Lufthansa expected to name new chief
German flag carrier Lufthansa is expected to announce Wednesday that its deputy chief executive, Christoph Franz, is to take over the top job at Europe's biggest airline, DPA reported.
The airline's supervisory board is widely tipped to name Franz as successor to Wolfgang Mayrhuber, who led the airline through a period of expansion.
A former top railway executive, the 50-year-old Franz took over responsibility for the carrier's passenger operations in June last year. He joined Lufthansa in 1990.
Franz's expected appointment comes as the global aviation industry emerges from a sharp slump in business following last year's recession.
Lufthansa posted a 112-million-euro (150-million-dollar) net loss in 2009, after posting a net profit of 542 million euros during the previous year.
On Monday, the International Air Transport Association raised its industry earnings forecast, saying it now expects airlines to report profits totalling 8.9 billion dollars this year.
Mayrhuber's contract expires at the end of the year after seven years as Lufthansa's chief.
Once in office, the new Lufthansa chief faces several tough strategic questions, including dealing with the intense competition from budget airlines in its key European market, as well as the rivalry from fast-growing carriers from oil-rich Middle Eastern states on long haul routes.
With its passenger numbers coming in at 76.5 million passengers last year, Lufthansa emerged as Europe's biggest airline.
The new Lufthansa chief will also have to consider steps to ensure a steady flow of European passengers through its three key hubs in Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf.
Apart from presiding over a round of savings at Lufthansa, Mayrhuber drove the carrier's acquisitions of Swiss airlines, Brussels Airlines and Austrian Airlines along with British Midland.
Analysts have also been speculating that, at some point, Lufthansa might consider launching takeover moves for Poland's Lot and Scandinavia's SAS.