Turkish Air German Push Stirs Air-Miles Spat With Ally Lufthansa

Turkish Airlines urged Star Alliance partner Deutsche Lufthansa AG to review plans to pare passenger rewards from code-share flights to German destinations, as the two airlines fight for customers in Europe’s largest economy.

Lufthansa plans to cut back on the so-called status miles it awards on Turkish code-shared flights, according to the company. While passengers still get miles that let them purchase goods or flights, the change makes it harder for them to gain frequent-traveler status using Turkish flights.

“We do not approve the unilateral decision of Lufthansa,” Turkish Airlines, formally known as Turk Hava Yollari AO, said in an e-mailed release. “Turkish Airlines provides its services to all passengers of Star Alliance member airlines.”

Turkish Air’s push into Germany, including some regional airports, has increased pressure on Lufthansa as the German carrier struggles to turn around its domestic business. Turkish is among the fastest growing airlines, and the carrier benefits from its geographic position at the crossroad of global flight paths, as well as a large domestic population, setting it apart from other Middle East airlines.

Turkish Airlines flies to 240 destinations in more than 100 countries, operating a fleet of 230 aircraft. The carrier increased passenger count in Germany by 22 percent in the first 11 months of this year to 3.08 million, adding flights to regional airports Kassel and Muenster. Germany has a large Turkish population, particularly in Berlin and Cologne.

Second Complaint

“This is what happens when an airline increases competition to a certain destination,” said Omer Lutfu Omerbas, an analyst at Ak Investment in Istanbul, by telephone.

The dispute with Turkish follows a complaint by Lufthansa in June, in which the Cologne-based carrier alleged that its Brussels Airlines unit faced a squeeze from other competitors in African destinations, especially from Turkish Airlines.

Turkish Airlines, which plans to add 274 planes by 2020 to almost double its fleet, is among high-growth operators led by Dubai-based Emirates that are adding African routes to feed their hubs. Like Lufthansa, other major European carriers are also tapping historic ties to win custom as a commodities boom boosts demand in the least-developed travel market.

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