Lufthansa picks company veteran Carsten Spohr as new CEO

Head of the carrier’s passenger airline business will take up the post of CEO on May 1st

Lufthansa is battling competition from budget carriers Ryanair and EasyJet as well as Gulf airlines like Emirates, which are expanding rapidly in the market for lucrative long-haul customers. Photograph: Federico Gambarini/EPA

Lufthansa is battling competition from budget carriers Ryanair and EasyJet as well as Gulf airlines like Emirates, which are expanding rapidly in the market for lucrative long-haul customers. Photograph: Federico Gambarini/EPA

Fri, Feb 7, 2014, 12:27

German airline Lufthansa has picked Carsten Spohr to succeed Chief Executive Christoph Franz, naming a company veteran to lead the battle against low-cost carriers and fast-growing Gulf airlines.

Germany’s largest airline has been looking for a new CEO since September, when it was announced that Mr Franz would leave at the end of May to become chairman at Swiss pharmaceuticals company Roche.

It said today that Mr Spohr, who has been head of the carrier’s passenger airline business since 2011, will take up the post of CEO on May 1st.

Like other European legacy carriers, Lufthansa is battling competition from budget carriers Ryanair and EasyJet as well as Gulf airlines like Emirates, which are expanding rapidly in the market for lucrative long-haul customers.

Mr Spohr, from Wanne-Eickel in Germany’s industrial heartland, will be taking over in the middle of the airline’s SCORE restructuring programme, which aims to improve operating profits to €2.3 billion in 2015, compared with €524 million in 2012.

The 47-year-old has had a rocky time in his current position, with passenger airlines taking the biggest hit from a savings programme launched by Franz and therefore drawing the most wrath from workers over job cuts.

The news of his appointment comes as pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit ballots more than 5,000 Lufthansa pilots on whether to go on strike in a pay dispute.

Mr Spohr worked his way up through the ranks to become the CEO of Lufthansa Cargo in 2007. Four years later, he was promoted to the group’s management board to oversee its passenger airline business, taking over from Mr Franz.

“As a Lufthansa man ‘born and bred’, I view the appointment as the new CEO as both an honour and an obligation,” said Mr Spohr, who holds a commercial pilot’s licence to fly Airbus A320-family planes.

He said he was convinced that Lufthansa was on the right track and said he aimed to make Lufthansa “resilient and ready for the future also beyond 2015”.

(Reuters)

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