Q&A: Johannesburg takes to the sky

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What’s significant about Johannesburg becoming the third A380 destination?

The image of Johannesburg has changed dramatically. I was very proud last year, when I watched the World Cup, which, I think, did a lot of positive things for the country. South Africa has a fantastic image in Germany and the rest of the world. It also fits into the route system. It has the right distance and the right market growth and size, to send an aircraft like this. It’s the perfect mix, I would say. Johannesburg, as a city, a lot of lifestyle and business travel. So, the two go together nicely. Further to that, the market in Johannesburg participates in the most modern developments we have to offer, as a company. It makes us very proud and we’re obviously sending more capacity into the South African market. If you compare it with the capacity of a 747, which we had before, it’s a difference of roughly 200 seats and this shows confidence in the market place.

So, is it mainly a capacity issue?

Absolutely, but it’s also the next generation of modernisation of the way you travel. The market has seen about 15 years of 747 services, but now, given the competitive environment, we have positioned ourselves at the very front line of our industry. We get the sense that it’s really appreciated by the market and we’ve seen it with both business and leisure travellers.

Is market research a big part of the Lufthansa approach?

Definitely. It’s one of our unique selling points, particularly in terms of the business or corporate market. We have to listen to trends and how purchasing decisions are made – that’s very important for us. Also, what kind of network is needed, what kind of connectivity, what customers need and want in terms of loyalty programmes. Also, the leisure traveller is very important for us. If you look at this new First Class cabin, it’s very quiet and sound-insulated, with sound-absorbing curtains and special carpeting that blocks footstep noise, it has a higher air humidification level than before and these are just examples of the research conducted in close contact with customer advisory boards. This, in turn, informs product development.

What are the current talking points in business travel?

It’s safety, first and then value for money, which we have to offer. The world has gone through a financial crisis and there are new competitors in the market, offering low-cost fares in Europe, for example. Also, convenience and customer loyalty programmes, where customers become more than just paying customers, but rather, part of the greater Lufthansa community or family.

What’s the Lufthansa approach to the rest of Africa, in terms of business travel?

We have a motto or slogan, developed over the last two, three years, in our organisation, which is ‘all eyes on Africa’. So, don’t underestimate Africa. There’s a lot of growth potential, a lot of new players coming into the market, like Ethiopian Airlines. It’s very competitive and you need to do your homework. Our plan is to take our fair share of the African market and to offer the best products we have in our portfolio, to that market.

What is unique about business travel in Africa?

The biggest issue on the African continent is internal travel. It’s not a big issue travelling internationally, but travelling internally, there are concerns about infrastructure, safety, reliable airlines etc. People often have to be re-routed or take detours and this is one of the biggest challenges.