Lufthansa:  Keen on Developing Yemen Market [Archives:1999/20/Business & Economy]

May 17 1999

Lufthansa – German Airlines, has just installed a new country general manager. He is a person who has over three decades of experience, having served all over the world. Mr. Jurgen Dohne has just been transferred from Cyprus. He replaces Mr. Sadik Elmas, who is headed for Khartoum.
At the same time, the airline is also transferring its regional hub general manager, Mr. Michael Wurche, who was based in Cairo. He is now moving to Lagos, Nigeria, where he will develop the West Africa hub.
On the occasion, Khairiyah Al-Shabibi and Yusuf Sherif of Yemen Times spoke to the Lufthansa officials and filed the following joint interview:
Q: We understand you have asked for more capacity for your airline?
A: Yes, now our planes are going more than 90% full. That means we are refusing some passengers.
Lufthansa now flies ten times a week to Cairo. Of these, three flights continue to Sanaa with A300-600 Airbus planes that have a capacity of 200 seats. About two thirds of these are assigned to our Cairo office, leaving only 200 seats for Sanaa, which is not enough.
Our chairman has agreed to increase our flights to Cairo to 12 flights a week next year. We have a choice to add one flight to Sanaa. In addition, Lufthansa will fly bigger planes the A340-300.
Q: Have you raised this matter with the Yemeni authorities?
A: We will have to discuss this with the national carrier, Yemenia, with whom our relations are excellent because we are both trying to expand the market. While we are competitors, we do engage each other in a fair way. We hope we can arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.
Q: Is the Sanaa runway adequate for the larger plane?
A: I believe this is up to the Civil Aviation of Yemen to decide. The runway may need some minor expansion where the plane makes the turn.
Q: Lufthansa has been privatized. Is it true that it is now making money?
A: World wide, Lufthansa is making money, but return to investors is still very very low. Within the Middle East region,the airline has been losing money over the last ten years. It is only last year that we started to show profits.
Q: Is that due to privatization, and what did it change in the company?
A: I am sure it is the main factor. Privatization means more competitive performance, better savings on expenditures, cutting down on staff, increasing productivity, improving services and decreasing prices.
It is a solution against global competition.
Q: Lufthansa has been building airline partnerships. What is the philosophy behind that?
A: Yes, Lufthansa and a number of first-class airlines have built the ‘Star Alliance’. This gives the passenger the same attention and services wherever he/she is. Together, these airlines serve more than 700 airports worldwide.
Q: How do you assess Lufthansa in Yemen?
A: We are very happy with the cooperation we get from Yemenia and from the Civil Aviation authority. We are going to build further on this cooperation.
Q; But the ticketing agencies and travel offices complain that you are cutting back on their commissions?
A: In the past, the intermediary used to account for almost 20% of the cost of the ticket. As we cut back on expenses and on fares, we feel that this cannot continue. Travel agencies can still collect their 9%, but we have to be competitive. This requires that the passengers get the best fare.
Q: Will you consider flying into Aden?
A: In fact, we are thinking about this. It is still a long shot. We hope we can fly into Aden via Alexandria, Egypt, and onwards to Frankfurt. We will discuss this with Yemenia.
Q: Why hasn’t computerization come to your system here in Yemen?
A: That will come this year. A passenger will even be able to make his/her own reservation.
In addition, Yemen will also be included in the regional website of Lufthansa.
Q: Are there many “Miles and More” members in Yemen?
A: Yes, there are about 400 members and we hope the number will increase in the future.