5 minutes with… Carsten Schaeffer, VP Lufthansa EMEA

A quick catch up with the regional boss of the Germany’s national carrier.

Name: Carsten Schaeffer

Job title: Vice president, Southeast Europe, Middle East and Africa

Company: Lufthansa German Airlines

Years in company: 27 years and counting and looking forward to years as I begin my duty in the Middle East region based in Dubai.

What will your company be focusing on this year?
This year, Lufthansa Group is focusing on its programme SCORE to bring our company to healthy levels of profitability, projecting a mid-three digit million euro level in operating profits for 2012. But most importantly, for the passenger airline business, 2012 is the year when we bring in our new products – the new Business Class and receiving the first delivery of a much better, fuel-efficient, low-noise, world’s longest passenger aircraft – the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental.

Are you concerned that the current volatile global economic climate will affect your strategy?
It is no secret that the airline industry is vulnerable to changes in the economic environment. We are besieged by a challenging framework both from the global and local fronts (i.e. Germany). This is why our Group programme SCORE was rolled out – to improve our operating margin structurally and sustainably into a different league to help us cushion the negative effects of the current economic situation.

What are the growth areas currently for your industry?
Asia remains in the focus with the tremendous economic growth there, but we can also add Brazil, Russia and last but not least the Middle East region to that list. Additionally, the traffic to and from North America has picked up nicely.

Asia remains in the focus with the tremendous economic growth there, but we can also add Brazil, Russia and last but not least the Middle East region to that list

What new products will your company launch this year?
We have just rolled out the new “Queen of the Skies” – the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental and with it, our brand new Business Class also premiered.

Will you be expanding into new territory?
With the summer timetable in effect, we increased our flight services to 61 new connections, this means of course, more choice destinations for passengers from the Middle East to Europe and beyond. In total, we now operate flights to 216 destinations in 83 countries, including 21 in North America.

For our passengers from the region flying direct to Frankfurt with onward connections to North America, they can now enjoy the comfort of the new Boeing 747-8 with direct service to Washington, D.C. For Riyadh, we will be able to change the schedule to enable better connections, especially to our popular North American routes via our hub in Frankfurt.

What will be the biggest challenges for UAE businesses in your sector in 2012?
We are not expecting anything drastic to affect us barring of course, any unfavourable or unforeseen circumstances. Most of all, we rely on the strength of our well-established brand and services have been well received in the UAE since the very early 1970s.

Will you be hiring this year?
As we implement our SCORE programme, hiring in administration is put on hold and will only do so when it is crucial. Hiring for customer service related jobs will stay in place.

What’s your leadership style?
Coaching and communication are musts. I do not believe in the concept of the ‘iconic’ leader but prefer to be a facilitator of exchanging and sharing experiences and knowledge. At Lufthansa, we believe in the capabilities of our very experienced and well-trained staff. We need to harvest from that. This must be supported by developing a vision and making decisions at the right moment.

What makes the perfect employee?
A passion for service and commitment to our customers paired with dedication and analytical thinking. The component of ‘German engineering’ should not be missing in a company that needs to manage complex situations.

Define success in five words…
Satisfaction for the customer, the shareholder and the employee (sorry, 10 words)!

Three tips for becoming the boss…
Don’t aim to become the boss, do your job right; be passionate about what you do; share success.

When I’m not at work I like to…
…Do other things I do best: explore the world, explore good food with friends, watch an opera and relax by the sea.