Lufthansa SVP Global Markets and Stations Naeve discusses:
- His new role overseeing global sales and ground operations
- Lufthansa’s new Green Fare and upcoming corporate recognition program
- Technology updates
Lufthansa Group’s Frank Naeve began his new role as SVP of Global Markets and Stations, which includes global sales, on July 1, after serving as Vice President of Passenger Sales for the Americas for the German company. He sat down with BTN Editor-in-Chief Donna M. Airoldi at the recent Global Business Travel Association convention in San Diego to discuss his new role, sustainability at Lufthansa and upcoming technology changes. . Edited excerpts follow.
BTN: Congratulations on your new position. What are the biggest changes for you so far?
Frank Naeve: The role has been extended to that of my predecessor, so it’s part of a reorganization. It encompasses the sales portfolio, so global markets, but also global stations, and ground operations are part of that. [We are trying] putting the customer experience in the field organization in one hand, using the knowledge we have to provide a better experience for our customers. So it’s a big change. I have some experience in operations, so it’s not completely new to me.
Another bigger change is that I’m taking responsibility for distribution. What we heard [during GBTA] is that it remains one of the hot topics discussed with the corporate client as well as travel management companies. This package is very exciting and I can’t wait to tackle it.
BTN: What plans do you have to do this?
Naeve: I had a good experience spending the first few weeks listening a lot. That’s why this event is such a great opportunity… [and] from my former role in the Americas, I have customer feedback. But then really listen to our customers and listen to the Lufthansa Group and where we see the potential and build on that. The heart of the new organization is really the customer, looking for ways to improve the customer experience, but then taking all that information and making sure it’s considered and incorporated into all decision-making processes. internals that we have. This is also the brief I have from senior management.
BTN: What do you already consider to be some of your biggest challenges?
Naeve: In the very short term, the operational problems that have arisen. Especially the month of July was very difficult. Almost all airlines had problems. We tackled this with a clear plan. Part of that is making sure our capacity planning reflects the reality we face. We have canceled some flights and will continue to ensure that what we are planning is something that can realistically be operated. … The month of August is going much better. We seem to have turned a corner operationally, and we hear that from our customers as well.
As we emerge from the pandemic, the whole issue of customer experience is [a priority]. We have already worked hard to bring back many elements of the customer journey. Customers expect what they had before the pandemic. During the pandemic, people were saying, “I know it’s a tough time, so maybe the catering doesn’t need to be as good, or maybe the salons aren’t open or in their entirety.” It’s gone now. Customers say, “OK, we’re back to normal.” We want at least what we had before if not more. [All that is] part of my new portfolio with airport operations, check-in process, boarding processes, lounge quality – all of that is really important.
And then confirmed [during GBTA] is durability. When we were here a year ago, there was a lot of talk about sustainability. But the biggest difference is that the discussions have become much more concrete about what we can do. I think the challenge for airlines is that many of our customers have a somewhat different approach, depending partly on the industry they’re in, partly on company policies, and so we have to be flexible.
BTN: Speaking of sustainability, you introduced a new “green rate” on August 2 in the Scandinavian market on your four carriers.
Naeve: It’s really just a test. Scandinavia is a market where there is an affinity for environmental topics, and we thought it was worth testing it out. There is definitely a bounty for that. But I would see that as part of a bigger picture of what kind of offering we can offer B2C customers. We have Green Fare in Scandinavia, and already as part of our booking flow customers can purchase [sustainable aviation fuel]. So what sort of offer can we make to our customers?
Similarly, what can we offer B2B customers, corporate travel managers? On the one hand, what options would allow them to better inform their travelers [about sustainability] and on the other hand, perhaps with the acquisition of SAF, what would allow them to achieve their environmental objectives in terms of reducing CO2 emissions?
[Green Fare] is part of a bigger picture, in terms of how we can have these products and see how customers respond and their willingness to buy. [We also have] pillars in terms of fleet modernization, SAF is an important part of what we do, and then our CleanTech Hub where we have more than 80 projects with innovative companies that allow us to find ideas, not just CO2 reductions. Green Fare was an idea that was discussed, and [we
tried] be quick and test. We’re just getting started and don’t know how successful it will be, but it’s something we’re keen to work on.
BTN: As reported on August 15, Lufthansa and Air Canada will extend the benefits of United’s Corporate Preferred program through your joint venture to all carriers starting this fall. How will this change your corporate loyalty program?
Naeve: Corporate Preferred is something we are launching not only within the JV but also at Lufthansa. [We’re starting] these three elements and seek to enrich our offer for companies. For example, we continue to develop our own tool, something like [United’s] Jetstream. It is a cornerstone of [how] to enrich what we do. Within the JV, the important part is that we seek to add layers to our offering that add value to our customers. Corporate Preferred is essentially a starting point. We are researching and having discussions with United and Air Canada to add more value as a joint venture, as this is such an important part of the work we do across the North Atlantic.
BTN: How are contract negotiations with client companies carried out? Are bundles growing, customer experience, new distribution capabilities?
Naeve: Yes, yes and yes. But a lot depends on the client company. I think the needs of companies in terms of the elements of the contracts they have are probably changing. But a lot depends on the society and industry they are in and the requirements they have. We are well positioned to meet these international travel requirements.
[For] domestic we still see the potential need to extend for another year as we have heard from a number of customers the database to renegotiate something via a [request for proposal] is still quite low.
BTN: Technological changes on the horizon?
Naeve: We have a major project underway to modernize our [website]. Part of this project was to bring all Lufthansa Group carriers together on one technology platform, which is very important, and then allow customers to have seamless access to all websites with a single login. In addition to this, we are in a dedicated process of improving functionality with regards to maintenance issues, [like] the possibility of rebooking. We are investing in chat-bot technology which enables more self-service features. We have a very clear plan and a substantial amount that we are investing in terms of upgrading our digital capabilities. Additionally, being able to provide an enhanced customer experience with these digital services. This is one of the projects throughout the crisis that has continued to have a high priority.