Lufthansa is in the process of shifting all non-hub European traffic to their former low-cost subsidiary Germanwings. On a recent business trip to London, I've been checking them out. This is not just a trip report, but I'll try to dig into the details here.
What's going on
Lufthansa's European traffic has been loss-making for several years, as low-cost carriers like Ryanair, Easyjet and the like have been invading the market. Lufthansa has responded by founding Germanwings, a low-cost subsidiary based out of CGN, in addition to their own mainline flights throughout Germany and Europe.
While Germanwings is quite popular and was somewhat profitable until 2009, Lufthansa's own domestic and European traffic turned in huge losses. Lufthansa's recently elected board has thus decided to gradually hand over all non-hub shorthaul traffic to a revamped Germanwings subsidiary to benefit from a lower cost structure.
Branding and livery
As liquidFOLDERS's CEO, I take responsibility for the branding of Flightmap and all other products, so I'd like to go into great detail here. In my opinion, the old Germanwings branding and livery was cheap, and screaming in one's face—which is not neccessarily a bad thing for a low-cost carrier. A re-branding was overdue, though.
A new corporate design for Germanwings is surely a challenge: it has to resemble the old Germanwings brand to kind of take existing customers by the hand. On the other side, with most of Lufthansa's European traffic turned over, the design has to be much more in line with Lufthansa's brand.
Let's dive into it: I really like the abstract design of ads and images, with a sleek and very modern touch and lots of light grays. I was already fond of this style when Swiss employed it, and I think Lufthansa did a great job to pick up on this!
Next, the stylized W with overlapping colors is a great feat! I've always liked TAP Portugal's livery with the overlapping TAP letters on the tail fin, and the Wáresembles just that. The shape is very sleek and modern looking—again, great job Lufthansa!
The new livery with the light gray aircraft belly does a great job to discreetly resemble Lufthansa's mainline livery, along with the gray “Lufthansa Group” line on the side. The W is placed exactly right on the tailfin and looks great! However, I do not like the rasberry red. Sure, it was the old Germanwings color, but in my opinion the typical Germanwings customer (price-aware travellers, backpackers, families on their way to mediterranean holiday resorts) couldn't care less about the color of their plane. On the other hand, Lufthansa's customers are not only brand-loyal, but also get Germanwings shoved down their throat on all non-hub European flights. The rasberry red should definitely be exchanged for Lufthansa blue in the future for that reason.
Outbound flight CGN-LHR
I was eager to try the new Germanwings, and booked a roundtrip for a business trip to LHR. Germanwings tickets are booked in one of three services classes: Basic, Smart and Best. The Basic fare offers only basic transportation without checked bags, drinks, snacks or any other amenities. The Best fare is supposed to be similar to former Business Class, including flexible booking and Ó la carte dining. I was unaware of my booked service class, as I purchased a Miles & More award flight online. It turned out the award flight was booked as Basic fare, with one checked bag included.
Checkin at CGN was quick and efficient (I could still select a window seat three hours prior to departure), with no queues whatsoever. After grabbing lunch, I've made my way through security. Boarding was quick and efficient. I am a fairly large guy, but the seat pitch at the rear of the aircraft was sufficient—albeit barely. Takeoff was smooth, with a great view over the Rhine river on climbing out of CGN.
An absolute bummer, however, was inflight service. I was told onboard that I was booked ináBasic fare (I didn't book through the Germanwings website, but Miles & More), and several other passangers were also complaining—some very vocal. Even if a snack was included, the cheese sandwhich the gentleman next to me purchased looked pathetic, with 2 slices of dry bread and a slice of cheese stuffed between them: no lettuce, tomatoe or anything else on it, or in the “snack box”. This is not cost-cutting, this is outright cheap, not worthy of a carrier like Lufthansa, and will damage the reputation of the main brand in the long run. I will definately avoid Germanwings like the plague on future flights, because I do not want to support cost-cutting on the backs of passangers and crew alike, who earn less now.
Inbound flight LHR-CGN
As I knew what to expect, I had a really great salmon steak at LHR before departure. On taxiing out, we crossed one of Ethiopian's B787 (a fire would break out in its sister ship just a day later), and Qantas' A380 (LHR is their only European destination now). The flight was uneventful, with me politely declining any meal options. Again, quite a few passangers were complaining because the “innovative service concept”, which is not so much innovative, but outright cheap. The cabin crew was very friendly on both flights, though.