Aviation

Crash heavy blow to Lufthansa’s image

Simon Morgan - AFP

The deadly crash of a jet belonging to low-cost carrier Germanwings deals a body blow to the image of its parent company Lufthansa, analysts say.

“These are very hard days, undoubtedly one of the hardest days in the history of Lufthansa,” the airline’s finance chief Simone Menne said, after the group held a minute’s silence for all 150 people aboard Germanwings flight 4U 9525, which went down in the French Alps en route from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.

Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr, who only took over at the helm of the company last May, had already described Tuesday’s crash, as a “dark day” for the company.

Staff were still reeling from the shock on Wednesday, with some Germanwings crews saying they were not in a position to fly.

But in addition to the tragic human toll, the accident could have a drastic impact on the company’s strategy, aviation analysts said.

“The crash… means a sharp hit for Lufthansa,” said DZ Bank analyst Dirk Schlamp.

“Lufthansa stands for technical competence and reliability and the crash could lead to a substantial damage to its reputation,” he said.

In the past, Lufthansa has enjoyed an impeccable reputation.

But in recent months, it has suffered bad press as a result of a long-running industrial dispute with its pilots.

Spohr is fighting hard to expand Lufthansa’s low-cost business and an overhaul of the pilots’ costly pension provisions is one of the key factors to the success of his strategy.

But pilots are fighting tooth and nail to hold on to their benefits and have staged more than a dozen walkouts in the past 12 months in an increasingly bitter dispute.

Grounding hundreds of aircraft and stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers, the strikes cost Lufthansa an estimated 232 million euros ($A321 million) last year alone.

And there is still no end to the dispute in sight, even if unions have said they will put it aside for now following the crash.

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