June 7th, 2017

CSGG: 6/7 – Lufthansa Chair and CEO, Mr. Carsten Spohr

“From innovation to workforce development: travel and investment in the transatlantic marketplace”
A Conversation with Mr. Carsten Spohr, Chairman and CEO, Deutsche Lufthansa AG


On June 7, 2017, The Congressional Study Group on Germany hosted Mr. Carsten Spohr, the Chairman and CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, for a roundtable discussion with current and former members of Congress, congressional staff members, and German business representatives. Lufthansa has a strong connection to the American market, as the German airline employs over 14,000 workers and invests nearly $1 billion annually in the United States alone. Mr. Spohr and his colleagues led a conversation surrounding the current and future state of transatlantic affairs, offering a unique corporate perspective to the matter considering the current state of transatlantic affairs.

CSGG: Lufthansa Chair and CEO, Mr. Carsten SpohrThe Trump Administration’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord has complicated the US-German partnership, while the proposal of a Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) – an import tax on foreign manufacturers – may further muddle economic relations across the Atlantic. Some consider Germany to be at lower risk for substantial losses than other countries who possess a greater presence in American markets. This stance is credited to Germany’s relatively low level of exported goods – BMW imports more cars from plants in the United States than it produces domestically, for example.

While there exist political discrepancies between the administrations of President Donald Trump and Chancellor Angela Merkel, the two have found common ground in regards to labor-force integration. Germany’s current economic success and near full-employment levels have been attributed to the country’s ability to recruit and train skilled professionals in the manufacturing industry through apprenticeships and dual training programs. While President Trump’s agenda includes a revival of the industrial jobs for middle-class workers, the American manufacturing sector has struggled to employ capable workers for technical positions in recent years. This disparity is often ascribed to cultural influences; many middle-class young Americans choose to attend college rather than pursuing professional training for a career in the industrial sector under a perceived societal pressure that success is achieved through the attainment of a college degree. Germany, with a record of successful training and apprenticeship initiatives, more efficiently recruits middle-class workers to the manufacturing sector.

In fact, Lufthansa announced on June 7 their agreement with the Department of Labor to launch an apprenticeship program at the University of Puerto Rico. The purpose of the initiative is to develop and train skilled workers for future employment in the aviation industry.

With respect to the aviation sector specifically, technological discrepancies between European and American air-traffic control systems have been a recent area of concern in the industry. Many American airlines believe that their European counterparts hold a significant technical advantage in the field and the topic has been a talking point on the congressional agenda for several years. However, many German pilots prefer the American system due to its unfragmented structure when compared to that of the European Union – flying between states is more harmonized than flying between independent sovereign nations.

As one of the only industries not covered by the World Trade Organization (WTO), global integration in the aviation field has proven to be a complex process. The Open Skies agreement – allowing airlines from the European Union and the United States to fly across the Atlantic to any location – intends to facilitate international travel between the allied territories, but complications have arisen in the marketplace due to globalization. There remains a concern that alleged unethical business practices and state subsidies to the so-called “Middle East Three” may undermine the agreement. The International Labor Organization (ILO) called for Qatar Airways to end the practice of firing female employees who become pregnant after a 2015 investigation, and many criticize other airlines in the region for holding on to similar unethical policies. In order for Open Skies to succeed and for a fair marketplace to exist, ethical business practices must be established internationally.

About Mr. Spohr

Carsten Spohr, who was born on 16 December 1966, has been Chairman of the Executive Board & CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG since 1 May 2014. As such he is in overall executive charge of the Lufthansa Group with its Hub Airlines, Point-to-Point and Service Companies business segments and its worldwide workforce of some 120,000 personnel.

After graduating in industrial engineering from Karlsruhe University, Mr. Spohr earned his commercial pilot’s license from the Lufthansa Flight Training School in Bremen and Phoenix (Arizona). He then went on to complete a management training program at Deutsche Aerospace AG in Munich.

In 1994 Mr. Spohr returned to Lufthansa, assuming the position of Head of Central Recruitment. The following year he was appointed Personal Assistant to the Chairman & CEO; and in 1998 he assumed responsibility for Lufthansa’s European regional partnerships.

In 2000 Mr. Spohr was named Vice President Alliances & Cooperations, with responsibility for managing and coordinating the company’s collaborations worldwide, including those within Star Alliance and with its regional partners. He also assumed additional responsibility in 2003 for Lufthansa’s passenger business strategy and its passenger airline holdings.

In October 2004 Mr. Spohr was appointed to the Executive Board of Lufthansa German Airlines. In this capacity he was responsible for the passenger airline’s hub management, cabin crews and HR affairs.

Mr. Spohr was appointed Chairman of the Executive Board & CEO of Lufthansa Cargo AG with effect from 15 January 2007. On 1 January 2011 he joined the Executive Board of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, as CEO of Lufthansa German Airlines; and he took over as Chairman of the Executive Board & CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG on 1 May 2014.

Carsten Spohr holds a Lufthansa captain’s license for the Airbus A320 family. He is married and has two daughters.

Source: Deutsche Lufthansa AG