Lufthansa's High-Flying Ambitions Face EU Turbulence

Abhishek Nayar

18 May 2024

Lufthansa's strategic bid to acquire a 41% stake in ITA Airways, the state-owned successor to Alitalia, is encountering significant turbulence from the European Union's antitrust regulators. The deal, aimed at bolstering Lufthansa's presence in the Italian market, faces potential obstruction unless substantial remedies are offered to mitigate competition concerns.

EU Competition Concerns

Short-Haul Routes and Market Power

The European Commission, wary of reduced competition, has flagged potential issues particularly concerning short-haul routes connecting Italy to other European countries. There is apprehension that the merger could lead to a dominance in these routes, negatively impacting consumer choices and fares.

Additionally, the Commission is concerned about ITA's market power at Milan Linate airport, where the combined entity could exert significant control, potentially stifling competition.

Long-Haul Routes and Joint Ventures

Lufthansa's proposed acquisition also raises alarms about competition on long-haul routes. The fear is that integrating ITA into Lufthansa's existing joint venture with United Airlines and Air Canada could further limit competitive options for passengers traveling to and from Italy.

Remedies on the Table

Short-Haul Route Adjustments

In response to the Commission's concerns, Lufthansa has proposed several remedies. Key among them is maintaining some competing ITA short-haul routes. This move is aimed at ensuring that competition remains robust in crucial markets including Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria.

Interlining Agreements

Lufthansa has also signaled its willingness to enter into interlining agreements with rival airlines. Such agreements facilitate cooperation among airlines on passenger itineraries involving multiple carriers, thereby enhancing connectivity and options for travelers.

Long-Haul Operations Independence

To address long-haul competition concerns, Lufthansa has proposed that ITA remain independent of its joint venture with United Airlines and Air Canada for a period of two years post-acquisition. This measure is intended to prevent the consolidation from reducing competitive dynamics on transatlantic routes.

Airport Slot Concessions

Recognizing the potential dominance at Milan Linate airport, Lufthansa has offered to relinquish 40 airport slots to low-cost carriers easyJet and Volotea. This concession is designed to foster competition by enabling these airlines to expand their operations at the strategically important airport.

The Path Forward

Stakeholder Feedback

The European Commission is currently seeking feedback from various stakeholders, including rival airlines, consumer advocacy groups, travel organizations, and pilot associations. These stakeholders have until May 19 to provide their input on the proposed remedies.

Awaiting the Verdict

With the Commission's decision deadline set for July 4, Lufthansa has a narrow window to enhance its remedies and address the regulators' concerns comprehensively. Failure to do so could result in the deal being blocked, significantly impacting Lufthansa's expansion strategy and the broader trend of consolidation in the European airline industry.

Rome's Stance

Commitment to the Deal

Despite the regulatory hurdles, the Italian government remains committed to the transaction. A senior Italian official has confirmed that Rome is not exploring alternative options and is optimistic about the ongoing EU investigation reaching a favorable conclusion.


Lufthansa's ambition to acquire a significant stake in ITA Airways is a high-stakes maneuver with the potential to reshape the competitive landscape of European aviation. As the clock ticks down to the EU Commission's decision, all eyes are on the proposed remedies and whether they will be sufficient to clear the regulatory runway for this major industry consolidation.

With Inputs from Reuters

Read next

FAA Tightens Reins on United Amid Safety Concerns

Abhishek Nayar

18 May 2024

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced that it has not approved any expansions of United Airlines' routes or fleet and is mandating the presence of FAA personnel during the final inspections of new aircraft intended to replace older models. This statement comes in response to United Airlines' earlier communication to its employees suggesting progress in restarting certification activities for new aircraft and routes.

United Airlines' "Good News" Met with FAA Clarification

On Thursday, United Airlines communicated to its employees that it had received "good news" from the FAA, indicating that the airline could begin the process of restarting its certification activities. This announcement was met with a swift clarification from the FAA, which emphasized that no expansions had been approved and that a comprehensive evaluation of United's safety compliance was still ongoing.

The Catalyst: March Safety Incidents and Increased Oversight

In March, the FAA increased its oversight of United Airlines following a series of safety incidents. This enhanced scrutiny led to a halt in some of United's certification activities as the FAA initiated a formal evaluation under the Certificate Holder Evaluation Program (CHEP). The program aims to ensure that the Chicago-based carrier adheres to all safety regulations, effectively manages risks, and continuously identifies and mitigates hazards.

United's Response and Ongoing Evaluation

In its email to employees, United Airlines expressed optimism about the FAA allowing the company to restart the certification process, attributing this development to the proactive safety measures the airline has implemented. However, the FAA's statement makes it clear that the evaluation process is far from over and that safety will dictate the timeline for its completion.

United Airlines acknowledged the ongoing presence of FAA personnel in its operations, indicating a collaborative approach to resolving the safety concerns raised. The airline also noted the FAA's review of its work processes, manuals, and facilities as part of the ongoing evaluation.

Impact on United's Operations

The increased oversight and halted certifications have had tangible effects on United's operations. Last month, the airline delayed the launch of two new international routes, citing the pause on some certifications by the FAA. This delay underscores the significant impact of regulatory scrutiny on United's expansion plans.

The Road Ahead: Ensuring Compliance and Safety

The FAA's decision to require the presence of its personnel during United's final aircraft inspections highlights the seriousness of the safety concerns and the regulator's commitment to ensuring compliance. United Airlines, for its part, appears committed to addressing these concerns and working closely with the FAA to meet safety standards.

As the evaluation under the CHEP continues, both the FAA and United Airlines are focused on the shared goal of enhancing safety and restoring confidence in the airline's operations. The aviation community and United's customers will be closely watching the developments to see how the airline navigates this challenging period and meets the stringent safety requirements set forth by the FAA.

With Inputs from Reuters

Read next

Who Will Secure Maldivian’s New Aircraft Lease Deal?

Abhishek Nayar

18 May 2024

Island Aviation Services Limited (IASL), operating as Maldivian, is seeking expressions of interest (EOIs) from lessors for an exciting leasing opportunity. The national airline of the Maldives is on the lookout for one Airbus A319-100 or one A320-200 on an operating lease for a three-year term, with a targeted delivery by September 2024. This initiative was recently announced in the Maldives Government Gazette on May 13, 2024.

Key Preferences for Lessors

Engine and Maintenance Requirements

Maldivian has set forth a preference for lessors who can provide replacement or spare engines at no additional cost, aside from maintenance reserves aimed at engine performance restoration and Engine LLP (Life Limited Parts) replacement. This clause is a significant advantage for lessors as it underscores Maldivian’s commitment to maintaining high operational standards while managing costs effectively.

Aircraft Specifications and Condition

The airline’s criteria for the leased aircraft include:

  • A fully equipped galley.
  • Freedom from all major maintenance events from the date of delivery.
  • Delivery with Maldivian’s livery already painted.
  • At least 5,000 cycles remaining on each engine LLP until discard.
  • A seating configuration of at least 180 seats for the A320-200 or 150 seats for the A319-100.

These stringent requirements ensure that Maldivian will be receiving aircraft that are not only operationally efficient but also ready for immediate service, minimizing downtime and operational disruptions.

Eligibility and Submission Requirements

Who Can Apply?

The opportunity is open to a wide range of entities including:

  • Aircraft owners
  • Lessors
  • Airlines
  • Commercial banks
  • Financial institutions
  • Entities managed or wholly owned directly or indirectly by such businesses

However, aircraft brokers and other intermediaries are excluded from participating in this leasing offer.

Detailed Financial and Organizational Data

Prospective lessors are required to provide comprehensive organizational data. This includes audited financial statements for the past two years or, for newly formed businesses, a certified certificate of net worth. Additionally, a detailed package of documents, records, and manuals must be provided prior to delivery, along with specifics regarding the minimum redelivery conditions.

Proposal Submission and Timeline

Electronic Submission

EOIs must be submitted electronically by 1630L (1130Z) on May 29, 2024. The electronic submission ensures a streamlined and efficient process, allowing Maldivian to handle the influx of proposals effectively.

Evaluation and Notification

Maldivian intends to complete its evaluation of the offers promptly and notify the successful applicant by mid-June 2024. This rapid turnaround time highlights the urgency and importance of this acquisition to Maldivian’s operational strategy.


This leasing opportunity represents a strategic move by Maldivian to enhance its fleet and maintain its service quality. By setting clear and high standards for potential lessors, the airline aims to ensure that it partners with entities capable of meeting its operational needs efficiently. As the submission deadline approaches, the aviation industry will be keenly watching to see which lessor secures this coveted deal and helps Maldivian achieve its operational goals.

With Inputs from ch-aviation

Read next

IndiGo Eyes Expansion: In Talks for 100 Regional Aircraft

Abhishek Nayar

18 May 2024

In an ambitious move to bolster its regional connectivity, IndiGo, India's largest low-cost carrier (LCC), is reportedly in advanced discussions to acquire approximately 100 regional aircraft. Sources familiar with the matter disclosed this development to India's Economic Times, highlighting that the airline is currently evaluating offers from three major aircraft manufacturers: ATR - Avions de Transport Régional, Airbus, and Embraer.

Why ATR is the Front-Runner

Leveraging Existing Fleet Synergies

Among the contenders, ATR appears to be the leading candidate. IndiGo already operates a fleet of forty-five ATR72-600s on regional routes within India and has five additional units of the same model on order. The familiarity with ATR aircraft and the established relationship with the manufacturer provide significant operational advantages. Economies of scale could be achieved by expanding the ATR72-600 fleet, resulting in cost savings in maintenance, training, and operations.

Evaluating the Competition: Airbus and Embraer

While ATR is a strong favorite, IndiGo is also considering the Airbus A220 and Embraer E175. Both aircraft types offer modern features and efficiencies that could complement IndiGo's existing fleet. The A220, with its advanced aerodynamics and fuel-efficient engines, and the E175, known for its excellent performance in regional markets, are formidable alternatives that could bring added flexibility and capabilities to IndiGo's operations.

The Potential Order Structure

Split Between Firm Orders and Options

According to the Economic Times report, the proposed acquisition is likely to be split evenly between firm orders and options. This approach would give IndiGo the flexibility to adjust its fleet expansion plans based on market conditions and operational requirements. Such a structure allows the airline to secure advantageous pricing and delivery slots while retaining the ability to scale its fleet as needed.

Strategic Importance for IndiGo

Strengthening Market Leadership

IndiGo's potential acquisition of up to 100 regional aircraft underscores its commitment to maintaining and expanding its market leadership in India. With around a 60% share of the domestic market, IndiGo is strategically positioning itself to capture increased demand for regional air travel, driven by India's economic growth and increasing connectivity needs.

Enhancing Regional Connectivity

The addition of more regional aircraft will enable IndiGo to enhance connectivity between smaller cities and major hubs, fostering economic development and improving access for passengers across the country. This expansion aligns with the Indian government's Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS), which aims to make air travel affordable and widespread.

Awaiting Final Decision

While IndiGo's discussions with ATR, Airbus, and Embraer are in advanced stages, no final decision has been made. The airline is carefully considering its options to ensure the best fit for its operational strategy and growth objectives. The aviation industry eagerly awaits IndiGo's final announcement, which is expected to have significant implications for regional air travel in India.


IndiGo's potential acquisition of up to 100 regional aircraft marks a significant step in its expansion strategy. By potentially increasing its ATR72-600 fleet and exploring options with Airbus and Embraer, the airline aims to reinforce its market dominance and enhance regional connectivity. As the decision looms, industry stakeholders and passengers alike anticipate the positive impact of this major fleet expansion on India's aviation landscape.

With Inputs from ch-aviation

Read next

Can India's Airports Soar Higher? A Promising Outlook for Aviation Stakeholders

Abhishek Nayar

18 May 2024

India's aviation sector is poised for significant growth in the fiscal year 2025, with overall air passenger traffic projected to increase by 8-11% year-over-year, reaching approximately 407-418 million. This forecast, provided by ICRA, highlights a positive trend fueled by a surge in both leisure and business travel, enhanced connectivity to new domestic destinations, and a steady rise in international travel.

In the previous fiscal year, passenger traffic reached 376.4 million, marking a 15% year-over-year increase and surpassing pre-Covid levels by 10%. This substantial growth demonstrates the resilience and recovery of the Indian aviation industry post-pandemic.

Key Drivers of Growth

The anticipated growth in passenger traffic is attributed to several factors:

  • Increase in Leisure and Business Travel: As the economy rebounds, there is a noticeable uptick in both leisure and business travel, contributing to higher passenger volumes.
  • Improved Domestic Connectivity: The introduction of new routes and better connectivity within the country is encouraging more domestic travel.
  • Rising International Travel: The resurgence in international travel is another critical driver, reflecting a broader recovery in global mobility trends.

Comparative Global Performance

Vinay Kumar G, Vice President & Sector Head, Corporate Ratings at ICRA, noted that India's recovery in airport passenger traffic is among the best globally. In 2023, India accounted for 4.2% of global passenger traffic, an improvement from 3.8% in 2019. While global passenger traffic recovered to 96% of pre-Covid levels, India exceeded this benchmark, reaching 106%.

This robust performance is largely due to India's strong economic growth and the addition of new airport routes, positioning the country to outperform global trends in the aviation sector.

Regulatory Improvements and Economic Impact

The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) plays a crucial role in determining tariffs at major airports, setting rates for five-year control periods. Over the past four to five years, the regulatory regime has matured, evidenced by a reduction in implementation delays for tariff orders, now less than 1.5 years for the third control period, down from 3-3.5 years during the first and second periods.

Additionally, progress has been made in addressing long-standing issues such as the cost of equity, return on security deposits, forex losses, and the treatment of real estate income. The gap between proposed and disallowed capex has also narrowed significantly, from 25-30% in the first two control periods to around 10% in the third.

Financial Outlook for Airport Operators

ICRA's analysis suggests that revenues for its sample set of airport operators are likely to grow by 15-17% year-over-year in fiscal 2025. This growth will be driven by sustained improvements in passenger traffic, tariff increases at major airports, and a ramp-up in non-aeronautical revenues.

Vinay Kumar G expressed confidence in the financial health of airport operators, noting that despite higher interest expenses and debt repayments associated with new capital expenditures, profitability margins and debt coverage metrics are expected to remain strong. The credit profiles of airport operators are projected to be robust, supported by healthy accruals and comfortable liquidity.


The Indian aviation sector appears to be on a promising trajectory, with significant growth in passenger traffic and a favorable regulatory environment. As the industry continues to recover and expand, airport operators and aviation stakeholders can look forward to a period of robust performance and financial stability, positioning India as a leading player in the global aviation market.

Read next

Airlines Face Hefty Fines for Tarmac Delays

Abhishek Nayar

17 May 2024

In the intricate dance of air travel, delays are an unwelcome partner. For passengers, time spent on the tarmac can feel like an eternity, prompting frustration and discomfort. To mitigate such experiences, federal laws and regulations exist to ensure that airlines provide adequate measures for passenger welfare during delays. However, recent incidents involving Mexican carrier Volaris Airlines and others highlight persistent challenges in upholding these standards.

Tarmac Troubles: Volaris Airlines Under Scrutiny

The U.S. Transportation Department's announcement of fines up to $300,000 against Volaris Airlines underscores the severity of tarmac delays. With incidents reported in Houston and St. Louis, Volaris faces penalties for breaching the four-hour limit without allowing passengers to deplane. The imposition of fines signals a firm stance by regulators on enforcing consumer protection measures.

Regulatory Response and Industry Accountability

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg's statement emphasizes the government's commitment to safeguarding consumer interests and ensuring airline accountability. Volaris' assertion of terminal saturation as a cause for delays raises questions about operational readiness and contingency planning. The department's intention to impose higher penalties on rule violators underscores the necessity for deterrent measures.

Precedents and Precautions: Lessons Learned from Past Cases

The case of American Airlines, fined a record $4.1 million for tarmac delays attributed to weather events, sheds light on the complexity of operational challenges. Despite representing a minute fraction of total flights, the severity of penalties underscores the importance of adherence to regulations. Similarly, British Airways' penalty for a 2017 incident underscores the enduring consequences of non-compliance.

Industry Response and Commitment to Compliance

In response to regulatory actions, airlines reaffirm their commitment to safety and adherence to regulations. Volaris asserts compliance with applicable laws across its operational jurisdictions, prioritizing passenger safety. However, challenges persist in balancing operational efficiency with regulatory compliance, necessitating continuous refinement of industry practices.

Conclusion: Navigating the Skies of Compliance

As air travel resumes its course amid evolving regulatory landscapes, the imperative for airline accountability remains paramount. Regulatory fines serve as a crucial deterrent against lapses in compliance, reinforcing the centrality of passenger welfare in aviation operations. As airlines navigate the skies, a steadfast commitment to regulatory adherence is essential to ensure safe and seamless journeys for passengers worldwide.

With Inputs from Reuters