Lufthansa commissioners have shown this week that it can pay off not to immediately agree to conditions imposed by the European Commission for state aid in this corona crisis. The German airline succeeded in lowering its demands on Brussels – the boardrooms of large, ailing European companies will therefore have been looking with interest at Lufthansa’s poker game these days.
At the beginning of this week, the Lufthansa board of directors, the German government and the European Commission reached an agreement for support totaling EUR 9 billion. However, the airline’s supervisory board, half of which was made up of employee representatives, did not agree. According to the regulators, the conditions of the European Commission were too unfavorable for the company.
The European Commission reportedly wanted Lufthansa to surrender 72 take-off and land rights at its major hubs Frankfurt and Munich, to give competitors more opportunity. According to the German newspaper Handelsblatt that would have cost Lufthansa 1.2 billion euros in turnover. And while regulators also recognized that the state injection was the only option for Lufthansa to survive, they dared to say no.
And with success, it now appears. After negotiations between the German government and the European Commission, the conditions have been adjusted, after which the Lufthansa board announced in a press release on Saturday morning that they accept them. “The scope of the European Commission’s conditions has decreased compared to the first indications,” the airline underlines. Lufthansa is now writing to agree that it should transfer not 72 but only 24 slots at Frankfurt and Munich airports over the next three years. These slots are also subject to difficult conditions for competitors.
It has been stipulated that these slots can go to one European competitor, which is not yet flying at the two airports. Only if there is no interest in this after a year and a half, the current competitors of Lufthansa at those airports, such as Ryanair, can claim the slots – of which only a year and a half remain. Another serious limiting condition: the society that wants to have rights must not have received state aid itself.
Lufthansa Commissioners will meet on Monday to consider the compromise that has now been reached. If they give the green light, the shareholders have yet to give their approval. There is an urgent need: Lufthansa only transports a hundredth of the normal number of passengers due to the corona crisis and the company has been losing 1 million euros per hour for weeks.