Lufthansa is reporting strong growth in passenger traffic on its routes to Russia/CIS in the first half of 2000 and says the business outlook for the rest of the year looks strong.
In the six months from January to June inclusive, the airline flew 190,000 passengers between Germany and Russia and 290,000 between Germany and the CIS countries, up 13% and 11% respectively from the same period last year. Load factors also rose, by 6.3 points and 6 points respectively.
Lufthansa Aviation Group regional director Ulrich Rueger says these figures are comparable to its results in 1998, before Russia's economic crisis and one of Lufthansa's most commercially successful years for Russia and CIS operations.
He adds: "This is another proof that the strategy we chose in August 1998, when the rouble devaluation caused a slump in air travel, was the right one. We kept our flight schedule and route network intact, being absolutely confident of long-term prospects on this market. This year there has been a moderate rise in passenger demand in Russia, and we hope it will continue to improve."
Lufthansa currently operates 13 routes to Russia and the CIS. With 106 weekly flights to CIS destinations, it offers the biggest capacity to the CIS of any foreign carrier.
The airline's executive vice president of sales, Thierry Antinori, says the airline intends to maintain its leading position and is particularly seeking to beef up operations in Russia.
"Our regional strategy is based on developing partnership with Russian carriers," says Antinori. "This allows us to build an efficient feeder organisation and increase cabin factors on Russian routes."
To date, Lufthansa has signed deals to sell tickets for the domestic flights operated by Aeroflot, Transaero, Pulkovo, Sibir and Samara Airlines and is now in advanced negotiations over a similar agreement with the Ufa-based regional carrier Bashkir Airlines. Lufthansa is also considering launching scheduled services between Ufa and Germany.