FRANKFURT — Deutsche Lufthansa AG will offer rock-bottom airfares to Thailand when it launches its low-cost, long-haul carrier Eurowings in October.
Lufthansa, Europe's second-largest airline initially will serve Bangkok and Phuket, along with Dubai, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, offering steeply discounted promotional fares to begin. Fares from Germany to Thailand will start at 199.99 euros (7,159 baht) while Dubai fares begin at 99.99 euros (3,580 baht).
The company introduced the super-low fares to sharpen competition with Persian Gulf carriers that have been crowding it out of routes, said Karl Ulrich Garnadt, head of Lufthansa's passenger business, said at a presentation in Berlin Wednesday.
"We are not presumptuous to think that we could challenge Emirates with two weekly flights to Dubai given the massive capacity they have," Mr Garnadt said in an interview. "This is not a provocation, I believe Emirates won't even notice this."
Starting a low-priced offering to Dubai, the most popular long-haul destination from both Frankfurt and Munich, Lufthansa's main German hubs, is a shift of strategy. Lufthansa had been pulling out of routes that faced too much competition, deciding in October to end service to Abu Dhabi after Etihad Airways increased capacity to the city through Air Berlin Plc, its minority-owned German partner.
Eurowings' long-haul service will start with two Airbus Group NV A330-200 planes seating 310 from October from Cologne airport and that fleet will eventually grow to seven, Mr Garnadt said. It will copy the price model introduced by the Lufthansa's Germanwings unit with a "basic, smart and best" fare.
"In the longer run, seven aircraft surely are not the optimum size for such an operation," Mr Garnadt said, adding that increasing the size of the fleet further would require economic proof that the concept works.
Eurowings aims to be profitable by 2017 at the latest, and the goal might be achievable next year, Mr Garnadt said. The aircraft will be leased by General Electric Co's GE Capital Aviation Services, he said.
At 620 seats per week, Eurowings's offering to Dubai is less than a tenth of the capacity Emirates offers between Munich and that destination, flying 1,036 seats per day.