Today, Lufthansa cancelled 3,800 flights because of a wage dispute with pilots. Usually, I rail against US domestic carriers and their deflated position among passengers. No one seems happy with their preferred carrier, and I use the term preferred with trepidation. After all, it seems to me that no one really likes their airline. They just seem to hate them less than others.
The international carriers like Lufthansa (a domestic carrier in Europe) have taken their hits as well and the strike today just reinforces the airline industry’s lack of understanding. They just don’t seem to realize they are part of the hospitality business as much as they are part of the transportation segment.
The standoff is because of an operational business decision. The Lufthansa strike is about what constitutes fair pay and benefits for pilots. The traveler is not in the mix. We are just collateral damage. Flying around Europe — in and out of the Lufthansa hub in Frankfort – it does not take a genius to see how vital Lufthansa is for business.
However, the ramifications are not about the business of Lufthansa, it is about the business of the Lufthansa brand. And it has very important impact on the airline alliance brands. For those that rely on the airlines for business connections, this is not just an inconvenience. It is a loss of revenue and business success. If you need to get somewhere and can’t, well, it means you can’t conduct business. The 3,800 flights are not a small bleep. On the contrary, they are a major setback.
The Star Alliance will take a major hit tomorrow when US Airways disappears and American Airlines emerges from the merger. This is a huge realignment of airline alliances and makes international flights by Star Alliance members difficult in transatlantic flights. How many travelers will align with a different carrier with both Lufthansa and US Air suddenly unavailable?
Considering that the airlines have been demoted to being noticed only at the time of failure, I can tell you that my golden handcuffs to the Star Alliance are beginning to seem more like anchors.