DALLAS – On June 1, Germany’s national airline, Lufthansa (LH), began nonstop service between its largest hub in Frankfurt (FRA) and the American Midwest city of St. Louis.
These three weekly flights signify a major milestone for Lambert Airport (STL). The flight will be operated by LH’s smallest long-haul aircraft, the A330-300. It is configured with 255 seats, with 42 in business class, 28 in premium economy, and 185 in economy.
St. Louis is LH’s 21st destination in the United States, and the Lufthansa Group’s 25th overall destination in the US when factoring cities served by Eurowings Discover (4Y) and Edelweiss Air (WK). This is third behind Air Canada (AC) with its subsidiaries’ 51 destinations and the International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways (BA), Iberia (LB), and Aer Lingus (EI), with 27 destinations.
The large number of destinations allows for a solidified brand presence and allows the airline to further grow into more middle-tier cities, like St. Louis.
This service marks a very triumphant return to the European market for STL. This is the first venture to Europe since WOW Air (WW) ended flights in early 2019 after just a few months of serving the airport.
A Strong Summer
Their 4x weekly 200-seat A321 service to Reykjavik (KEF) was well received by the public but didn’t live up to the standards of the already financially-strapped WW. The last service to continental Europe was to Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG) on TWA, but it ended with the September 11 attacks.
So far, the loads for the flight are strong this summer, according to Lufthansa’s Senior Director of Sales for the US Central Region, Don Bunkenburg. However, he did mention that the winter would be a challenge due to the typical decrease in demand in Europe.
To mitigate this, the airline says they will be marketing the flight toward business travelers.
ST. Louis as a Hub
On the surface, St. Louis hasn’t historically been well known as a gateway to Europe, both from a business and leisure point of view. Besides the short-lived WW flight, the last link to Europe was an American Airlines (AA) flight to London-Gatwick (LGW).
That, along with the CDG flight that ended after 9/11, were both remnants of a different era of STL, when it was one of the largest hubs in the United States.
TWA offered a vast array of flights to STL that connected to these two intercontinental gateways. With the AA merger and their consolidation in flights to Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) and Dallas, STL was left with a wide hole.
A Plan for Growth
This new service from LH will truly put the Greater St. Louis market to the test. It is home to many corporations with ties to Europe, like Anheuser-Busch, Bayer Life Sciences, Centene, Enterprise Holdings, Emerson, Millipore Sigma, and Nestle Purina.
These companies helped the airport put together a plan to originally win this service. St. Louis is also one of the most prominent convention hosts in the United States as well.
Lufthansa’s Don Blankenburg said that there hasn’t been any sort of drop at surrounding airports for LH, particularly ORD. This is a testament to the growth in the region that this flight has created.
This will allow for seamless connections to the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia as well, and can pull travelers away from general connections in other larger US cities.
St. Louis is LH’s smallest station in the United States with its three weekly flights and is the only intercontinental flight out of the airport. The airline will use Terminal 2, the home of Southwest Airlines (WN) and other international arrivals.
Attached to it is the Wingtips Lounge, which is a far cry from the United Polaris or Lufthansa Business lounges that are seen at larger airports.
However, travelers will be able to arrive closer to their flight time and exit customs and immigration after the flight with promptness due to the airport’s relaxed atmosphere.
If the success of the flight continues, LH expects to increase the frequency to five times weekly and then daily after that. The A330-300 is here to stay on the route for now, but long term, it is possible to see the Boeing 787-9 on the route once the fleet is large enough.
STL is growing its presence as an airport as well. Next year, the airport is expected to grow to over 2019 pre-pandemic levels of service, the most it has seen since the TWA/AA hub at the airport. This growth in local passengers will hopefully allow other international airlines to see St. Louis as a great leisure and business destination.
Featured image: Water Cannon aircraft. Photo: Kendrick Dlima/Airways.