Lufthansa’s new budget carrier Eurowings will take off into a new era next week with the start of long-haul low-cost flights operated by Sun Express.
The winter 2015/16 schedule marks the transformation of Eurowings from a small regional airline into one of the Lufthansa Group’s three divisions as the low-cost flights platform, based on the launch of budget long-haul flights and gradual takeover of Germanwings flights to European destinations. In future, Eurowings should grow into Europe’s third-largest budget airline behind Ryanair and Easyjet under the Lufthansa strategy.
However, Karl-Ulrich Garnadt, head of the Eurowings division, stressed: “We will not take any rash measures.” He added: “2016 will be a learning year for us on long-haul routes.”
The long-haul flights launch on November 2 from Cologne/Bonn airport with a fleet of three planes. There are two A330s, operated by Sun Express, and one B767, operated by TUIfly. From next year, a further five A330s will gradually go into service for the budget carrier. “Initially we will focus on Cologne/Bonn,” Garnadt emphasised. But in the medium term, other departure airports such as Berlin, Düsseldorf or Hamburg could also come into question.
Meanwhile, Sun Express, the Antalya-based joint venture of Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, will experience a growth boom by operating the Eurowings long-haul flights. Overall, the carrier operates 73 jets but only 44 of them under its own brand.
One of its main wet-lease activities is to operate the low-cost Anadolujet flights for Turkish Airlines within Turkey. “Our cost basis is so good that Turkish Airlines contracted us to operate the entire Anadolujet fleet,” said managing director Jaan Albrecht.
The former Star Alliance chief is currently reorganising the German-Turkish carrier “to cope with future growth”. The Sun Express fleet will be expanded with a further 45 B737-800s and six long-haul A330s by 2021. “This year we will only grow about 9%,” he said, after double-digit increases in recent years. This would take the carrier to €1.1 billion revenues and some eight million passengers.
In summer 2016, Sun Express will expand its destinations by 9% to 119 airports in what it describes as “the largest offering in the company’s history”. There will be flights to 24 new destinations in Morocco, Bulgaria, Egypt, Spain, Greece, Croatia, Italy and Tunisia, as well as more flights from Germany to the Canary Islands and various other destinations. In addition, the airline will operate three daily ‘shuttle-style’ flights to Antalya from Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hanover and Cologne.