Fri, 24 Nov 2000

Lufthansa eyes direct services to Jakarta

JAKARTA (JP): Having increased the frequency of its European services to Jakarta at the start of the year, Lufthansa is now looking into the possibility of operating direct services to the Indonesian capital, the vice president for Asia Pacific operations, Manfred Reimer, said on Thursday.

"We're looking forward to the day when we will have a nonstop flight between Indonesia and Europe," Reimer said during a luncheon to introduce Lufthansa's new general manager for Indonesia, Tobias Ernst.

The airline, he said, is monitoring the market situation. "As soon as our analysis shows that it is profitable, we will fly direct (to Jakarta)."

Lufthansa currently operates a daily Boeing 747 flight in and out of Jakarta, with the flights stopping over in Singapore. With its code-sharing agreement with Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa effectively has 10 flights in and out of Jakarta each week.

Reimer took particular pride in the fact that Lufthansa kept its Indonesia operation intact during the economic crisis from 1998 to 1999. The German airline has even switched to the bigger Boeing 747 planes for its flights to Jakarta.

"We firmly believe not only in the potential, but also in the development of Indonesia," he said.

"We are, and we have been, happy with Indonesia. We believe in your country and your people. During the economic crisis, many airlines left Indonesia. We stayed on because `a friend in need is a friend indeed,'" he said.

Its Indonesian service is an important component of Lufthansa's Asia-Pacific operation, which accounts for the second largest source of revenue for the airline after its domestic services.

Lufthansa, however, has no immediate plan to resume flights to Denpasar, Bali, because the route only attracts tourists, who are not sufficient to sustain a profitable operation, he said, adding that any airline service must attract enough business travelers to turn a profit.

Business travelers account for about 60 percent of Lufthansa's Indonesian operation, the company's outgoing general manager for Indonesia, Carlos Heinemann, said.

Reimer said the daily flights to Jakarta were a reflection of the importance of Indonesia to the airline.

Indonesia provides about 5 percent of the airline's total revenue from the Asia Pacific, he said.

This year, the Asia Pacific has outperformed all the other regions where Lufthansa operates, with revenue growth of 26.5 percent in the first half of 2000 compared to the same period the previous year, he said.

"People are still talking about the Asian crisis. (For us) this is a thing of the past," he said.

He admitted, however, that the rapid revenue growth of the Asia-Pacific operation came mostly from a windfall profit resulting from a stronger Japanese yen and positive currency developments.

Japan accounts for 50 percent of the airline's total Asia- Pacific revenue, while India and China follow with about 14 percent each.

Lufthansa's new point man in Jakarta, Ernst, previously served as the company's general manager in Vietnam. His predecessor Heinemann ended his three-year term in Jakarta and is leaving the airline industry to run an e-travel business in Miami, Florida. (emb)