Belgium's Brussels Airport stated (09-Oct-2012) it expects passenger growth in the next few months to be affected by the suspension of Jet Airways' daily services to New York JFK and Chennai, and by American Airlines' decision to cease daily service to New York JFK while Brussels Airlines’ plan to rationalise its European network will likewise impact traffic results. The airport reported a 0.1% year-on-year decline in passenger numbers to 1.9 million in Sep-2012. The airport notes the European low-cost and leisure segments continued to grow while in the long-haul segment, Brussels Airlines also recorded strong growth. [more - original PR]
Brussels Airport expects impact from Jet Airways and American's service suspensions
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Lufthansa to complete takeover of Brussels Airlines for possible integration into Eurowings
Lufthansa's supervisory board has approved the exercise of its call option to buy the remaining 55% of SN Airholding, the parent company of Brussels Airlines. Lufthansa acquired 45% of the company in 2009 and negotiated the option to buy the balance of the shares for no more than EUR250 million. The deal is expected to close in early 2017, once the details of the purchase have been agreed with the other SN Airholding shareholders.
Lufthansa and Brussels Airlines have an extensive codeshare agreement and are partners in the Star Alliance. Their existing relationship is such that Brussels Airlines already feels like a member of the Lufthansa Group. The main draw for Lufthansa has always been its Belgian partner's extensive African network (it is the number two airline on Western Europe-Central/Western Africa).
However, it now seems that Lufthansa will, at least partly, integrate Brussels Airlines into its Eurowings low cost brand. Lufthansa is keen to accelerate Eurowings' expansion through partners (and is also to wet-lease up to 35 aircraft from airberlin). Brussels Airlines' fleet and single-class configuration on short/medium haul should fit with Eurowings, but its unit cost and network airline business model are not characteristic of an LCC.
Lufthansa folds Brussels Airlines into Eurowings, keeping dual brands. LH has many balls in the air
On 15-Dec-2016 Lufthansa’s Executive Board formally decided to exercise its call option for the 55% of shares it does not already own in the parent company of Brussels Airlines. The deal will close by the beginning of Jan-2017. It had been expected that Lufthansa would fold Brussels Airlines, at least partly, into its Eurowings low cost brand. Lufthansa has now confirmed that the new acquisition will join Eurowings and be fully integrated into the Group as of 2018.
Nevertheless, there are clear differences between Brussels Airlines' business model and that of Eurowings. Brussels Airlines is a network airline (and a Star Alliance member), while Eurowings is primarily a point-to-point airline. Furthermore, Brussels Airlines is not low cost in CASK terms, although, ominously, its unit cost is below Eurowings'.
Strangely, and perhaps tellingly, Brussels Airlines will retain its brand while adding that of Eurowings. This hints at the tension between Lufthansa's urge to expand Eurowings rapidly to compete with LCCs and the necessity to work out exactly how Brussels Airlines can fit into its low cost operation. Perhaps the delay between completion of the Brussels Airlines acquisition and its integration into Eurowings will give time for further refinements to the model. In short, Lufthansa has a lot of balls in the air. Where they will fall will be critical to its future.