Lufthansa Wins Fifth Skytrax Star Even as German Flights at Risk

(Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Lufthansa AG was handed a fifth star from ratings service Skytrax, making it the first airline outside the Middle East and Asia to secure the ranking.

The German company, which received the award in Frankfurt on Monday, becomes the 10th carrier to achieve a rating Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr has been chasing since his predecessor set it as a target in 2013.

Lufthansa made securing a fifth star part of push to improve service levels that had trailed much of the rest of the industry, including European peers. The carrier came late to the flat-bed revolution, introducing the seats in business class only in 2013, a decade after pioneer British Airways, and was years behind others in adding premium-economy-class cabins on long-haul jets.

Lufthansa Wins Fifth Skytrax Star Even as German Flights at Risk

Spohr’s campaign was frustrated by pilot and cabin crew strikes, as well as inconsistent standards as the company rolled out new features. While the main union conflicts have been resolved, the award comes against a background of uncertainty over Air Berlin Plc flights that Lufthansa has taken over, with Spohr hinting that they may be scrapped if early antitrust approval is withheld.

Unlike Skytrax’s annual passenger-feedback-based ranking of airlines, carriers must pay as much as 25,000 euros ($30,000) a year to be part of the star ratings, which require an extensive audit.

Not every airline has taken the star system so seriously, with competition previously keenest between Mideast and East Asian carriers locked in a battle of one-upmanship over ultra-luxury service. Etihad Airways PJSC withdrew from the ratings system altogether in 2014 after failing to win a fifth star, before rejoining two years later when it was granted the accolade.

Lufthansa sees the award as an extra tool with which to fend off fast-expanding Persian Gulf operators and edge ahead of local rivals BA and Air France-KLM Group. The company last month gave details of a new business class featuring seven-foot beds that’s due to debut in 2020.

“We caught up as we massively invested in our fleet, refurbished all cabins, introduced digital offers, opened new lounges and improved services on board and on the ground,” Spohr said. Lufthansa shares have gained 138 percent this year, the best performance on the 29-member Bloomberg World Airlines Index.

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