LUBECK – COVID has presented many opportunities for new and aspiring airlines. Lubeck Air isn’t a case of an airline brought about by COVID nor an airline that is on its own.
Instead, the German airline works for hand in hand with its base airport, as they are both owned by Mr. Stoecker recently made a millionaire from Germany who helped start the airline 2 years ago.
This is a new set-up and something unseen on such a small scale compared to other players for example in the Middle East but with great promise of a new strategy to follow in Europe.
Lubeck Airport location in Northern Germany. Lubeck has a population of 217,198 thousand people.
Including the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schlweig-Holstein, and Hamburg state there are over 9,389,727 people in the area.
This is not to forget that there are another 58,032 people living on the border island of Loland in Demark to the north of Lubeck.
Lubeck airport has accessibility to the 207 highway northbound to Lubeck and southbound to Schwerin and Luneburg.
In addition, the airport is accessible directly via the local S-Bahn. 1 train runs every hour to Lubeck and another to Luneburg.
To show this promise this article will split into two parts, one being the interview and the other a trip report.
Without further ado, I present Dr. Jürgen CEO of Lubeck Air and Lubeck Airport, and Marion, their marketing manager.
What do you see for the vision of Lubeck air and Lubeck air over the next 5 years?
Jürgen: We have a very surrounding. It’s very attractive to live here in Lubeck and we have a strong business so the northern part of Germany will develop in the next years I think and Hamburg is very close but Hamburg has a problem with the long-term development of its airport so we Lubeck have a very good chance to bring mobility to the people in our surroundings of Lubeck airport and bring more quality to the people with our Lubeck air because we differentiate ourselves to Ryanair.
They always look at the cost of their flights.
We look more at the things that passengers need and hopefully, this will bring us more passengers because they like to fly with us so the traffic figures in Lubeck will grow and this will bring the airport into a scenario where we can earn money and a good amount of passengers.
How much growth are you looking at in the next 5-10 years?
Jürgen: Our aim is to come to half a million passengers in the next four years and we develop this with our own airline, Lubeck Air but also through third-party airlines.
Sunair will operate here in the summer for destinations like Palma de Mallorca, Heraklion, or Antalya and we want to have a very good mix of flights that we (Lubeck Air) operate by ourselves in addition to flights with third airlines.
What do you say to people that doubt this plan of action?
Jürgen: All the things you do have the risk that you can fail but I think you can do it in the right way because we’re 100% private. There are not a lot of people who have to agree with what we do.
There is Mr. Stoecker, our Owner and he said I want it this way, that we do it, and that we move fast. Our decisions and also in developing things as we made a MasterPlan.
We can develop this airport, we can build aircraft stands, we can build terminals so we have a very good situation on the legal side that the future is certain for development and growth.
If there are doubters, just tell them to come here and try our product. I think that’s the best thing we have to communicate with the people. Come here, try our product, and be convinced.
If you fly from Lubeck it’ll be very fast as you only need a few minutes to go into our terminal. Everything is very close, our processes are efficient and there are no traffic jams like in Hamburg all the time. Even the bus can drive directly here from the terminal.
Just out of the door and that’s it.
You’re here for the long-term?
Jürgen: Yes. We also have a lot of areas around the airport which we want to develop our position of the airport also with buildings and companies coming here for example to be a big hub and an attractive place to be.
Hotels in our case for example the big med-tech company, Draeger is here in Lubeck and since the pandemic, they have been rising their sales figures like crazy because they produce these masks and oxygen machines sold worldwide and they are already flying with us.
If someone visits Lubeck as a contact of them and they stay in a hotel, our position could become really interesting.
Another opportunity for our airport is that we have the potential not only for outgoing traffic but incoming traffic.
We’re very close to the sea and people come here to take a holiday, visit the coast and visit Lubeck.
All the destinations we develop will have potential in both directions. This is very special. There are a lot of other airports that have more outgoing potential than incoming. For us, it’s 50/50.
What else can you tell us about your master plan?
Jürgen: We developed in the first 2 years of our operation a Master-plan for the next 30 years. We showed it on our 100th birthday at the airport in 2018.
There we conceived a very large terminal with a capacity of 3-4 million passengers. This is our vision and this is possible with our already given permissions.
We plan this with about 10 aircraft stands but we already started the first step. We already renovated the old terminal and expanded it so that we are able to reach half a million passengers.
This old terminal you could say. If you look now it isn’t old but instead new and very high quality.
We had really good architects, the same that designed Berlin-Brandenburg, Stuttgart airport and Hamburg-Helmut Schmidt from Gerkan Marg & Partners, a very famous architecture.
You’ll take a look at ours and then realize the similarities. They were our partners for use on the master plan and the renovation of this building. They are very good experts for us.
We started with this building because the traffic was 0. Ryanair and Wizz Air left.
We didn’t have passenger traffic but only had business and private traffic. Now we started again but the figures grew rapidly. We developed a new terminal in the eastern part of the airport.
Do you plan on lengthening the runway for larger aircraft?
Jürgen: Our runway has 2100 meters and we can extend it by 150 meters so it’s not 4000 meters. For us, it’s more important to have the possibility to build hangars, to build buildings.
There are a lot of opportunities to build many buildings here (considering the available amount of land surrounding the airport) so if a company wants to expand here then we are a very good partner for them because we have a lot of possibilities for the next 10-20 years here.
We had a visit to Heringsdorf airport to see what’s going on there to see if we can start something there like our operation in Lubeck.
What is the vision for Lubeck Air and Lubeck Airport to become a hub?
Jürgen: The strategy for Lubeck Air is to develop a Lubeck Airport. We don’t want to fly all over the world and we don’t use Lubeck airport. It should be a small airline and it will operate from Lubeck.
We also did a lot of charter flights. When we operate out of Bern it’s possible that we fly Bern-Olbia possibly, but in the evening the aircraft has to head back to Lubeck. We will operate from Lubeck.
We also just built a hangar especially for the ATR and the Falcon so you may save staff for deicing for example. A warm place at night for the aircraft.
Everything we do here is small development for the moment but keep in mind we think big.
If Lubeck Air is not a profitable business what matters is that both entities together make a profit?
Jürgen: The main product should always be the airport. If the airline develops more & more it’s fine but it’s not the main point.
We want to bring traffic to this airport and the Lubeck air is doing the job of developing that with a very good product so the fantasy of the future now starts with regards to us being able to do many other things.
We get leaks from other airports who call me and ask if we could serve other destinations than Lubeck from their airports and we said no.
That’s something special that we do here because it maintains our start-up mentality, that it’s possible to change your plans step-by-step.
For example, now it’s a really nice product so let’s see, we go a bit more to the right or to the left, not to leave the main target out of mind.
I think there is a market in Germany for small airlines because Lufthansa and the other bigger airlines don’t look at smaller airports, so every small airport in Germany has this problem of no airline service.
We did it by ourselves and other airports can’t do this. They should have the potential for small airlines service and I think they will develop slowly.
There is a chance. This is not our vision, to go to other airports and operate there. We have a good product so others can do the same but we don’t want to be in all small airports.
You still have the potential to create new markets for smaller airports though as you aren’t only dependent on the profits of the airline?
Jürgen: Our business is airports. This is a clear strategy.
A lot of investors like to fly and invest in airlines and normally do not invest in an airport. We market ourselves as an airport and then as an airline. This is different and I agree.
We do everything by ourselves here at this airport. Shop, bistro, all other businesses operating in the airport area (other than the travel agency and security) are all ours. It’s like a family, growing together.
Mr. Stoecker likes to do things with his own employees so the cleaning of our building before was done with an external company, now we do it ourselves.
Imagine it’s 2027. What would your day start with as you walk into the terminal at Lubeck Airport?
Jürgen: We will see a lot of passengers here. They like to fly from Lubeck. They are able to spend more money on a ticket than a Ryanair passenger. We don’t want to be low-cost.
We want to be quality-oriented, and if people don’t want to pay for the quality they can fly from other airports because this is our selling point.
I think we will have happy passengers because they like our product and they aren’t uncomfortable paying a bit more for a superior product.
I think with this concept we’re able to work profitably. In former times with Ryanair, it was very hard to earn money because Ryanair didn’t pay a lot, the passengers didn’t pay a lot.
If we have happy passengers, quality passengers, it’s much easier to make a profit. I think we will then start building a new terminal but are not ready yet. I think it takes 5 years and we’ll just start work on it.
There will also be a good mix of business and holiday travelers because travel agencies have to be convinced as well to keep our product in their offering.
Our first catalog for example of Sunair offering holiday flights, we are very much proud of as it offers flights to classical holiday destinations for people in our region as well as the Danes next door.
We also look for long-term partnerships with airports & airlines.
When Mr. Stoecker started to found Euroimmun he worked with some companies and still works with them to this day because when you work very well with each other you don’t need to look for another partner.
You want to have a good partner, not the cheapest one.
We’re looking for long-term partners, like Air Aisle.
This is a very very good partner and so I think we will have Air Aisle, in 2027 as a partner.
We work together to create Lubeck Air’s AOC, with Air Aisle and this is important for us to learn from each other, rise together and trust each other.
We don’t want to earn money at the moment but instead long-term. You need partnerships.
There are a lot of ideas and you can’t do everything alone.
If you look at the maintenance of aircraft with a lot of chances to build hangars I’m sure that in 1,2 or 3 years we will have a partner that says Ok, we build this, we have maintenance and an aircraft is standing here.
We look at this.
How are you dealing with corporate travelers? What has their feedback been?
Marion: Dreagel just shoot an advertisement with their masks in front and inside our airplane so they’re fascinated by our concept. For them, it’s so easy to travel with us.
I know that there was a stop in travel as their employees had to work at home but good deals are made sitting at the table together. Slowly they started to travel again and then they started to travel with us.
Hopefully, we have more interesting destinations in our network, such as business trips to Dublin for them.
I just learned that in Dublin there is a med-tech area as well where a big company is located. Very interesting as they could maybe communicate together.
By mistake, you often find possibilities and the reaction always has been quite good.
I’m responsible for the Google review reactions and I’m always reading every day what lands there. Normally you expect a shitstorm quite a lot but in our case, there is nothing like that.
A few hundred comments are all positive. That makes us proud.
Jürgen: The people like to fly with us. The employee of today flies with us and thinks that he should fly again from Lubeck. The manager doesn’t want to drive from Lubeck to Hamburg and go by plane from Hamburg.
If there is the opportunity to go from Lubeck they’ll do it. The management of Draeger will spread the news and pass it on.
Our product is very good and so the people like to use it.
Marion: The guests who come once, come back. We’re already sure of that.
Jürgen: We don’t have Miles&More so if someone wants to get miles he has to drive to Hamburg. Most of the managers like to have a short way, fast and dislike the way to Hamburg as you need 2 hours more.
If you live in Lubeck you need 10 minutes, and 10 minutes at the airport.
It has been 2 years. In what ways do you plan to make the flights known? Using Google flights, Kiwi, Dohop, etc.
Marion: We have a sales team that knows all the specialties of aviation services. My colleague and I are responsible for marketing here in the area and in our destinations for example we use all social media, print, everything.
At the moment we just started placing some posters here in the Lubeck area to tell people for example at the train station, everybody is going there by train to Hamburg to fly from there. Our big poster is there which says, “Fly from Lubeck to your holiday destinations”.
We got this Air Aisle contact and they just showed us how to keep it going in Denmark and that has gotten so much attraction and attention.
Dr. Jürgen: I think it takes years to be present in the majority of the people’s minds living in the area.
We work on this, using different channels such as social media, newspapers, bus advertisements, radio, etc. We have a small team but it’s very active.
In the long-term, more and more people know it and more and more people used our product and then they tell them. A good product will be known over time. In Lubeck a lot of people know us, in Hamburg it’s less.
Marion: I think now with our holiday destinations it will grow faster because everyone is so hungry for traveling. COVID has produced such a hunger for holidays. Everybody who has a bit of money has a bit more now to go on a good holiday with us.
We just started some in-app ads, for example, if they arrive in Hamburg and are then going further north, an advertisement appears recommending them to fly from Lubeck instead. That’s very interesting.
Do you plan to Interline or Codeshare with other airlines?
Jürgen: We thought about this but it’s also a long-term project because the yield is much smaller than if you’re only offering point-to-point.
When we started we wanted to fly to Copenhagen and then you would use it as a connecting hub for the Lubeck area but it doesn’t work.
I think in 1 or 2 years the larger airlines will see that we offer a good product and maybe there is the chance again to do something like this. Munich we have but no interline.
What is your cooperation with FlyBair?
Jürgen: They’re a partner of ours. They use our aircraft for charter flights, from Bern to Olbia.
They charter the plane for the set time and are responsible for filling the plane on their own. We like these partnerships, they sell our flights from Bern to Lubeck and they are very successful.
Marion: People in Switzerland have been here in Lubeck, quite curious about our history and what we have to offer.
I know many people don’t know what happens north of Hamburg, as everyone thinks that Northern Germany ends in Hamburg. That there is a lot of history as well and great beaches which have caught the attention of the Swiss.
We have a hotel here in Lubeck who just told us that because of our Bern flights, the hotel has been full of Swiss-german speaking people.
Jürgen: In Switzerland, they have a very high income so it’s not so expensive to go on holiday in Germany. The other way around it’s expensive so when we think about skiing flights, we go to Austria and not Switzerland because it’s too expensive.
Would that be considered an alternative to what the whole region can benefit from as Hamburg used to have a direct flight to Bern (One of Skyworks’ most profitable routes) and has since been left unserved?
Jürgen: We look at the flight schedule from Hamburg, and if there is strong traffic it’s a different situation as if they don’t have this destination. If they don’t have it, it’s much more attractive for us to do it.
Marion: We like to participate in the mass traffic from our local area such as Munich so they don’t have to fly from Hamburg with higher standards.
I already saw some comments on Google that said, hey I’ve been coming from Bismar (Town in between Hamburg and the Danish border), normally I fly from Hamburg.
This time around I didn’t catch a flight from there so I had to go with Lubeck air and I will for sure now do it again. Even if I have to stay in a hotel due to the flight not being the same time every day, I will do it again as it was so easy and comfortable.
Things like that happen from time to time
Jürgen: It’s half a year ago that a person called us from Neustadt, 1 hour from Lubeck and it was 1 hour before our flight was due to depart to Munich.
The person calling wanted to be on this flight and so our ground staff said hurry up, get in your car and we’ll take care of the ticket.
They were ready for him with the ticket but they didn’t push the button until he entered as then she would have to pay.
The person, a manager from a company comes in, gets a ticket, and then speeds to the gate.
He was so happy to get this flight. This is not possible in Hamburg with Lufthansa but we can.
Why is there such a big will to succeed?
Jürgen: We’re different. We are private and take care of the passenger. We do what the passenger likes. Good quality and he has to pay a good price for it. Hopefully, this will be the right way.
When you see what people have said after flying with us they are happy and book again. It’s not Ryanair. If someone wants to fly very cheaply, we are the wrong partner.
Marion: I think everybody trusts Stoecker’s vision and long-term thinking. I had difficulties believing it but you can trust our investor because he already raised up some really successful companies (ex. Euroimmun). I think that this is part of trusting the process.
Why does Mr. Stoecker believe in strong values?
Jürgen When he started with Euroimmun he undertook projects that require 10 years and after that then you begin to earn money.
He did it though as he knew he would be successful. If the CEO is an employee, contract for 5 years he would never do this.
Mr. Stoecker did it. The airport is a long-term investment so he knows that he has to give a lot of money invested in this airport and in the long-term, it will be profitable.
What else are you doing differently to other airports?
Jürgen: We need to have a good catchment area and this is very good for Lubeck. The other point is that you need to have a manager who has a vision.
Normally, political people are involved and you are owned by the country or cities and after 5 years you have new people there. There are no new developments. Some people don’t like the airport, they want to close it.
We have a private owner and this is the way. We go with this year over year. If the airport is a private one they can do the same. Normally they don’t have the capital as we do in addition to having a good team.
What is it like on Lubeck Air?
Following Pt. 1s interview with Dr. Jürgen, Lubeck air gave us the possibility to try out their product between Lubeck and Munich.
As this was the case the day started very early at the airport as I arrived at 6:00.
The Check-In process was very fast and I was past security in 5 minutes. There were only 12 passengers on this morning’s journey to Munich.
A couple on the flight said “It’s easier than using the train and we live in Lubeck”
Another male passenger said “I live in Lubeck and come from Bavaria. I use this service every time I fly between the two cities. I just hope this service lasts as we’re only 11 or so passengers today. “
Upon boarding the aircraft you could see the beautiful interior of the aircraft amidst it being wet-leased from Air Aisle. After sitting down the crew passed out Lubeck Air branded pillows and blankets which was a nice surprise as I took one myself.
After take-off, the crew passed out breakfast which was a homemade cake from the airline’s own kitchen at Lubeck airport.
The airline’s service was impeccable as the teacups were made out of high-quality chinaware and drinks were served in real glasses plus a local sweet from Lubeck.
Following our approach, each passenger was given a small bag of sweets by the crew Johanna Rohrig and Antoniya who were very kind, thoughtful, and checking up on passengers throughout the flight.
As we stepped off the plane we were bussed to the terminal and were out of the terminal after 15 minutes of deboarding the plane.
Lubeck air offers a very unique product in the German domestic market.
Its product definitely leaves a strong appeal on its customers which causes them to return.
Every moment and small detail counts at Lubeck Air as that is what truly makes the airline different.
I would definitely recommend the carrier to my friends and family and hope to fly them in the near future.
If the airline focuses on becoming a beacon in the Northern German region and begins to partner with other airlines in Munich it will shine as it has shown already great promise.