On Saturday, one of Lufthansa’s fleet of Boeing 747-8 planes flew a full load of passengers from Frankfurt to Palma. There were 364 passengers, a number that can be expected to be repeated (God and the German government willing) over the next three Saturdays.
Julia Hillenbrand, CEO for Western Europe, remarked that it’s not every day you see a Lufthansa Jumbo landing at Son Sant Joan and that the airline was pleased that so many holidaymakers had chosen to spend their summer holidays “on the beautiful island of Majorca and travel here with our airlines”.
For this particular service, a smaller plane with a capacity of 215 is normally used, but Lufthansa scheduled the Jumbo instead in order to meet “the very high demand coinciding with the start of the summer holidays in the state of Hessen”. When the holidays start in Bavaria on July 30, Lufthansa will be operating the Airbus A350-900 between Munich and Palma; its capacity is just under 300.
In all, the group has 432 weekly Palma flights, an increase of four per cent on 2019. Not all of these are German flights, as it has Austrian, Belgian and Swiss subsidiaries. Even so, the Lufthansa connections with German airports appear to paint a rather different picture to the one we have been presented with recently; one which suggests that the German tourism market hasn’t just stalled, it has gone into reverse because of cancellations caused by the rise in infections.
One accepts that the positive scenario offered by Lufthansa is just one airline group’s, that the situation could indeed be turned negative and that a four per cent increase in flights may well owe something to what has been happening with other airlines. Nevertheless, the Saturday Jumbo story offered a great contrast to a report on the same day pointing to there having been a decrease in bookings.
A couple of weeks ago, the Dingus travel data company in Palma offered a perspective on the German market. At the end of June, German bookings were down 35% compared with earlier in the month. But this was attributed to the fact that travel measures were more stable (they were then anyway) and that rather than booking for immediate travel, German holidaymakers were taking a longer view and were shifting reservations more to August.
Meanwhile, the German tour operator Alltours reported that short-term (immediate) bookings for Mallorca had been double what they were in 2019. This backed up what Dingus had discovered, the conclusion from which was that there had been heavy initial demand into early June as the Mallorca season got going but that there was then a levelling-off.
But what neither of them were perhaps taking into account, or saying in their public statements at any rate, is the unusual nature of the German summer holiday market, which is conditioned by the fact that its peak lasts almost three months because the Länder have different school holidays. The holidays start in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, which was June 22 this year. They end when the schools in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg go back; Bavaria is the latest (September 13).
Lufthansa have understood the longer-term booking behaviour. The use of the Jumbo wasn’t just decided last week. The decision was taken in early June, when it was reported that the airline was adopting “extraordinary measures” because of demand for Mallorca. At the same time, the A350-900 was allocated to the Munich route.
So, what happened was that there was the heavy initial demand after Mallorca opened up to German tourism from Easter. Some of the Easter tourism was obviously linked to school holidays, as was tourism in late May because of Whitsun. But there was also the response to simply having been able to get away on holiday and to come to Mallorca, which does hold a particular place in the German holidaymaker’s heart.
A levelling-off then occurred, not because there weren’t the bookings, but because these were not now spur of the moment. They were with the school holidays in mind, and because the Lánder all operate according to different calendars, there will tend to be some ups and downs, dependent on these holidays, which state they’re in and what flights are available from which airport.
I’m not saying that there haven’t been cancellations because of, for example, worries about the rising incidence rate in Mallorca. But it can sometimes be worth taking a moment to understand how particular markets operate. The German market has long functioned how it has this year, but admittedly not without the peculiarities created by Covid which have meant that most bookings have been shorter term.
Unless the German government really does get tough with its advice, the German market should be ok; Lufthansa certainly think so.