Mayrhuber’s future unclear as Franz set to take over

Christoph Franz has been appointed new Lufthansa boss.The aviation firm announced yesterday (Tues) that the 50-year-old German businessman will succeed Wolfgang Mayrhuber as of the beginning of next year.Mayrhuber, who was born in the Upper Austrian town of Waizenkirchen, started working for Lufthansa in 1970. He has headed the firm that has its headquarters in Cologne for seven years. Mayrhuber has been lauded for getting the company back on track with strict cost-cutting measures.Turning the Swiss airline Swiss into the Lufthansa Group’s most successful branch after taking over the debt-ridden firm in March 2005 for 310 million Euros is seen as the 63-year-old’s biggest achievement.Mayerhofer has remained tight-lipped about what he planned for the future, but reports have it that the father of three bought a flat in Salzburg to spend more time in his home country from next year.Lufthansa – the biggest aviation company in Europe – made clear Mayrhuber will not enter its supervisory board after the end of his term as CEO.It is understood that the Austrian will remain a member of the supervisory boards of a string of big international companies like Swiss bank institute UBS.Mayrhuber is regarded as one of the most powerful Austrian businessmen alongside Siemens boss Peter Löscher and Siegfried Wolf. The co-chief of Austrian-Canadian car parts manufacturer was recently appointed new head of Russian Machines, the automotive division of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s company Basic Element.Mayerhofer came under fire by his newly-named successor recently for allegedly underestimating the strength of Arab aviation rivals. Franz, currently a member of Lufthansa’s supervisory board, also criticised the firm for failing to earn what it spends in the current business year.He also attacked the executive board over the soaring market share of low cost carrier Air Berlin which has become Germany’s second-biggest airline.Air Berlin cooperates with Austrian budget carrier FlyNiki, while Lufthansa took over a major share in Austrian Airlines (AUA) last year – after the Austrian government controversially bolstered the struggling company with 500 million Euros.AUA co-chiefs Peter Malanik and Andreas Bierwirth – who laid off hundreds of employees since Lufthansa got on board – said recently the company’s strategy was to reduce losses and overall costs by 250 million Euros this year to improve its turnover. The Vienna-based carrier suffered losses of 67 million Euros in the first six months of 2010.The company, which has around 6,300 staff, served 11.3 per cent more customers year on year last month when 1.1 million people took AUA flights. Its occupancy rate edged up by 1.5 per cent to 83.3 per cent.These figures mean that the number of passengers soared by 10.1 per cent year on year to 7.3 million Euros in the first eight months of 2010.AUA is the most important partner of Vienna International Airport (VIA) as around 50 per cent of landing and departing flights are AUA services.