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BERLIN, March 4 (Reuters) - Lufthansa said it will start long-haul low-cost flights to tourist destinations in places such as Cuba and Thailand under the Eurowings banner from Oct. 25, as it tries to find new ways to grow.
Lufthansa has lost market share in European short-haul travel to budget carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet and wants to attract more leisure travellers on long-haul routes.
“Markets have changed significantly in the last few years, we’re seeing much more competitive pressure,” Karl Ulrich Garnadt, head of the group’s main passenger airline division said on Wednesday at the ITB travel fair in Berlin.
“Eurowings is one of the ways Lufthansa wants to achieve growth in the future,” he said of the small regional carrier.
Lufthansa’s current budget brand, Germanwings, will be brought under the Eurowings banner from October.
Costs at Eurowings are around 40 percent below that of the main Lufthansa brand, and it should be possible to make a profit within 12 to 24 months, Garnadt said. Eurowings will have seven A330s operating on long-haul routes by 2017 and this will be expanded if successful, Garnadt said.
Eurowings will fly only to tourist destinations such as Varadero in Cuba, Bangkok and Phuket to begin with, but Garnadt said the group also saw opportunities for it to operate flights on its regular network in the future.
One-way tickets to Dubai start from 99.99 euros ($111) for a limited time, with the starting price increasing to around 149 euros after that.
The new Eurowings long-haul flights will not offer a business class, but a three-tier ticket pricing system, with the most expensive including lounge access and miles and seats equivalent to those of the Lufthansa Premium Economy. The cheapest tickets include only hand luggage, a 30 inch seat pitch, while meals can be booked for extra.
The Eurowings long-haul flights will be operated by SunExpress Germany, a joint venture between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines. (Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Thomas Atkins and Elaine Hardcastle)