For Christian Heinzmann, these are uneasy times. “The most difficult year Luxair has ever experi- enced” was 2003, the CEO of Luxembourg’s national
carrier told ATW recently, and although he expected the parent company to show a
positive operating result for 2004, with the airline breaking even, he recognizes that
much remains to be accomplished.
On a more delicate note, Heinzmann, who joined Luxair
from VLM Airlines in January 2001, has been inculpated in the
Nov. 6, 2002, fatal crash of a Luxair F50 at Luxembourg’s
Findel Airport in which 20 were killed. Depending on the outcome of the preliminary investigation, he may face a lengthy
public trial to determine whether as chief executive he bears
personal responsibility for training and operational shortcomings that were identified by the examining magistrate as having
contributed to the accident.
It is an unusual—perhaps unprecedented—situation in
European aviation, particularly in light of the fact that the
accident investigation determined that the crash occurred
because the pilot selected “ground idle” mode for the propellers while the aircraft was still aloft, in violation of Luxair’s
flight training and operations manual.
Nevertheless, life must go on, and for Heinzmann that means
continuing with the turnaround plan launched in April 2004 to
increase productivity and cut the cost of so-called ARAs—airline
related activities—by € 14 million by the end of this year.
“We’re on target,” he contends, adding that € 6 million in
savings had been achieved by the end of November.
Categorizing Luxair is not easy. Created in 1961 by the
Luxembourg government, it is in some ways a typical European
flag carrier. The state still holds 23.1% of the share capital
directly and controls another 13.4% stake through the Banque
et Caisse d’Epargne de l’Etat, a state-owned financial institu-
tion. As national airline it also is responsible for a wide spec-
trum of services including passenger and cargo handling, cater-
ing services and the management of duty-free shops at Findel.
Yet the average stage length is just 770 km. and it relies
largely on regional jet and turboprop equipment for lift.
The fleet comprises three F50s, eight ERJ-145s, three 737-
500s and two winglet-equipped 737-700s. A third 737-
700 arrives this month and a pair of ERJ-135s will be
delivered by the end of February. The latter gradually will
replace F50s on the London City route, which is good for
Luxembourg’s flag carrier fights
back to profit amid turbulence,
BY CATHY BUYCK / LUXEMBOURG