Global airline firm Lufthansa has repeated its commitment to Birmingham International Airport, saying it expected a small growth in passengers despite the difficult trading conditions.
And the German firm – which recently took over British company bmi – said the turbulence in the air travel market could actually be a benefit to larger, more established carriers.
Lufthansa already operates flights to three German cities from Birmingham, but is set to take over dozens of bmi baby routes from the airport if the deal is confirmed early next year.
Marianne Samman, general manager of UK and Ireland for Lufthansa, said: “Birmingham is on our list of top international airports.
“What makes Birmingham different from others is a huge number of people use it as a starting point to go beyond Germany with the long haul routes.
“This has been a huge success story for us because a huge number of passengers are seeing they don’t have to go to London for a long haul flight. The growth rate has been about 5,000 extra passengers over this year, and we are expecting to see the same next year.”
Lufthansa carries about 415,000 passengers a year from Birmingham.
Ms Samman said there were no plans yet in place to increase the number of flights, but the modest growth in passenger numbers was an encouraging sign, given the parlous state of the industry.
Air travel operators have been battered this year by a combination of high fuel prices and a drop in consumer demand because of the credit crunch. The difficult trading conditions have seen many operators go to the wall, including XL Airways, one of the UK’s largest air travel firms, which collapsed earlier this year leaving thousands of tourists stranded abroad.
And Lufthansa itself had to rewrite its profit expectations down by about £200 million last week because of the financial problems.
But Ms Samman said the perceived lack of security in the industry could be a boon for established carriers like Lufthansa.
She said she expected customers to welcome the bmi takeover, saying: “I think from the perspective of the consumer that a takeover by a financially sound company is always a good message. “That customers who are travelling on bmi see a financially sound airline is taking over is a good thing. We definitely see this as an advantage for Lufthansa because people and customers are becoming more aware of this and that we offer very good deals.”