday travellers?
I would say our focus is the business traveller but you cannot fill the whole fleet with these people.
Our strength in this region is the corporate traveller so we try to get a lot of business with contracts.
We have a good mix of passengers, with economy class also catered for, but I wouldn't consider ourselves concentrating on just leisure. It's more a leisure/business approach. The main portion of our traffic is to the final destination in this region.
What are the passenger loads like in the Middle East?
There is no seasonality anymore. We used to have strong winters and soft summers but that has flattened out. We have a steady flow of corporate travellers and expats going in and out so we enjoy high load factors on our routes. We are above average, which is 70%, so we run higher than that in the 80s.
Lufthansa says it's the number one service for business travellers. Why?
Our premium services, the loyalty programme and the global route network together with the Star Alliance airlines and regional partners make Lufthansa the number one choice for business travellers.
To maintain this competitive edge, we have always recognised the fact that excellent service on the ground is equally important as on board. The ongoing Lufthansa investment in lounges and terminal facilities speaks for itself.
Do you accept Emirates, Etihad and Qatar will always be the dominant players in this region?
Absolutely. If you look at the market share, Emirates is dominating Dubai, and Qatar Airways has the same thing in Doha. Etihad are in the building phase of their environment but still they have the dominant market share in Abu Dhabi.
All the carriers have one thing in common: 70-80% of the passengers they carry go behind their hubs.
They carry a lot of passengers but not to final destinations and our strong position when serving this market is the people who want to stay here fly with us.
In this environment, we have a good chance of getting the premium passengers but the three carriers dominate the markets. There is a lot of market share for transport passengers.
What is Lufthansa Private Jet?
Lufthansa Private Jet is a unique offer which combines the flexibility and individuality of a private jet with the professional service and global expertise of a leading airline.
On board the Lufthansa Private Jet, the exclusive service with catering and in-flight entertainment is of a very high standard. The Lufthansa Private Jet aircraft offers the best in comfort.
Each one seats up to 12 passengers and they are all equipped with data ports, satellite telephones and in-flight entertainment systems. From the moment our customers book the flight, a personal event manager coordinates the most individual wishes before and during the journey.
What are your plans for the region?
The big project we have is optimising the route network. On top of that the headquarters of Lufthansa in Dubai is responsible for the Middle East and Africa so we're focusing on the latter in 2008 and 2009.
We feel there are a lot of market chances and have opened up two new destinations already this year; one is Malabo in Equatorial Guinea and Luanda in Angola. We also forged ties with our regional partners: Ethiopian Airlines and Egypt Air. The positive market response encourages us to further increase our market presence on the African continent.