Lufthansa to rejuvenate itself

Lufthansa A350

Get ready for a major change at Lufthansa as it adapts to the modern aviation age.

Ever since I took my first flight with Lufthansa 50 years ago I have followed the fortunes of the German national airline with interest.

Lufthansa is famed for being conservative and cautious. And many readers appreciate that fact.

However never before have I seen the carrier about to undergo such a revolution.

It’s reported that CEO Carsten Spohr believes his airline can only survive in the long term provided it undergoes a fundamental cultural change.

Germany’s business publication Wirtschafts Woche broke the news that CEO Carsten Spohr wants to offer voluntary redundancy to several thousand of its 34,000 core (Lufthansa) brand employees – admin staff with traditional airline skills.

In their place would come non-industry people skilled in digitalisation, innovation and brand management.

Details of the new programme were announced by Labour Director Bettina Volkens at a management conference last week and confirmed to Wirtschafts Woche by a Lufthansa spokesperson.

The spokesperson said that the staff in question would be encouraged to retire with “attractive offers.”

“It is expressly not about dismissals but a purely voluntary programme.  We want to clarify details with the workforce soon.”

Says Wirtschafts Woche, “Europe’s largest airline needs more thought leaders to make its business faster and more efficient because of growing competition from more agile low-cost carriers (LCCs).”

In addition Lufthansa faces ever greater competition from the Gulf carriers on routes to the Middle East, Asia and Australasia. Part of that competition has been met by several joint ventures with Asian carriers, more recently with Cathay Pacific.

So what are we the make of this? In due course these staff changes will lead to more innovation in pricing and products.

But many Business Traveller readers are Lufthansa fans. They appreciate the thorough way in which it conducts its business.

At the end of the day one hopes that Lufthansa will not cheapen its brand and resort to gimmicks.

Get £50 off your next British Airways long-haul flight

British Airways A380

Executive Club members booking British Airways long-haul flights over the next few days can get £50 off the cost of their ticket with code BAMember50.

To avail of the offer members must book by midnight on April 23, for travel dates up to October 27.

Note that the discount is per person, for bookings of up to nine people.

Flights must be operated by British Airways (the code is not, for example, valid on flights operated by partner carrier American Airlines), and the offer is not valid on Avios part payment or redemption bookings.

For more information on this deal and to book, click here.

Yotel to open “airside and landside” property at Istanbul New Airport

Yotel Standard cabin

Airport and city centre hotel chain Yotel has announced plans for a 451-room property at the forthcoming Istanbul New Airport.

Interestingly the property will feature both landside and airside sections, with 349 rooms landside, and a further 102 airside.

Both sections will feature the brand’s signature Club Lounge concept, “with smart vending, co-working and relaxing areas, wellness centres and planted glazed atriums to connect people with nature”.

The larger landside area will also offer a restaurant, bar and gym, and the property will also feature flexible meeting spaces, although it’s not clear if these will be located landside or airside – Yotel says simply that they will be “conveniently located for airport businesses and passengers alike”.

The first phase of Istanbul New Airport is set to open on October 29 – the airport recently posted a video of the switching on of its runway lights for the first time. An opening date for the Yotel property has not been given.

The Yotel brand started out as a purely airport concept back in 2007, with the opening of the Yotel Gatwick, and has gradually evolved to include city centre properties, including a recently announced Edinburgh hotel.

Commenting on the latest development Yotel’s CEO Hubert Viriot said:

“We’ve witnessed Turkey’s, and particularly Istanbul’s remarkable economic and urban development, transformation and its noticeably increased popularity over the past few years. Istanbul New Airport will only further increase Istanbul’s ever-expanding popularity and economy, and Yotel is delighted to be a part of it.

The prevailing ambitious vision to make İstanbul New Airport the largest transit hub in the world made it very attractive for us to be there, and we are extremely honoured to be chosen for this exciting project. This city aspires to high growth success, just like Yotel, so we are a perfect match.”

Viriot added that Istanbul’s position as “one of the fastest-growing metropolitan economies in the world”, was “a solid reason to open even more hotels there in the future”.

Ultra high density “saddle seat” concept unveiled

The "saddle seat" Skyrider seat concept by Aviointeriors

If you’ve ever ridden a stand-up rollercoaster, you probably have a good idea of what it would be like to “sit” in a new seat design being proposed for budget-class airline cabins.

The Aviointeriors Skyrider 2.0 seat introduced at the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2018 this week is more akin to riding a horse than sitting in a chair — saddle included.

The good news: dangling legs have plenty of room to stretch. The bad news: this is “ultra high density” seating, with just 23 inches of seat pitch, according to The Points Guy. There would also be little or no room for personal items at or under the seats.

“Skyrider 2.0 opens the travelling experience to a wider passenger market, creating also a useful space for the introduction mixed classes boarded on the same aircraft,” according to Aviointeriors.

“Its main feature is the original bottom that ensures an increased upright passenger position allowing installation of the seat at a reduced pitch, while maintaining an adequate comfort.”

Aviointeriors called the upright seats the “new frontier of low cost tickets and offering a possibility to fly to whom today cannot afford it,” allowing airlines to squeeze 20 per cent more seats into their cabins.

Airlines are expected to install only a few rows of the seats, not an entire cabin’s worth. “Aircraft are certified to carry a certain number of passengers, and one with solely Skyrider seating would have far too many passengers to fly,” The Points Guy noted.

No airlines have yet purchased the seats, however.

New York is the world’s most expensive business travel destination

The skyline of New York City

The average cost of a business trip to New York City is $866 (£611) daily, making the city the priciest in the world for business travellers, according to a new report by global mobility experts ECA International.

“The high demand for hotels in New York is reflected in the premium rate that rooms are currently charged at, averaging $556 (£392) per night at a 4-star hotel,” said Simon Franklin, daily rates manager at ECA International.

“The high cost of hotels and transport, as well as mandatory 15-20 per cent tipping policies during meals out, contribute to the US city being the most expensive in the world for business travel.”

Geneva, Switzerland was the second costliest business-travel destination in the world and the most expensive in Europe, costing an average of $786 (£554) per night.

Close behind was Zurich ($729/£514), followed by a few unexpected destinations — Luanda, Angola and Bridgetown, Barbados — and then Paris, Nassau (Bahamas), Washington, DC, Basel, and Monaco.

“Swiss cities once again dominate the most expensive places for business trips in Europe, with five different locations in the top 10 (and three of the top 10 globally),” noted Franklin.

“Switzerland has always been an expensive nation for business travel, and this year is no different as the Swiss franc has performed very strongly.”

The report noted that while a strong Euro also has kept business travel costs comparably high in other parts of Europe, the cost of doing business in London, Aberdeen, and other cities in the UK has declined.

Cardiff airport unveils revamped departures lounge

Revamped Departures Lounge at Cardiff airport

Cardiff airport has officially opened its new-look Departures Lounge, ahead of the launch of Qatar Airways flights between Doha and Cardiff next month.

The revamped departures area is part of a £4 million investment into the airport’s terminal and surrounding infrastructure, and was officially opened by Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport Ken Skates, and rugby union star Sam Warburton.

Features include additional seating, expanded WHSmith and Costa Coffee outlets, a new look executive lounge and new business lounge (the 51 Degrees Lounge), and an upgraded hold baggage screening system.

The airport has also opened a new car hire centre close to the main terminal, and a Meet and Greet facility is due to open in the airport’s car park in the coming months.

Qatar Airways will launch its new flights to Cardiff on May 1, with the inaugural service being served by the carrier’s A350 aircraft.

Commenting on the works Skates said:

“Since the Welsh Government acquired Cardiff Airport it has gone from strength to strength with passenger numbers now at nearly 1.5 million a year, and flights from the airport landing at over 50 destinations.

“These latest improvements come at an exciting time for the Airport with new routes, including Qatar Airways’ long haul flights to the Middle East, starting soon and opening up exciting and new tourism and trade links between South Wales and the rest of the world. These new facilities put us in an excellent position to make the very most of those opportunities.”,

Frankfurt opens roof terrace at Terminal 1

Frankfurt Airport has opened a new rooftop terrace within the transit zone at Terminal 1

Frankfurt airport has opened a new outside roof terrace within the transit zone at Terminal 1.

Dubbed the “Open Air Deck”, the 138 sqm space is open daily between 0500 and 2300, for all non-Schengen passengers.

Features of the €1.5 million terrace include “comfortable seating surrounded by plants”, views of the airport with a telescope which can be used free of charge, a stand which “provides information about what’s going on down on the apron”, and a screen detailing the weather forecast provided by the German Weather Service.

The airport also highlights that “you’ll find fresh air and natural light – from the south, no less – to help overcome jetlag”.

The new rooftop terrace adds to the existing Visitor’s Terrace which is located in the publicly accessible part of Terminal 2, on level 4 next to the Food Plaza.

Journey times fall on Amsterdam-Brussels rail route

Amsterdam Centraal station (iStock)

Conventional trains linking Amsterdam and Brussels have been speeded-up, reports industry magazine IRJ.

I purposely mention “conventional” because there already are faster Thalys high-speed trains running over this route.

The difference now is that conventional intercity trains take 30 mins less than before.

Instead of taking their original routing, they now use the high-speed Benelux line which, until now, has been reserved for Thalys and (since April 4) Eurostar.

So what’s the fuss you might ask? Conventional intercity trains, although they remain slower (140+ km/ph) than Thalys (300 km/ph), are priced substantially less (see tariffs at the end).

Moreover, unlike Thalys, reservations are not compulsory, making them a good bet for economy-minded business people needing flexibility.

Services operate hourly throughout the day between Amsterdam Centraal and Brussels.

Travel time by conventional train is two hours 50 minutes (30 minutes faster than before) which is one hour slower than Thalys (one hour 51 minutes).

Some of these trains (unlike Thalys) now run between Amsterdam Schiphol and Brussels National airports.

With their airport links they are emulating Thalys which, in 2019, will be providing a direct link between Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris CDG airports.

Direct rail links are encouraged by Schiphol which is running out of runway space at busy times.

Management wants more travellers to take the train for short journeys.  Scarce runway space would be better used by prestigious long-haul services.

Already KLM, Schiphol’s home airline, operates up to five flights a day between these two airports. Services are aimed at connecting passengers rather than those travelling point-to-point.

One would hope that in time to come these direct rail services will replace some of the KLM feeders.

Quoted in Holland’s Roger van Boxtel, CEO of NS (Dutch Railways) agrees that such international trains can take the pressure off Schiphol’s flight movements and especially for short distance journeys.

He maintains that two daily London-Amsterdam Eurostar services could remove eight daily flights from that particular route.

Of course that is an impossibility right now because Eurostar’s original plans to serve Amsterdam Schiphol have been thwarted by the UK government’s immigration rules.

Prices compared

Typical one-way fares between Amsterdam Centraal and Brussels Midi.  Note that prices may change at peak time and for last minute travel bookings.

  • Thalys: first class €107, standard class €68
  • InterCity train: first class €36, standard class €26,,

PICTURES: Cathay Pacific’s new ten-across Boeing 777 economy cabin

Cathay Pacific B777 economy class 10-across seating

Cathay Pacific has unveiled its retrofitted 10-across economy class cabin on board its fleet of Boeing 777 aircraft.

The new layout will be adopted across all 48 of its B777-300ER and 17 B777-300 aircraft, with full rollout expected by 2020.

Until now, the Hong Kong carrier was one of the few remaining aircraft to outfit the aircraft with a 3-3-3 layout, with the less popular 3-4-3 configuration now more of an industry standard.

Business Traveller is at the unveiling and will publish a more in-depth look at the new cabin layout soon.

Rival carrier Singapore Airlines is now one of the few airlines still offering a nine-across configuration in its B777s, though it too appears set to join the 10-abreast club.

“Big plans” for British Airways check-in zone at Heathrow T3

British Airways at Heathrow T3

British Airways says it has gone “independent” at Heathrow T3, with operations now being overseen by a dedicated team separate to that at T5.

In a press release BA said that “With flights to destinations from Miami to Marseille and Vancouver to Vienna, British Airways’ operation at Heathrow Terminal 3 is building its own identity, and is now running independently from its big sister, Terminal 5”.

The carrier said that just under one in five of its customers departing Heathrow use T3, equating to over seven million passengers per year, with many of these being customers travelling on American Airlines codeshare flights, who are connecting from American destinations onto British Airways services.

In a video posted by the carrier, David Rose, BA’s senior customer manager at Terminal 3 said that there are “big plans” for the carrier’s check-in zone, in conjunction with business partner AA, and also confirmed that BA will move into a new T3 Flight Connections centre with AA this summer.

“Behind the scenes we’re setting up a dedicated Terminal 3 control room, which will look at all aspects of the Terminal 3 operation, and ensure that it runs as efficiently as possible,” added Rose.