German airline Lufthansa is reporting strong early passenger demand for its new route from Liverpool to Frankfurt which offers onward links to 150 global destinations. Tony McDonough reports
Lufthansa is reporting strong early demand from passengers for its Liverpool to Frankfurt route which offers Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LJLA) a global hub link for the first time in a decade.
Senior figures from Lufthansa and LJLA, as well as Liverpool city region business leaders, gathered at the airport on Wednesday morning to officially launch the route. The first flight actually took off earlier this week.
Lufthansa flight LH968 from Frankfurt touched down shortly after 8am to receive the traditional airport welcome for inaugural flights with a water arch aircraft baptism performed by the airport’s rescue and firefighting service as the aircraft taxied over to the terminal building.
This was followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony ahead of the departure to Frankfurt performed by Lufthansa’s senior director sales northern Europe Lufthansa Group, Heinrich Lange, LJLA chief executive John Irving and The High Sheriff of Merseyside, Lesley Martin-Wright, who is also chief executive of Knowsley Chamber of Commerce.
And Mr Lange said Lufthansa was encouraged by the early booking figures. He added: “The new connection to the heart of Europe has found its first travellers from Liverpool as we can already see good booking figures.
“We want to convince our customers from North West England and Wales about an easy transfer at our Frankfurt hub. Every passenger stays in the same terminal building for their connecting flight.
“We offer quality and service as a five-star-carrier in the air and on the ground. And we are pleased that Liverpudlians can now start their journey with us from even closer to their home or office. This city known for music, football and trade will also benefit from the global access we provide as the only network airline at John Lennon Airport.”
Passengers on the route will now be able to check-in at Liverpool and easily connect onwards with Lufthansa and their Star Alliance partners to a host of global destinations via their main hub in Frankfurt.
Mr Irving said: “We are delighted to see this important and strategic new route come to fruition, with Lufthansa welcomed here today by representatives of the business community and visitor economy from across the Liverpool city region, Cheshire and North Wales.
“This route reconnects Liverpool with the world, now enabling travellers from across the region to fly to a host of global destinations via Lufthansa’s seamless connections at Frankfurt, with the added advantage of all the passenger benefits of flying from Liverpool.”
There will be two return flights every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Liverpool is already connected to several European hub airports via easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air. However, they do not have agreements that allow passengers to check in just once while changing planes to and from other global destinations.
It is the first time in its 66-year history in the UK that Lufthansa has taken off at Liverpool with its Airbus A320 (168 seats) or its Bombardier CRJ900 (90 seats). Passengers will reach Frankfurt, Europe’s financial centre in the middle of Germany. in just one hour and 40 minutes.
Neither Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson nor Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram attended this morning’s event, despite the critical importance of the new route to the city region economy. The Combined Authority was represented by Cllr Liam Robinson its Transport Portfolio Holder.
Global connectivity is critical to Liverpool city region’s future prosperity and yet, astonishingly, Liverpool City Council continues to turn its back on the airport. The authority is a shareholder in LJLA and, in April, was asked along with other shareholders to support two projects – a new solar farm and the upgrade of a fuel facility.
It declined to contribute to the schemes meaning its stake will now be diluted. In 2015, the council took a 20% share in the airport in a £2m investment. It sold a half of that for £19m in 2018, representing a tidy profit. Now its remaining 10% stake will be cut to just 5.6%.
Following its decision, Cllr Harry Doyle, cabinet member for culture and visitor economy, said the council wanted to dispose of its stake in the airport entirely. And, in a somewhat contradictory statement, he added: “This isn’t an indication of a lack of support for the airport.
“I want to make very, very clear we’ve got a hugely popular airport in the city which is well used by residents and businesses across the globe and we value the impact it has on our local economy.
“The airport can manage without our direct investment. We do obviously value the airport but at this stage it just does not fit in with our objectives as a city.”
Does Cllr Doyle not consider global connectivity to be one of the city’s objectives? Green councillor Anna Key has gone further, saying: “You cannot move to a net-zero economy by 2030 and expand the airport – that cannot happen.” And Labour councillor Lena Simic also said: “Let’s be clear, nobody wants airport expansion.”
It is not clear on whose behalf Cllr Simic was speaking but her sentiment seems to be shared across an increasing number of councillors in the city, if not by the hundreds of thousands of people who use the airport every year.
In a statement to LBN in January Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson acknowledged that LJLA “supports a huge amount of investment and jobs in our city and its success is vital to our economic health”.
But referring to a strategy to expand the airport, she added: “Since that strategy was written, the council has also declared a climate emergency and the UK has hosted COP26 setting out our commitments to a net zero carbon city and country.
“Clearly a balance needs to be achieved where economic growth is sustainable for the planet and any airport development in this country would need to be both financially and environmentally sound.”
Overall, aviation accounts for around 2% of global carbon emissions. Holding back Liverpool Airport’s expansion is unlikely to make any difference to this. Airlines will simply take their planes elsewhere and it will put the city as a further disadvantage when seeking inward investment.
The sector is also fully committed to slashing its carbon emissions. Liverpool’s two biggest carriers – Ryanair and easyJet are looking to make big strides in this area. While Ryanair is investing heavily in more fuel-efficient aircraft, easyJet has pledged its first all-electric passenger plane will be in service by 2030.
This means if Liverpool were to turn its back on the airport it could also miss out on the high-skilled green economy jobs so prized by Mayor Anderson and Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram. It is unclear whether either will attend the event at the airport on Wednesday.
As Liverpool Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Paul Cherpeau, said in January: “The creation of any perceived ‘anti-airport’ sentiment and dialogue by city region leaders, politicians and partners should be avoided.”