“The recovery is in full swing and I’m happy to say that Canada continues to be a success story for the Lufthansa Group,” said Brendan Shashoua, the Lufthansa Group’s new director of sales for Canada, speaking to media, virtually, on Thursday (Oct 7).
Reviewing the company’s investment in the Canadian market, Shashoua, who has replaced the recently-retired Hans DeHaan, noted how Lufthansa Group carriers (Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian Airlines) are now operating 34 flights from Canada to Europe.
This includes the recent reintroduction of Austrian Airlines’ Montreal-Vienna route with three weekly frequencies.
A key aspect of Lufthansa’s recovery, Shashoua said, was the Canadian government’s decision to begin allowing fully vaccinated foreign travellers, a policy that began on Sept. 7.
“There’s been a lot of demand to visit families abroad,” he said. “That was done extensively during the summer.”
Rebuilding the network
This winter, 28 flights between Canada and Europe will operate, “which is over three-quarters” compared to 2019.
“It shows the commitment of Lufthansa Group to the Canadian market,” Shashoua said.
Daily flights from Toronto to Vancouver to Frankfurt – both on A350-900 aircrafts – will operate and, as well, there will be 11 frequencies out of Montreal to Zurich and Vienna.
And good news for Western Canada – the group’s Vancouver-Munich route will operate year-round with three weekly frequencies, adding to a total of 10 weekly flights from YVR to Germany.
“This was on the wish list of our customers for a long time,” Shashoua said.
Into 2022, Eurowings Discover will launch in Calgary and Halifax, connecting to Frankfurt, as well as Swiss operated by Edelweiss will return to Vancouver and Calgary in the summer months.
Toronto, notably, will be the first destination to operate Lufthansa’s new Boeing 787-900 aircraft.
“Confidence” is the word
Frank Naeve, Lufthansa Group’s vice-president of passenger airline sales for the Americas, touched on how it’s been “quite a rollercoaster” for the travel industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The most important term that can be used is confidence,” Naeve said. “Confidence in being able to travel and we’ve seen that return.”
The “availability of information,” such as transparent details about travel restrictions, is one major aspect of creating confidence, he said.
Leisure travel is driving business and, in Canada, there will be a total 237 weekly frequencies to 20 destinations, which is a “reflection of the rebound in demand.”
Naeve highlighted the group’s longstanding partnership with Air Canada, which creates “more choice, more connections” for Canadians.
The company is also keeping a close eye on how corporate demand is developing.
“We do see an uptick in various markets,” Naeve said. “We are convinced that businesses need to meet [and] that personal interaction is very important.”
“The signals we get is that this will continue to ramp up as we get into next year.”
The group is also committed to IATA’s targets to reduce net emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, and net zero by 2050.
Checking for proof of vaccination
When asked about Canada making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all air and train travellers (a rule that kicks in Oct. 30), Shashoua said “it doesn’t make much of a difference” for the Lufthansa Group given that Canada, in global markets, currently only accepts vaccinated travellers.
“We will obviously follow the rules,” he said.
As for how the Lufthansa Group will check for proof of vaccination at its gates, Naeve said that digital solutions are still being discussed.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on Wednesday (Oct. 6), said his government is working with Canadian carriers to integrate a “digital code” into boarding passes that will show proof of vaccination.
The Lufthansa Group already offers a service that allows passengers to upload their travel docs, which can be pre-checked, allowing for a quicker airport process.
The IATA Travel Pass is another initiative that digitizes health and travel documents.
“I don’t think we have seen all the solutions so far,” Naeve said, calling the issue an “evolving topic.”
Proof of vaccination, for now, will be checked manually by check-in staff – “who have all done a fantastic job” over the last few months, Naeve said.
“Until we have very secure solutions, I think that will continue to be the main approach,” he said.