Lufthansa Replaces Mercedes With Volkswagen For First Class Transfers

Filed Under: Lufthansa

Lufthansa offers one of the best first class ground experiences in the world. I love the Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt, as well as the Lufthansa First Class Lounge Munich.

Lufthansa First Class Lounge Munich

There are many things that make lounges like the First Class Terminal incredible, though one of my favorite aspects is that you’ll always be driven to your plane in a car, which is a dream come true for any aviation geek.

Porsche Panamera used by Lufthansa

Plane spotting from a Lufthansa transfer

Up until recently Lufthansa has been using a combination of Mercedes and Porsche vehicles for these transfers. Specifically, they’ve been using Mercedes S-Class & V-Class, as well as Porsche Cayennes and Panameras.

Well, the Frankfurter Allgemeine is reporting that Lufthansa is changing up the cars they use. Lufthansa has gotten rid of all of their Mercedes vehicles for first class ground transfers, and is partly replacing them with Volkswagen vehicles.

Lufthansa isn’t officially commenting on the reason for this change, but rumor has it that it comes down to two factors:

  • Mercedes used to sponsor these vehicles partly, though has stopped doing so
  • The S-Class vehicles are hybrid, and Lufthansa has apparently been having issues with the performance of these cars for operating the short distances they drive, and in some cases drivers even had to jump start the cars due to battery issues

Lufthansa apparently had 108 S-Class vehicles that have now been retired (that’s a lot of cars!).

Meanwhile Mercedes is commenting on the situation, and says that they’ve stopped sponsoring this program, as they no longer want to bear the costs alone. They say no agreement has been reached with Lufthansa, and the contract expired at the end of March. Mercedes has allegedly paid millions of dollars for this program since the last extension in 2013.

So, what’s the plan going forward? Lufthansa will increase their fleet of Porsche vehicles, and will primarily be using them for their transfers.

Porsche Panamera used by Lufthansa

The problem is that Lufthansa needs a replacement for their Mercedes minivans, because that’s usually what they use when more than a couple of people are going to the same flight.

Mercedes V used by Lufthansa

So Lufthansa will be replacing the Mercedes V-Class minivans with Volkswagen T6 minivans.

Bottom line

It’s always interesting to see how sponsorship opportunities work out between airlines and providers of other services. Whether it’s a car for a car transfer, the champagne served in first class, or the contents of an amenity kit, chances are there’s significant collaboration between the companies, and the airline isn’t paying anywhere close to retail price.

Going forward Lufthansa is dumping Mercedes for their tarmac transfers, in favor of more Porsche cars, along with Volkswagen minivans.

Volkswagen makes great cars, though Germans are also generally status-driven (especially when it comes to cars), so I’ll be curious to see how this goes over.

(Tip of the hat to Max)

  1. So, another way to position the change is that VAG now has an exclusive deal, using their top German product in each category.

  2. Porsche is fine. But Volkswagen may be negatively viewed because of it being perceived as lower quality and the problems incurred after the diesel emissions scandal of a few years ago.

  3. More Porsche – great news! Unfortunately their maximum horsepower and speed (up to 250km/h) were completely wasted on the tarmac, given their driver only goes up to 40km/h, and they still consider it’s too fast.

  4. Does it really matter? No. It’s just few minutes’ ride to your plane, and it’s considered a luxury already. Most airlines’ first passengers can only walk (or ride a bus) between lounge and gate.

  5. Many years ago, I drove VIP limousines shuttling guests on the tarmac between lounges and aircraft at a different airport.

    At that airport, we initially used really nice Lexus hybrid cars, but we soon faced a similar issues: The constant ultra-short distances and speed limit of 30kph meant that the hybrid drive was really struggling and often the battery was completely empty, resulting in a terrible fuel economy.

    We eventually switched to regular VW Phaetons and later Audis.

  6. Do these sponsorship deals ever work out for the sponsoring company.

    Did they generate any additional sales from this from people using the service? “Oh Doris we must get a Mercedes when we replace the car after that ride to the plane” I hear no one say.

    Seeing a company name slapped over something just doesn’t work for me. Does e.g emirates or eithad sponsoring a sports team generate any extra traffic for them that covers the cost?

  7. Well let me tell you of my experience on united airlines.
    I was flying from Las Vegas to LAX and then to Newark (EWR). The plane was late out of Las Vegas my connection time was about 50 minutes. When we arrived I saw the gate and the plane it was the new 787-10 I was flying Polaris business class I New I was going to make with a good hustle walk to the next gate but when I got off the plane a united airlines employee had my name on mini I pad and said come with me I was like what. Down the stairs and into a Mercedes Benz SUV and took me right to the plane up an elevator and walked me to the gate with a boarding pass in hand great service if this is new for united it’s great. Also the new 787-10 is a really nice plane a the ride is quite too.

  8. @noah all of the big 3 in Germany have been in trouble with the emission scandals even Porsche on their v6 diesel recently I believe it was close to 100k cars. But yes I’m sure VW group gave them a deal

  9. Wow. Krug in the AA F lounges, and Volkswagen when flying LH F. What is the world coming to? Everything is turned around!

  10. Despite my disdain for the Panamera (it is astonishingly ugly compared to the Maserati Quattorporte or the Aston Martin Rapide), Porsche is a good choice. And given a choice between a VW minivan and a bus, the VW wins too.

    Actually, I’d be fine with a Kia – I just want the tarmac ride.

  11. @Jack “does it really matter that they serve several courses of food in First? It’s just one or two meals in your life and it’s a luxury to have food in the sky already. Most passengers can only make do with some pretzels and a reheated meal.”

    Rinse and repeat argument with any luxury aspect of First class and you’ll get my point.
    Your argument is a “Not as bad as” logical fallacy. Just because someone has it worse does not have any bearing on the quality of Lufthansa’s offerings for First. It’s First Class and it should be treated as such in every aspect. It’s people saying things like what you just said that lead to mediocrity.

  12. @ChrisC

    I can only offer an anecdotal sample size of 2, but my grandparents have owned several S-Classes and they still rave to this day about how Lufthansa picked them up in a Mercedes S600 as if that was something to be in awe of.

    My guess is that this is just the same as why Mercedes advertises their high end cars on TV. It’s not that someone will directly go to a dealership and say, “that TV ad made me want to spend $100k on an S-Class” or “Lufthansa picking me up in an S-Class made me want to buy one.” It’s because it reaffirms that if you see them everywhere in these luxurious scenarios that it is the creme-de-creme of cars and something you should aspire to buy one day, OR if you already own one that you made the right choice and will buy another. There’s a reason people refer to things as the “S-Class of this or that”. Because you see them everywhere in scenarios associated with the top luxurious, successful people.

  13. Porsche is owned by VW. So this simply means Lufthansa is using all VW cars.
    Mercedes mini vans are not luxurious or even all that comfortable. It’s no different than most passenger transport vans or mini buses.

  14. I can see why Mercedes would want to do this. It’s all about branding…Mercedes gets the brand associated with a luxury product, i.e. LH F. Now after several years they may have come to the realization that this particular branding experience wasn’t worth the cost, but I could certainly see the benefit of this.

  15. “though Germans are also generally status-driven”

    Huh? The hundreds of Germans I interact with all seem like “normal” people and aren’t “status driven”? I know your area is a pretty materialistic one, but that reads rather insultingly to me!

  16. ChrisC – Yes, sponsorship deals work. Hence their existence – you don’t think billions of dollars is just being spent on a whim do you?

  17. What counts is the service they provide, not the car they provide it with.

    Sitting in the First Class Terminal and not having to worry about when to leave. Sitting in the First Class Terminal knowing that they will come an get you when the plane is ready to board so that you don’t have to wait at the gate. Sitting in the First Class Terminal, sipping Champagne until someone says “We’re ready for boarding now”.

    That’s what matters. If afterwards they drive me to the plane in a Fiat 500 – so be it.

    And, by the way, I am one of those “status driven” Germans!

  18. To avoid the fuel issues, they should switch to a “Golf” buggy. Bonus – there’s lots in those airports already.

  19. @Callum

    Of course we are not all status driven. But compared to other people we do seem to place a premium on our cars and regard it as a symbol of status, especially since most of the nice cars you see driving around in Germany are not owned by the person who drives it but are company cars – and the higher the status within your company, the nicer the car: e.g. the CEO would drive a BMW 7, the head of a major department a BMW 5 and a mid-level office worker may get a BMW 3 if she/he is luck. Entry level employees get a month or year pass for the public transport. By looking at the car somebody parks in a company car park you can see how valued they are by the company.

  20. Just had the Porsche the other day. I like it better than the Mercedes anyways (which I had on each of my previous visits)

  21. After schlepping through Frankfurt last year, I would be happy to be driven in any car whatsoever.

  22. They should use Bentley Continentals or Lamborghinis… both are owned by VW. 🙂

    I love the LH FCL/FCT but have never been excited by their choice of vehicles for transfers. Porsches…Mercedes…yawn…

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