Lufthansa owns SWISS International Airlines and is in the process of acquiring most if not all of bmi and has bought a 45 percent stake in Brussels Airlines. And now, the Austrian government holding company that owns 42 percent of Austrian Airlines has agreed to sell its stake to Lufthansa, subject to the successful conclusion of final negotiations. Air France/KLM were also interested in Austrian Airlines but were too late with their bid.
With the purchase of bmi, Lufthansa will gain valuable slots at Heathrow and can fully take advantage of the “open skies” agreement to open up more flights to the United States. Virgin Atlantic has also shown interest in purchasing bmi and some believe that Lufthansa might ultimately sell the airline, but keep the Heathrow slots. See the 60 Seconds interview with Thomas Gesing from Miles & More in this issue, although he was not yet ready to share information about Miles & More and bmi.
Other news from Lufthansa includes the launching of Lufthansa Italia. Lufthansa says, “the new airline blends traditional Lufthansa values, notably reliability and high quality, with Italian flair.” Lufthansa Italia will offer connections from northern Italy (Milan) to major European destinations beginning in Feb. 2, 2009, with service to Barcelona and Paris. Service to Brussels, Budapest, Bucharest and Madrid will be added four weeks later and flights to London (Heathrow) and Lisbon will launch by March 2009 in time for the summer travel season.