TAKE-OFF VELOCITY

Turkey 2014 | TRANSPORT & INFRASTRUCTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Stefan Löcherbach, Director of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq of Lufthansa, on its main competitors, the potential of the city as a base for the wider region, and Istanbul's third airport.

Stefan Löcherbach
BIOGRAPHY
Stefan Löcherbach started his career at Lufthansa in 1992. Following his completion of a course in airline administration and a degree in business administration, he started at Lufthansa Cargo in the areas of distribution management, cost management, and in distribution controlling. He then moved to the Lufthansa Passengers Airline division in 1999, and was three years later promoted to head of passenger sales for the Bremen and Hanover areas. In 2005, he was appointed General Manager of Sales and Distribution for the South Western German markets of Baden-Württemberg based out of Stuttgart. From 2007 to July 2009 he was in charge of Sales for Northern Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Saarland. In August 2009, he took over as Director for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain before assuming his current position.

As one of the largest airline companies in the world, what are some of the unique opportunities and challenges you find in the Turkish market?

The Turkish market is booming. There is incoming business that we expect to keep on growing thanks to the government's continued investment in tourism infrastructure, and also due to the fact that Turkey has a wide range of historical sites of interest to visitors, so it offers alternative types of holidays besides the fabulous beach holidays. Turkey is rapidly industrializing, and exports will continue to grow, which means that they will have to send engineers and after-sales services overseas as well. That is another business that we at Lufthansa Turkey are targeting.

Germans were the largest single nationality of tourists coming to Turkey in 2013. How is Lufthansa handling this heavy traffic from Germany to Turkey?

We work closely with German tour operators that are sending tourists over, and on top of that we are also providing additional capacity during the German high season, with additional flights to Antalya in the summer, for example. In 2014, for the first time, we will also have a weekly flight to Bodrum, as this is one of the most rapidly-developing tourist hubs in Turkey. Flights from Munich to Bodrum will begin in June 2014. Also, we fly directly to Ankara and Izmir, which our central European competitors do not do.

Why did you pick Istanbul as your regional headquarters?

Istanbul is becoming more of a hub for the region, which is why it is a great place to be located. That being said, Istanbul is a smaller center for us than our main headquarters in the region in Dubai. However, Istanbul is more convenient geographically, as you can get to almost anywhere from there, and it has a high standard of living, as well as a well-educated and skilled citizenry. Many people also speak German, so I think Istanbul has the potential to become an alternative to Dubai. Turkey is also playing a stronger role in the region, which makes it a good place to be.

What effects will the third airport in Istanbul have on the aviation sector in Turkey?

It should accelerate the development of the aviation sector in Turkey, and also lead to greater growth for domestic Turkish airlines as well. It is definitely needed, and when you plan to build an airport from scratch, you have the chance to connect the airport to the city as efficiently and as beneficially as possible. As an airline, we are of course always looking at the most cost-efficient solutions, and we think this airport can offer a beneficial environment for us, with additional parking options and runway capacity, along with larger terminals.

What is your general outlook on the medium-term future of the Turkish aviation sector?

It is a growing market, with some great new players that are expanding quickly, airlines such as Pegasus and Atlas. This makes it a challenge for airlines like Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa. There is room for all of us to grow, especially considering the new players in the domestic market. We will also see more and more tourists coming to Turkey, and outgoing tourists will increase as national income grows. We want to grow at least on par with market growth. Our number one position among central European airlines will help us in this endeavor.