Lufthansa German Airlines will soon make an offer for cooperation with El Al Israel Airlines, Joachim Steinbach, VP of Sales and Services for the Middle East, Africa, South European and Pakistan regions, told a press conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
"We've had numerous meetings with El Al and are currently in the process of formulating an offer to bring to them," he said. "We feel that there is an opportunity for growth here through cooperation with El Al."
Industry sources allude that this may encompass special prices for El Al on Lufthansa connections out of Frankfurt and Munich; the Israeli carrier flies to both destinations four times a week.
El Al's relationship with Lufthansa took on greater significance with the recent merger of Lufthansa with Swissair. El Al has a co-chair agreement with Swiss International Airlines, its only European partner. Steinbach said El Al will continue its co-chair with Swiss after the merger.
Lufthansa bought Swiss for 310 million Euros this year, and it has since received antitrust approval from each of the different markets in which it operates, including Israel. In outlining an operational timeframe for the merger, Steinbach explained that a decision was taken to first focus on making the benefits of the merger visible to the market, by exchanging benefits on products such as the two airlines' frequent flier programs.
"In January 2006, we will launch a joint marketing campaign and only at a later stage will we consider logistical and organizational changes, which as with everywhere else would apply to Israel," he added.
Lufthansa operates 14 weekly flights between Frankfurt and Tel Aviv, while Swiss flies 14 Tel Aviv - Zurich flights.
"Both routes are operating profitably so there is no need to change anything here," he said. "We do however plan to increase Lufthansa's capacity from April 1, 2006, by operating Boeing 747 airplane on both daily flights to Tel Aviv."
Following a government request in May 2003, that Lufthansa cut its capacity by 30%, a subsequent court decision compromise prevents it from increasing capacity until the end of March next year. Steinbach said that the airline has had no indication that the request will be opposed.
He added however that the airline has no plans to add Munich as a route from Tel Aviv.