Lufthansa CEO: Only the Wealthy Should Fly

Lufthansa’s CEO is attacking low cost carriers easyJet and Ryanair, calling the cheapest flights they offer “economically, ecologically, and politically irresponsible.”

The German flag carrier of course matches low fares in the market and is resructuring its own low cost Eurowings. They would prefer if governments banned low fares so they themselves could charge customers more than they do today.

Towards this end he argues that the small-d democratization of air travel, making the world more accessible to more people through lower fares, is bad for the environment. He doesn’t want to ban air travel, he runs an airline. He just doesn’t want low fare air travel.

As One Mile at a Time points out European low cost carriers operate more fuel efficient fleets than Lufthansa does. Increasing fuel efficiency, which is made possible by growth and economies of scale, reduces emissions.

Meanwhile business and first class passengers take up more space on an aircraft than the same number of economy passengers, so Lufthansa’s premium-heavy approach entails more emissions per person.

We’re probably barking up the wrong environmental tree focusing on air travel anyway since streaming online porn “generates as much CO2 per year as is emitted by countries such as Belgium, Bangladesh and Nigeria.” (HT: Marginal Revolution)

In the U.S. the Civil Aeronautics Board used to determine where each airline could fly and what prices they could charge. Airline deregulation didn’t really ‘deregulate’ the airline industry (it remains one of the most heavily regulated industries in the U.S.) it meant the end of the government preventing ‘ruinous competiton’. U.S. airline regulation was designed to protect airline profits, not consumers.

It was only the end of this approach that made travel more affordable and more accessible. Airlines, however, prefer to be protected from competition by government regulation.

Meanwhile in terms of whether the fares being offered by easyJet and Ryanair are economically responsible, European low cost carriers have been more profitable than legacy airlines have been.

(HT: One Mile at a Time)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary — LOL. I couldn’t agree more. If only the wealthy flew, we could end over-tourism, and airlines could eliminate coach and just have business and first. The world would be such a better place.

  2. Travel and leisure for me but not for thee…the true feelings of elitist socialists is finally coming out.

  3. What a clickbait, mischaracterized headline. Come on, Gary, you are better than that.

  4. The head of Lufthansa is an “elitist socialist”??? Or did you mean the author of the previous tongue-in-cheek comment? I think you need to go back to watching Fox News and lighten up.

  5. Poor people should take buses instead of flying. Those pesky unwashed masses.

  6. European conservative classism reveals itself yet again. “Let them eat cake.”

  7. Everytime I fly Lufthansa, I don’t see “wealthy” up front.

    I see sad middle aged men in suits flying for work to make money for their corporate bosses.

  8. Gary,

    Can you please substantiate with proof that airlines “it remains one of the most heavily regulated industries in the U.S.”? How so?

    Is the airline industry more regulated than the food industry? Than the nuclear industry? Than the medical industry? Than the auto industry? Than any industry that sells things for babies? And so on.

    I think airlines are very lightly regulated in comparison to the industries above; while all of them have to pay damages if they don’t deliver to consumers, airlines don’t (consumers pay for the impact of delay and cancellations).

    In addition airlines are so lightly regulated in the U.S. that the regulators have been extremely reluctant to stop them from flying killing machines (737 MAX) in front of all the evidence. So much for being heavily regulated.

    Please do your job and only publish statements that are supported by evidence, not parroting those that are made up.

  9. @Jake while most consumer products are regulated at the federal level only by the Federal Trade Commission, airlines have their own regulatory agency. There are significantly more consumer protections buying airfare than most anything else, from rules around how prices are presented to how refunds must be administered and compensation for failure to deliver services. Much of the product is directly managed by government. Nearly all US airports are government owned. Airport security specs are provided by government and in most cases carried out by government. Airlines lose control over their multibillion dollar aircraft investment from the moment planes push back to the moment they arrive at their destination, because the US – unlike most of the developed world – has government performing the ATO function. It can take years to certify small changes to their product.

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