Interview with Wolfgang Will
Jan - Feb 2016
From the Cockpit
Director, South Asia, Lufthansa Passenger Airlines
Continuing Growth in India
With a presence of more than five decades in India, German carrier Lufthansa is quite bullish on the Indian market. It plans to expand its footprint and introduce new experiences and innovative products, says Wolfgang Will.
How have been Lufthansa’s operations in India?
It has been a fantastic journey for Lufthansa in India. With a presence of over 55 years in the country, we have made some great strides and received excellent response from the market. Our investments in new products and services like the introduction of our ‘Green Giant’ – Lufthansa’s Airbus A380, the complete roll-out of the all-new business class and the launch of the premium economy cabin section, have really paid off. The response has been fantastic and there is a significant increase in the occupancy rates over the years.
Last year, major investments were made in several unique marketing campaigns on a grand scale. Our Diwali campaign that focussed on Indians across the globe was a huge hit and received great reviews. In fact, India is the only market for Lufthansa globally to have its own advertisement tailored specifically for our target customer base in India and that is a testimonial in itself. We are looking at 2016 being an equally good year for us. India has offered us several new opportunities to expand our footprint and we believe that in the coming year, we will be able to attract even more customers.
How many Indian destinations do you serve? What are the expansion plans?
Lufthansa offers direct flights to Europe from five main Indian gateways – joining India’s main hubs with our leading hubs in Frankfurt and Munich to offer the largest network of more than 170 European destinations with seamless connections from India. Together with our star alliance partners, we offer the largest global network to both inbound and outbound passengers in India. Lufthansa Group today operates 65 to and fro frequencies in a week from five Indian metros to Europe. We know the demographics, we believe in the emerging economic power of the country, and we are convinced to be able to play an important role in connecting our global customers with India and India with Europe and North America.
How do you plan to woo discerning Indian traveller and get him on a Lufthansa flight?
Being present in India for over 55 years, we have incorporated specific needs and wishes of our Indian customers in our service here. We employ cabin crew members from India, who speak several Indian languages and are familiar with local customs. After working with the finest of chefs in India, Indian meals are now served on board several of Lufthansa’s airlines in all class segments. Also, we have shown strong commitment to India by broadening our service to bring innovative products and new experiences to our customers, especially in the marketing domain. We have rolled out Indiaspecific marketing campaigns like the television commercial, #cookandfly contest, #Diwalisurprise campaign and all these have been a great hit with our Indian customers. Our passengers have recognised our effort for an outstanding, customised service, by consistently making Lufthansa a leading European airline operating in India.
What is that makes Lufthansa popular with fliers from India?
Our Indian customers enjoy our luxurious offerings and latest stateof- art products such as the new A380, Boeing 747-8, the new business class, premium economy compartment and wi-fi on board on our entire long haul fleet that makes Lufthansa popular with fliers from India. Our business class seat boast of a horizontal sleeping surface and we are the only carrier to offer flat-beds in its business class across its entire intercontinental network.
While these offerings differentiate us from other major airlines in India, our attempt to connect with our target audience on an emotional level sets us apart from other carriers. We have undertaken special measures to ensure that every Indian feels comfortable in every Lufthansa airplane flying out of India by having Indian stewards and stewardesses hosting our guests on board, providing several Indian meals in all cabin compartments and offering entertainment specifically tailored for the Indian audiences.
What packages you have worked out to entice travellers from India in the coming season?
We keep unveiling special offers and pricing campaigns from time to time to benefit our customers. For instance, we have a special fare offer from February 9-22, 2016 for people travelling in economy and premium economy segments. We also work closely with our trade partners and offer many MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) schemes. We are also considerate of the overall pricing, and we have followed this principle even in the introduction of our new products and services.
Last year Lufthansa introduced the premium economy segment on every flight on its long haul fleet from India. This segment had assumed significance globally because of an unpredictable global economy as executives from certain corporations were given budget constraints for travelling in the business class and did not want to settle in the economy class for reasons such as comfort and working space, this is where the premium economy came in.
How profitable is the Indian market for the airline?
As part of Lufthansa’s policy, we do not share profit figures. However, we are very pleased to say that Lufthansa has received an overwhelming response from the Indian market. There is a consistent growth in the occupancy rates and we are expecting to see more passengers this year.
What about competition in India from Middle East and American carriers?
As a policy we do not comment on competition. We have proven to perform very well over the years and are seeing excellent occupancy rates in spite of the presence of many other airlines in the market. By continuing to offer our best services and products to customers in India and working closely with our star alliance partners, we are confident of further expanding our target customer base.
What are your strategies for 2016? What scope do you see for increase in frequency, new routes and introduction of new services?
Like 2015, we are looking at 2016 being an equally good year for us. We believe that in the coming year we will be able to attract even more customers. The aviation sector in India has been growing consistently and we feel this trend will only continue in the years to come. In fact, the announcement of the new draft civil aviation policy by the ministry of civil aviation is a good sign. We are pleased to see the strategic initiatives such as e-visa policies to encourage tourism and strongly believe that there was a need for such positive change in the Indian aviation scenario. At Lufthansa, we will continue to invest in bringing in best of product services and products to the Indian market which will help strengthen and increase our customer base.