Last year's privatization of the German airliner Lufthansa resulted not only in its best economic performance ever, but also in growing interest to expand its operations. Although the ownership change did not have an overwhelming impact on Lufthansa's Slovak customers, company officials are convinced that the Slovak market does have strong growth potential.
"It's surprising how large the potential increase could be for Slovakia's market," said Jochen Korbmann, Director of Lufthansa for the Czech and Slovak Republics, at a June 18 media briefing in Bratislava. "Slovakia exceeds Czech, Polish and Hungarian markets in its potential to increase."
The number of tickets sold in the first quarter of this year for scheduled airline traffic in the Czech Republic grew by 13% compared to the same period last year. According to Korbmann, this was a "surprising increase," but he added that it was still well behind Slovakia's growth of 25%. The number is even more impressive given the fact that Slovak Lufthansa passengers don't fly to and from Bratislava, but Vienna or Budapest.
After a long and complex process, Lufthansa was privatized last October. Coincidentally, last year was the best on record for the company, with pre-tax profits climbing to 1.6 billion Deutsche marks ($884 million). "The company is seriously heading towards a 2 billion marks profit this year," said Dale Lawrence, head of Lufthansa's Corporate Communications for the UK and Northern and Eastern Europe.
The record figures had little impact on Slovak customers. "In principle, nothing has changed, because it is known that Lufthansa standards are continually growing," said Anna Lošonská, Office Manager of Danubius travel agency, Lufthansa's general travel agent in Slovakia.
However, Lošonská mentioned one real change that had occurred after Lufthansa's privatization. Lufthansa has entered the Star Alliance which is made up of United Airlines, Air Canada, Varig, SAS, Thai Air and Lufthansa. "Because of this, we can offer our customers an innumerable amount of flight combinations, which was not possible before," she said, explaining that now all six companies accept not only each other's tickets, but also bonuses from other Star Alliance companies.
Considering possible co-operation between Lufthansa with any of the three Slovak airlines (Air Slovakia, Slovak Airlines, Tatra Air), Korbmann said Lufthansa planned to connect Bratislava with other European cities. "However, it's too early to talk about it in real terms," he added.