Only a few days after Ryanair reported record profits, Air France KLM, Lufthansa and Iberia, are reporting troubled times.
Air France is combining Brit Air, Regional and Airlinair, which serve secondary and even tertiary cities, into a single unit, and says, somewhat opaquely that a leisure arm will be established around discount unit Transavia while Air France’s own short-haul brand will introduce a new no-frills class.
After flying two sectors on Air France in recent days, and vowing to take the not-so-fast but nevertheless superb rail alternative next time, introducing low-frills sounds pretty ominous given the observed standards.
The airline is also requesting a 20% efficiency saving from its unions, to be agreed by the end of June before everyone goes on holiday for two months. (Or so it seems.)
Within in hours of this Lufthansa, which just doesn’t seem to understand that Ryanair is actually more convenient than it is for many EU travellers, announced steep job losses in its management cadres, and Iberia demanded sharp productivity rises from its pilots in particular.
While Europe’s airlines need to make many changes to ensure they navigate the new dangerous economic situation their corporate and leisure customers are in, they use rhetoric that seems peculiarly like that of Qantas and Ansett about the time Virgin Blue and Impulse began to stir things up in 2000.
It’s still deckchairs on the Titanic time on the continent. There will be a major airline sinking or two to come before broad and substantive changes come not just to the European carriers, but Europe.