Chatting with Star Alliance Members ANA and Lufthansa

Last Updated Aug 1, 2008 10:39 AM EDT

Part of the fun of going to NBTA was that I had the chance to sit and chat with PR teams from several different airlines. Both ANA and Lufthansa contacted me before the show, so I went over to the Star Alliance area and spent a fair amount of time speaking with them both. Neither of them seem to have big plans for the USA at the moment.

First up was ANA. I spoke with Gary Weiss, Director of Market Development, and spokesperson Damion Martin. I think they were both a bit surprised that my first question involved something that doesn't even touch the US market. I wanted to know more about their experiment with ANA Business Jet, an all-business class venture currently flying between Tokyo/Narita and Bombay. They're using this as a way to build up routes that might support mainline service eventually.

Of course, my next question was regarding where we might see this service next. Would it be possible that we'd see a 767 configured in all-business class for flights to the US? Probably not, I'm told. They're certainly keeping an eye on Singapore's efforts to do all-business class between Singapore and the US, and that might open up some opportunities for them. But the 767 likely wouldn't be the plane to do it.

ANA is the launch customer for the 787, and they've got quite a few on order. Though they said that North America is a small part of their 787 plan, it certainly is within range of the aircraft. Right now, we shouldn't expect to see much from them over here. They've publicly batted around the idea of a 2nd daily flight to New York, but that's about it.

More important for them is the impending expansion of the Tokyo airports. With that, they think the 787 could be very big for them in Asia.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa is also not going big in the US market right now. I asked about their all-business class product from Privatair. At some points in the past, I believe they've had as many as three flights a day between Germany and the US. Now, service to Chicago has ended and there is only a flight from Frankfurt to Newark. What happened?

Well, they've always opted to use this service the same way ANA has; they want to build up demand on a route with a small plane and then eventually convert it to mainline service. So their inaugural route, for example, of Dusseldorf to Newark is now flown with an A340. Instead of looking to pioneer more routes in the US, Lufthansa appears to have found better opportunities toward the East. There are now flights from Frankfurt to Pune in India and from Munich to Dubai.

At least these two foreign airlines are playing a "wait-and-see" game in the US market right now. With the possible exception of airlines like Emirates, it seems we shouldn't expect to see much international growth around here for the near future.