IATA: Lufthansa keeps options open on Gulf carrier tie-up

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Lufthansa has been evaluating whether to partner with one of the Gulf airlines, and chief executive Christoph Franz has left the door open to a possible future tie-up.

As Europe's network carriers jostle for position in the changing world order, the German carrier now stands alone as the one without any ties to the "big three" Gulf carriers. Air France-KLM has signed a commercial partnership with Etihad Airways, while Oneworld-bound Qatar Airways will partner with British Airways/Iberia parent International Airlines Group when it joins the alliance later this year. Lufthansa currently has no link with any of the Gulf carriers on the airline side of its business.

"We are carefully observing how the world is moving forward and share the view that the old perception that the Gulf carriers developing their network exclusively on their own is modifying," Franz tells Airline Business Daily.

"When it comes to an airline-to-airline relationship, we are not pushed into some kind of commercial relationship at this moment. Maybe this is changing in the future and it would not be wise for Lufthansa to say 'not now and never in the future'," he adds.

In light of the Etihad/Air France-KLM and Qatar/Oneworld developments that occurred late last year, Lufthansa "had a calm look" at its own position with regard to the Gulf players, says Franz. "We did not feel we had to act immediately," he says, adding that the airline is constantly reviewing its position.

Franz is guarded about the prospects of it forging a wider relationship with its Star partner, Turkish Airlines, as a way of competing with the Gulf carriers. Last year, during a visit to Germany, the Turkish prime minister spoke of his vision to bring both carriers closer together.

"We have special bilateral relationships and we are always thinking about additional ideas for commercial co-operation," Franz says. "I don't want to raise any kind of expectations."