Lufthansa Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Flagship air carrier of Germany, and one of the largest airlines in Europe and the world.

Corporate Structure

Lufthansa is a major German airline headquartered in Frankfurt. It was organized in Cologne on January 6, 1953, as a joint venture of the federal government of Germany, the German National Railway, and the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen. Later, the airline accepted private investors. It was successor to Deutsche Luft Hansa, or DLH, founded on January 6, 1926, which suspended service at war’s end in 1945 and was formally liquidated in 1951. The new airline, initially called Aktiengesellschaft für Luftverkehrsbedarf or Luftag, adopted the old name, slightly respelled, in 1954; but whereas the old company had been familiarly called DLH, the new one was popularly called Lufthansa. Lufthansa was fully privatized in 1997. It has emerged, after its privatization, as one of Germany’s biggest public companies, with 400,000 shareholders. In addition to flying, Lufthansa is active in several other areas, including ground services, IT services, catering, leisure travel, maintenance repair overhaul, logistics, and passenger services. Lufthansa operates in these areas through several subsidiary companies.

Route Structure

DLH, as the greatest and most comprehensive airline in prewar Europe, had resulted from the merger of Deutscher Aero Lloyd (formed in 1924) and Junkers Luftverkehr (formed in 1921), which together controlled a large network of lines throughout Germany and central Europe, with extensions to London, Moscow, Stockholm, Helsinki, Budapest, and the Persian Gulf. By 1931, DLH was serving Paris, Barcelona, Rome, and Oslo and accounted for one third of all passenger travel and air transport in Europe. The German-built Junkers Ju-52/3m, used by other airlines as well as by DLH, became the most familiar aircraft in European airports, until American-made airliners gradually surpassed it in the late 1930’s. In 1934, DLH began the world’s first scheduled transoceanic flights—between Germany and South America—but its other experiments in transatlantic and trans-Asian routes were cut short by the outbreak of World War II. Between 1936 and 1938, Lufthansa experimented with scheduled air services across the North Atlantic. After substantial expansion of the route network in 1939, which included flights to Bangkok, Thailand, and Santiago, Chile, the airline suspended air services, with the exception of flights to a handful of European countries.

Only two months after inaugurating scheduled services within Germany on April 1, 1955, Lufthansa began transatlantic flights to New York. In the same year, scheduled service began to Paris, London, Madrid, and Lisbon in Europe, and special flights began to Moscow. In 1956, the first flights were made to Chicago; Montreal, Canada; Rio de Janeiro and Saõ Paulo, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Baghdad, Iraq; and Tehran, Iran, followed by initial flights to India in 1958 and resumption of the flights to Bangkok in 1959.

Lufthansa’s vast network radiates from Frankfurt am Main and Munich, its two hubs, to such distant cities as Santiago, Chile; Mexico City, Mexico; Los Angeles, California and Anchorage, Alaska in the United States; Tokyo, Japan; Hong Kong, China; Sydney, Australia; and Johannesburg, South Africa, as well as to several airports throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Lufthansa entered the jet age in 1960 with the arrival in the fleet of the Boeing 707, used initially on long-haul routes. Conversion to jet aircraft continued gradually until 1971, when Lufthansa’s last propeller-driven aircraft, the Vickers Viscount, was retired. Lufthansa acquired the Boeing 727 and 737 starting in 1964. It took its first delivery of the Boeing 747 in 1970, which was later joined by the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and the Airbus A300. As of 2001, Lufthansa’s fleet included the following aircraft: Boeing 747-400 and 747-200 series, Airbus A340, Airbus A300-600, Airbus A310, Airbus A321, Airbus A320, Airbus A319, Boeing B-737, Canadair CR1, and AVRO RJ85.

Alliances and Partnerships

Lufthansa, along with Air Canada, SAS, Thai Airways International, and United Air Lines, founded the Star Alliance in 1997. In subsequent years, membership grew to include Air New Zealand, ANA, Ansett Australia, Austrian Airlines, British Midland, Lauda Air, Mexicana Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Tyrolean Airways, and Varig. In 2001, the Star Alliance encompassed fifteen airlines and a network of 130 countries and 815 destinations, making it the world’s largest alliance. In addition to its Star Alliance partners, Lufthansa cooperates with several other airlines on such matters as code-share flights and participation in one another’s frequent flier programs. Lufthansa’s partner airlines as of June, 2001, were South African Airways, Adria Airways, Air Baltic, Air Dolomiti, Croatia Airlines, Czech Airlines, Luxair, Qatar Airways, and Spanair. Additionally, for the regional market, Lufthansa cooperates with several regional carriers: Augsburg Airways, Cirrus Airlines, Contact Air, Rheintalflug, Air Littoral, and Cimber Air. These regional carriers bear the name Team Lufthansa.

  • Groenewege, Adrianus D. The Compendium of International Civil Aviation. 2d ed. Geneva, Switzerland: International Air Transport Association, 1999. A comprehensive directory of the major players in international civil aviation, with insightful and detailed articles.
  • Weimer, Kent J., ed. Aviation Week and Space Technology: World Aviation Directory. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000. An excellent introductory guide on all global companies involved in the aviation business. The information is very basic but very essential as a first introduction to each company.

Air Canada

Air carriers


Singapore Airlines

United Air Lines

Categories: History Content