Eurowings Discover…s a Way to Provide the Complexity Lufthansa Craves

Eurowings, Lufthansa

There is nothing Lufthansa Group loves more than an overly-complex airline plan. This has happened time and time again where Lufthansa invents new sub-brands that grow in all kinds of weird ways only to be shuttered down the line. To the surprise of no-one, the new Eurowings Discover is following in the footsteps of its predecessors. Shall we bet how long it’ll be before it gets scrapped or repurposed?

I wrote about the confusing make-up of Lufthansa Group subsidiaries back in February. The airline had been on a simplification kick. It eliminated SunExpress Deutschland, kicked Brussels out of the Eurowings group of airlines into the regular legacy airline group where it belongs, and shuttered several operating airlines that flew under the Eurowings name. That was all good, but then it decided to start a new airline, Eurowings Discover.

The idea behind Eurowings Discover was to create a long-haul, low-cost operator that would complement Lufthansa itself in Frankfurt and Munich. It was built to be a long-haul airline that would serve leisure markets in a similar way to what Edelweiss does for SWISS. This all seemed rather strange since Eurowings Discover would not be related to Eurowings — the long-lived low-cost operator that covers all the other German cities — despite sharing a similar name. Oh, and Lufthansa had already tried something just like this TWICE in the last few years without success.

The first attempt, codenamed Jump, ended up flying under the Lufthansa brand with A340s operated by lower-cost subsidiary Lufthansa Cityline. This looked like a pure leisure play, and Lufthansa justified doing an end run around labor because Jump would only fly to places with low revenues that needed lower costs to survive. Labor certainly did not like that, and after one of many restructurings, the A340s were retired, and Cityline went back to being a regional carrier.

When Jump was coming out, Eurowings, uh, Don’t Discover? Whatever… Eurowings the First… had gotten into long-haul flying as well. That Eurowings was meant to take over all the non-Frankfurt and Munich long-haul hub flying for Lufthansa as a low-cost operator. It started that way with flights from places like Cologne to Cuban beaches. But then, Lufthansa blurred the lines as usual. In April 2018, it got into Munich with flights to Cancun, Las Vegas, and Mauritius. Then in October 2019, it moved into Frankfurt with flights to Bangkok, Barbados, Las Vegas, Mauritius, and Windhoek. It was actually STILL flying Windhoek until recently when the transition began.

In this transition, we’ll see Eurowings Discover move in with A330s that I assume will probably just be moved over from Eurowings Uno. We now also have an idea of a long-haul plan. There will be 11 A330s by next summer. The current schedule plan is as follows:

  • Frankfurt – Mombasa – Zanzibar 2x weekly begins July 24 (inaugural flight)
  • Frankfurt – Punta Cana 3x weekly and Windhoek 5x weekly begins in August
  • Frankfurt – Las Vegas and Mauritius both 3x weekly begins in October
  • Frankfurt – Bridgetown, Montego Bay, and Varadero each 3x weekly begins in winter 2021
  • Frankfurt – Fort Myers and Panama City (Panama) both 3x weekly begins in March 2022
  • Munich – Cancún, Las Vegas, and Punta Cana each 2x weekly begins in March 2022
  • Frankfurt – Salt Lake City 3x weekly begins in May 2022
  • Frankfurt – Kilimanjaro 2x weekly begins in June 2022

A lot of these routes should look familiar since they’ve been flown by Lufthansa’s previous attempts at a low-cost operation. Again, this looks like an end run around labor just to get lower costs. Third time’s a charm?

But wait, there’s more.

This was going to originally be simply a long-haul play, but guess what? Now it’s also going to have 10 A320s by next summer. And why? Well, apparently it’s for a few reasons that make no sense at all.

First, these airplanes will begin operating for Air Dolomiti under a wet lease this month. The release says this will be done “in order to gradually ramp up operations and ensure a smooth start on long-haul routes.” In November, the A320s get something else to do. They will start flying to the Canary Islands, Egypt, and Morocco — presumably from Frankfurt and/or Munich — under the Discover name.

The question that keeps coming to mind is… why? Why couldn’t Eurowings One do this? For the Air Dolomiti flying, there’s no good reason. For the Canary Islands and all that, it sounds like it comes down to reservations systems, or something like that.

Eurowings the Predecessor is trying oh so hard to be a cool low-cost carrier, so it is using Navitaire and doesn’t really interface well with Lufthansa. If it’s truly isolated flying point-to-point routes that don’t touch Frankfurt and Munich, that doesn’t really matter… except that it does touch Munich from 6 cities and Frankfurt from 1 this summer (it’s Pristina, if you’re curious).

Airline Weekly quotes Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr as saying, “Eurowings Discover is in the Amadeus world [and] fully integrated into our commercial model here in Frankfurt and in Munich, like Edelweiss is in Zurich, and complementing our network.”

So ultimately this is one big distribution play sitting on top of a labor end-run, I guess. It just feels like Lufthansa is trying way too hard here and making justifications that end up creating this cobbled-together monster of an airline before it even starts flying.

17 comments on “Eurowings Discover…s a Way to Provide the Complexity Lufthansa Craves

  1. Is this simply an attempt to try to better compete with Condor? Or at least emulate Condor? Legacy airlines, especially “flag” carriers, keep trying to be all things to all market segments. This is why their attempts to build up ULCC operations keep failing.

    1. Apanelli – I don’t think that’s it, but I guess we’ll see if they build out a package/tourism business the way Condor has done previously. I really think this is just an end run around labor. I just don’t understand why they are structuring it the way they are structuring it.

  2. Cranky,

    1. What happens to just plain old Eurowings?
    2. How is Eurowings Discover different than Condor (which they had one time owned)

    1. Baron – 1) Nothing. It keeps doing what it’s been doing with short-haul flying from non-LH hubs in Germany and maybe Austria, and then I think it decided to go into the UK for some ridiculous reason… you get the point.
      2) That certainly remains to be seen. In a way, it might be like Condor, but we don’t really know yet.

  3. I think looking at this through a “low cost long haul” lens is actually unhelpful. What Lufthansa is trying to do is muscle in on what has historically been Condor’s and TUI’s turf. That business model (leisure, both long and short haul) had existed in Europe for at least 2 decades prior to the low cost concept bursting onto the scene. Both have been flying (successfully) since the 1960s (Condor actually started life as Lufthansa’s leisure arm), and most large European markets have or have had similar carriers. Low cost airlines have moved into that space and somewhat blurred the distinction, especially on short haul, and leisure airlines have taken some features from low cost carriers along the way (for example, most of these airlines originally only sold through travel agents or as part of packages), but the 2 are fundamentally different business models. The Eurowings name is only adding confusion here. You just don’t have anything similar in the US. You never did. Which I think makes it harder for you guys to wrap your head around the concept. The closest I can think of is Allegiant, and they don’t fly long haul. Canadian carriers Air Transat or Sunwing would be a good analogy (or Air Canada Rouge in its early days, although it’s moved away from that model).

    It’s a large and profitable market and an obvious place to grow, so I can see the attraction for Lufthansa. But Lufthansa management is under the illusion that because Edelweiss has worked in Switzerland, they can replicate that success in Germany. The problem with that thinking is that the German market is very different in that, unlike Switzerland, it’s already being served by very strong incumbents who know the market very well and have extremely strong reputation and brand recognition. It’s failed before for a reason, and it’s going to fail again for that exact same reason.

    At least, they seem to have walked back that folly of serving Alaska and the US West Coast. With the Alaska Airlines partnership on top of their long term presence in the market, strong relationship with German travel agents and tour operators, and their brand strength, Condor would have blasted Eurowings Discover into orbit.

  4. Great article but where is the Cranky comment on the upcoming demise of Alitalia? I’m on pins and needles waiting for that.

    1. I know what you mean! Have you read their latest business plan? It’s more outlandish and ridiculous than ever. And they actually PAID consultants to come up with that garbage! LOL

      Brett, will you please indulge? … Please!? We’re due an update, surely. That’s going to be one epic post!

      Well, at least it looks like we already have a worthy successor for worst airline in the world.

      1. This comment in the AP article on ITA launching really hits home what a disaster Alitalia is.
        _______
        ITA, according to its statement, plans to operate a fleet of seven wide-body and 45 narrow-body aircraft at the start and to add 26 more planes later this year. By the end of 2025, ITA aims for a fleet of as many as 105 aircraft. (Alitalia operates 102 aircraft currently).

        ITA said it will start operating this year with some 2,750 to 2,950 employees in its aviation sector, raising the number to 5,550-5,700 by the end of 2025. (Alitalia currently has 10,000+ employees).
        ______

        So essentially Alitalia, among other issues, has been operating with twice the number of employees needed.

        1. They’ve been overstaffed for years, and nobody has managed to get moving on this as the Italian unions are reckless and the politics so poisonous.

          Under this strategic plan, they’re also going to focus on long haul and reduce short haul, which is not profitable. Fair enough. They will rely on LCCs for feed instead. Like who?!
          1. Ryanair? They say they’re willing but their idea of partnership is a one way street where network carriers take all the risk, hence their grand total of 0 partners
          2. Vueling? I don’t see IAG helping out a competitor
          3. Easyjet? They’re nobody in Rome

          And you think long haul without feed is going to work? Coz Virgin Atlantic is sooo profitable.

          Then, of course, there’s the hub situation itself. Rome is too low yielding. Milan would be better, but the split operation makes it a bad hub too. There’s just nowhere that’s good.

          I give it 2 or 3 years and we’re back to square one. I’m sorry but someone should have the courage to pull that plug once and for all.

          1. At least Virgin Atlantic has the Delta relationship – I was looking at flights yesterday to a few different cities in the UK for next year and “DL operated by VA” popped up a lot.

            I suspect @londonfred is right and after a few years they’ll be right back to the ridiculous overstaffing and constant losses. And the EU will continue to let Italy be…creative with the state aid rules and keep them going.

            Lufthansa has a strange penchant for complexity, but the group as a whole was generally profitable before the pandemic. They’re no challenge to Alitalia/ITA for the coveted title of Worst Airline Ever.

    2. John G – I still don’t believe it’s happening! I think they’ll get the old name back, but I’m sure I will write something up on this soon.

  5. Whenever I see the Eurowings livery, I think to myself, “that’s akin to what the [new logo] American livery should have looked like.”

    1. Oliver – I think it will be tied into Star partners to some extent, certainly more so than Eurowings. The idea is to make it a feeder to connect into Lufthansa, so if that’s the case, then it should connect into the network, especially joint venture partners. But ED isn’t even selling its own flights yet. They are all on LH code until sometime soon when they will switch over. I assume that’s when a website will exist.

      1. I flew FCO-FRA yesterday. Air Dolomiti operated by Eurowings Discovery. They said no star alliance benefits because Air Dolomiti isn’t a member.

  6. The term “low cost” and A340 in the same sentence kind of makes me chuckle. And it’s pretty obvious that brand management is not a thing at Lufty.

    I’m curious to know who was doing the back office support with this menagerie of brands? You can’t tell me that they’re setting up their own SOCs, advance schedule planning, line MX, crew scheduling, provisioning, etc.
    If the core LH group is providing support services, as I would suspect , then it only cost efficiencies come on the backs of crew salary/work rules. While hardly insignificant, it’s a simple temporary reprieve until longevity brings them closer to peering with core salaries.

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