SunExpress: "Lufthansa's biggest strategic project"

The Turkish leisure airline SunExpress and its German subsidiary SunExpress Germany have historically had a fairly low profile, certainly among European air travellers. Nevertheless, their combined total of 7.9 million passengers puts SunExpress in the top 20 European airline groups in 2016, ahead of Brussels Airlines.

Jointly owned by Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa, SunExpress and its German counterpart brought about a consolidated result that fell into loss in 2016 as passenger numbers and revenue both declined. When the observer scratches beneath the surface of the headline figures, a picture of significant strategic change at SunExpress Germany starts to emerge.

The larger Turkish SunExpress has maintained its focus on Turkey-Germany routes, whereas SunExpress Germany has abandoned this country pair. It has instead developed leisure routes from Germany to elsewhere in Europe and in North Africa, in spite of not having an obvious competitive advantage in those markets. Within these new market areas, SunExpress Germany has undergone substantial changes in its route portfolio. Lufthansa wetleases capacity from SunExpress Germany for its Eurowings low cost operation and this may help to make some sense of these outwardly random network changes.

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