The German Federal Cartel Office has officially warned Lufthansa about the feeder flights. According to the preliminary results of the examination, the authority is of the opinion that Condor “is entitled to antitrust claims against Lufthansa for access to feeder flights for its long-haul passengers”.
“According to our preliminary audit results, the Lufthansa Group is dominant on the feeder market, which mainly connects German airports with Condor’s long-haul network. No other airline can offer flights to the major German hubs in Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf beyond single flights. Lufthansa is therefore subject to antitrust abuse control and is subject to special obligations. We have concerns about the admissibility of terminating the Condor cooperation if Lufthansa thereby unreasonably impedes its competitor on the downstream markets for long-haul flights," said Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt.
Condor and Lufthansa have been working together on feeder flights for many years. The original termination of this business relationship on June 1, 2021 was temporarily suspended by Lufthansa until May 10, 2022 following intervention by the Federal Cartel Office. Based on the investigations carried out so far, the Federal Cartel Office has come to the preliminary conclusion that Condor has a cartel-law claim against Lufthansa for access to the feeder flights beyond this point in time. In addition, the Federal Cartel Office has identified various other restrictions on competition in the previous agreements between Lufthansa and Condor, the admissibility of which under antitrust law it is currently also critical of.
Condor itself does not maintain a feeder network; according to the investigations carried out so far, there would also be no suitable slots available at the central hubs such as Frankfurt for setting up a corresponding network. On average, passengers who book a feeder flight live at least 300 km from the long-haul departure airport. According to the investigation, the train or the long-distance bus are not an alternative for them.
Condor can only offer guaranteed carriage from the airport of departure to the airport of destination with checked baggage throughout, the handing over of the boarding pass at the first airport of departure and full travel protection in the event of delays or flight cancellations by means of the contracts concluded between the airlines (so-called Special Prorate Agreements, SPA). For its part, Lufthansa has additional income to finance its short-haul network. If the agreements are dropped, there will be no even remotely equivalent transport option for Condor's own feeder passengers - as things currently stand.
According to the Bundeskartellamt's preliminary view, sufficient performance and price competition on the already heavily concentrated indirect long-haul markets is only possible if Condor can fall back on the advance services provided by Lufthansa, which dominates the feeder market. If Condor were to break away from travelers who want a feeder flight as a customer group, this would have serious economic consequences for the company and the competition. With almost 90 transfer connections to tourist destinations, Lufthansa could subsequently gain considerable competitive advantages as a current or potential competitor, and in some cases even a unique position.
According to the Bundeskartellamt's preliminary view, the previous agreements between Lufthansa and Condor contain further illegal restrictions on competition, such as a shortage of booking classes, non-discriminatory access to the capacity on the feeder flights and a restriction on Condor's pricing options.
The proposed decision would not jeopardize the realignment being driven forward by Lufthansa with a greater focus on the long-haul tourist business. After the consolidation and partial realignment of its own business, the company is free to compete with Condor using antitrust-compliant means. Lufthansa and Condor now have the opportunity to comment on the preliminary results of the proceedings.