FURTHER AWAY: Lufthansa's decision to swap Frankfurt for Munich as its flight destination has business travellers complaining.

Cape Town - German airline Lufthansa, which moved its seasonal Cape Town-from-Frankfurt flights to Munich this year, reports that it is bringing large numbers of mainly German tourists here.

Munich has a large catchment area and the change has made it more convenient for many more people to come here to enjoy our summer during the European winter. But the airline has found demand from Capetonians for flights to Munich disappointingly low although, in spite of our dislike of changing planes in Johannesburg, many of us are catching Lufthansa’s flights to Frankfurt from there with the giant Airbus A380 .

The reason for this is not hard to find. Although more South Africans are being attracted to winter sports – the main reason for them to go to Munich on holiday at this time of year – it is still a minority interest and skiers are just as likely to go to Switzerland or a French resort with Swiss airline Edelweiss or Air France, both of which have seasonal flights here.

But business travellers want to go to Frankfurt – Germany’s main business destination – all year round and it is nearer than Munich to other cultural and tourism destinations.

Lufthansa may also be losing passengers to Condor, the airline specialising in tourism but equally happy to carry a business traveller, which started seasonal flights between Frankfurt and Cape Town for the first time this year after Lufthansa’s switch to Munich.

Lufthansa made the switch because of a new ban on late night take-offs from Frankfurt resulting from complaints about noise from people living near the airport.

Perhaps next year it will find it worthwhile to change back.

Lufthansa’s newest aircraft, a new generation fuel-saving Airbus A321, has been painted in a retro design used for one of its earliest flights after details of the formula for the colour tones were found in the airline’s archives. The crew were dressed in uniforms identical to those of the period for the handover ceremony at the Airbus factory in Hamburg.

The plane will be flown to airports around Europe.

Missed opportunity

SAA might have avoided most of its troubles in recent years if our first ANC government had replaced its worn-out, uneconomic fleet soon after coming to power. It would then almost certainly have had the efficient Lufthansa as a partner influencing the appointment of chief executives and how the airline was run. When the government decided to seek an experienced partner to take 10 percent of the airline, Lufthansa was interested. There was a close association between the two airlines, particularly between SAA Technical – which at the time had a high reputation and was the only one belonging to a foreign airline allowed to carry out D-checks on some Lufthansa aircraft – and its Lufthansa counterpart. But Lufthansa decided against the investment when it realised that SAA’s entire fleet would have to be replaced, with the expense that would entail. Instead, it was Swissair, at the time also a successful airline and, like SAA, with an American managing director, which took a share.

Unfortunately Swissair itself ran into trouble. It had recently appointed a Swiss banker as chief executive, who was determined to make it the dominant airline in Europe and its managing director did not understand the strength of French national pride or the power of European trade unions. They bought control of a medium-sized French airline and unsuccessfully challenged Air France in its home country by trying to win a larger share of its market. It also took a share in Sabena, the overstaffed, loss-making Belgian national airline, and tried to reduce staff numbers.

The result was that Sabena’s unions successfully took it to a Belgian court and prevented any reduction. Realising that this would mean pouring money into a bottomless pit, and unable to rid itself of its commitment to Sabena, Swissair – which had been the pride of the country – chose bankruptcy and only its less prestigious regional operation survived, to develop another, smaller international division. Under the leadership of a former Lufthansa executive it grew again, but not to its former extent, and it is now part of the Lufthansa group.

SAA took advantage of the changed situation to buy back the 10 percent it had sold to Swissair, for less than it had received. - Weekend Argus