Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines Prep For Closer Cooperation - Business Travel News

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Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines Prep For Closer Cooperation

November 07, 2012 - 12:30 PM ET

By Amon Cohen

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told his ruling party that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to establish "joint management" of Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines. What that phrase means has not yet been specified, but an article in Tuesday's Financial Times Deutschland, which quoted highly placed sources at Lufthansa, claimed it would involve cross-shareholdings plus joint ventures on selected routes—but not a merger.

While Lufthansa remains Europe's—and the world's—largest carrier in terms of international passengers, Turkish Airlines is one of the fastest-growing. According to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, the Istanbul-based airline's passenger traffic and seat capacity both have grown 40 percent during the past two years. This success partly reflects a fast-growing domestic economy in Turkey and also demonstrates how Turkish Airlines, similar to Gulf carriers, is tapping into the market for a connecting hub for passengers flying between Europe, Africa and Asia. CAPA figures show that Turkish Airlines operates more direct flights between Europe and Asia than any carrier with the exception of Lufthansa.

Turkish Airlines now is the eighth largest carrier in the world for international flights and 19th overall, according to CAPA, placing it ahead of Qatar Airways and Etihad and behind Emirates. Qatar Airways recently announced it will join the Oneworld alliance, whose members include British Airways. Etihad announced codeshare agreements with Air France/KLM and Airberlin. Aviation analysts said Lufthansa's lack of a strong partner in or near the Middle East had left it strategically weakened.

Turkish Airlines is 49 percent owned by the Turkish government. Like Lufthansa, it is a member of the Star Alliance.

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