Easyjet and Lufthansa have been investigating how and if they might form an alliance with one another, according to reports.
The move comes just weeks after Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary proposed an arrangement with IAG under which the Irish carrier would transfer its passengers to/from the latter’s flights.
But the Easyjet/Lufthansa development, as reported in the German media, would go one step further.
It would cover not just the transfer of passengers between flights, but would also lead to close co-operation between Easyjet and Eurowings, the new budget brand of the Lufthansa Group.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr is quoted as saying: “We need consolidation in the low-cost market in Europe. Eurowings is intended to be an important part.”
So far, Easyjet is not making any comment.
But why would major airline groupings such as these wish to have budget airlines as feeders? Simply because low-cost carriers can operate feeder flights more cheaply and they can also expand the range of connections.
The latter is important as European airlines are engaged in a global route battle with the Gulf carriers, who already operate extensive networks throughout Europe.
For their part, the budget airlines are always seeking expansion opportunities.
What Easyjet and Ryanair are proposing when they talk of transferring passengers is something akin to “quasi-interlining”.
Full interlining is when conventional IATA carriers switch passengers between one another’s flights and, if the flight(s) are delayed, they will take care of the passengers and his/her luggage.
But almost all budget airlines do not believe in interlining because it pushes up their operating costs and can lead to flight delays. In addition, they sell only point-to-point tickets and have no wish to get involved in complex multi-city itineraries.
So this quasi-interlining will be when the conventional airline handles the booking while the budget carrier provides the feeder flights.
But it will also involve much re-scheduling and, chances are, it will not be offered at every airport.
For example, Ryanair has already stated it has no wish to serve London Heathrow, so if any interlining were to take place, it would be, for example, at Dublin or another IAG airport served by Ryanair.
Easyjet already serves Munich, in addition to other regional airports in Germany, but stays away from high-cost Frankfurt.
It means that passengers will not enjoy the benefit of having their luggage through-checked so they will have to reclaim their bags on arrival and hand them to the other carrier.
On the plus side, there will be more connecting opportunities and reduced risk of bags going astray (most cases of lost luggage arise during the interline process). It also means that, should one flight be missed, the airline will rebook you on a later flight without charge.
Right now, airlines will accept no responsibility for flight transfers involving conventional/budget flights.
But on the minus side, it means that connecting times will be longer. So you can forget about those tight transfers in places like Amsterdam, Helsinki, Munich and Vienna.
A much simpler transfer scheme between budget airlines was recently started at London Gatwick (see news, September 16).