Lufthansa ups its ground game, fights EasyJet inroads

Competition drives progress. For travelers in Munich that comes in the form of new offerings from Lufthansa to help keep domestic travelers happy as EasyJet enters the market. For the high volume business traveler routes Lufthansa will adjust gate locations, boarding times and security queues to smooth passenger flow and reduce dwell times in the terminal. The new processes apply to flights from Munich to Düsseldorf, Berlin/Tegel, Frankfurt and Hamburg.

EasyJet’s entry to the domestic German market comes on the heels of AirBerlin’s collapse late last year. Previously the competition on routes look more like collusion or maybe a bit like cooperation, with AirBerlin and Lufthansa relatively happy to run their operations without significant price wars. EasyJet is changing that competitive landscape and Lufthansa must respond. Dropping prices is one option, of course, but the company will also pursue other options to improve the passenger experience while trying to hold on to some of the passenger yields.

These are the priority services Lufthansa will offer:

Fast lane thanks to a dedicated access to security checks
For all departures to Düsseldorf, Berlin/Tegel, Frankfurt and Hamburg, passengers at Terminal 2 have access to a dedicated security checkpoint. It is in operation on weekdays during the peak times between 6 and 8:30 a.m. and 4 and 6:30 p.m. and is open to Lufthansa passengers travelling with only one item of hand luggage. The signs pointing to the security checkpoint read “Smart Depart Fast Lane”.

Special departure gates
Get to the plane quickly after the security check: The location of the departure gates has also been optimized. They are at the center of Terminal 2 and are a short walk from the security checkpoint. The arrival gates at the destination airports are also close to the exits.

Shorter boarding times
Passengers travelling to the previously mentioned locations can arrive at the gate later: flights to the specified destinations have shorter boarding times. The times that are stated on the boarding pass apply.

The idea of priority services for business routes is hardly new in the industry. In the United States the “Shuttle” services from Delta Air Lines and US Airways, Business1 from United Airlines and other similar efforts come and go. Whether is it an on-time guarantee (Business1), dedicated security lanes (US Airways) or later boarding access to the planes (Delta) the benefits to passengers are real and generally appreciated. The problem comes with the airline needing to actually deliver the benefits consistently and also seeing consistent benefits from offering such.

Dedicating a handful of gates at Munich doesn’t seem like a big deal but it can reduce flexibility and efficiency for the airport operations. Similarly, dedicated security screening for 5 hours each day isn’t a huge deal except that it reduces the options for other travelers during that time and Munich is busy beyond just that handful of destinations.

EasyJet is taking an aggressive tack in its entry to the domestic German market. Radio ads in Munich are pushing the new Tegel services, for example. The real question is how long Lufthansa will keep the dedicated services running before slipping back to the regular service. Delta recently dropped the “Shuttle” designator on some of its west coast operations, for example, when it found that the costs of the extra amenities were not driving the desired yields.

Also, there’s no doubt that the boarding process could use some improvement. On a Monday morning Munich-Frankfurt flight this week the scrum was rather challenging to navigate. And this was outside the new “priority” times, so it isn’t going to get any better with the new offerings.

Seth Miller has over a decade of experience covering the airline industry. With a strong focus on passenger experience, Seth also has deep knowledge of inflight connectivity and loyalty programs. He is widely respected as an unbiased commentator on the aviation industry. He is frequently consulted on innovations in passenger experience by airlines and technology providers. You can connect with Seth on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .