Less than three years after its anschluss of Austrian Airlines in September 2009, Lufthansa appears to be gearing up to buy a majority interest in fellow Star Alliance member LOT Polish Airlines. This news comes hot on the heels of a Lufthansa dispute with the Austrian government and a threat by the airline to shut down BMI if the sale of that airline is blocked, which leaves us wondering if the airline is simply losing patience with its European neighbors.
According to our source at Lufthansa, the company’s top executives recently decided that the airline has simply outgrown the German market, and they therefore started searching for additional “fliegensraum.” Our source, wishing to remain anonymous, stated, “Given the geography of East Prussia, excuse me, of Poland, we thought it made a perfect match.” To get employees on board, Lufthansa even set up a new division within its public relations department, and it has since been producing persuasive videos designed to get workers riled up about the growth of “their” airline, which the videos unequivocally label “the best in the world.”
The reaction from LOT workers to the rumors has been largely negative, with many employees expressing concern over the loss of autonomy and pending German influence. “I’ve heard they are already planning to replace our in-flight Kielbasa course with a Bockwurst version,” complained Aleksander Gryzbowski. Other airline responses have varied considerably. British Airways, Air France, KLM and Brussels Airlines have all expressed anxiety about the expansion, though none feel a direct response is yet warranted. In stark contrast, Alitalia fully supports Lufthansa’s move, which it hopes will serve as a model for its own takeover of Ethiopian Airlines in the near future. Swiss Air, already a subsidiary of Lufthansa since 2005, refused to comment.
Across the Atlantic, the biggest American carriers have avoided involvement thus far, dismissing the situation as a “European problem.” Meanwhile, Japanese airline ANA expressed its support for Lufthansa through a press release stating in part: “It is not our place to tell Lufthansa what they can and cannot do. If ANA were to expand aggressively here in Asia, we would not want Lufthansa or the Americans telling us what to do.”
We here at Points Envy believe Lufthansa to be the best airline in Europe, so we wouldn’t necessarily mind seeing it take over a little more of the continent’s traffic. Hell, if the other airlines stay on the sidelines, maybe Lufthansa will even extend its dominance to Africa or the Middle East some day. We’ll just have to wait and see how events unfold.