Germany's national carrier Lufthansa will increase its flights to the ASEAN region with Malaysia the focal point of its renewed interest in the area.
Lufthansa will fly five times a week to Malaysia, operating non-stop flights between Frankfurt and Kuala Lumpur from spring 2014, Lufthansa sources in Frankfurt said.
The German carrier, whose Asian operations are heavily tilted toward China and India, is clearly eyeing ASEAN's market potential.
The flights depart in the evening, allowing passengers, particularly business travellers, to save time and have the day to conduct business.
According to Helmut Rinner, a management consultant based outside Frankfurt with intimate knowledge of the ASEAN region, German businesses are attracted by the USD2 trillion ASEAN market of some 600 million people and a large and growing middle class.
"Lufthansa, which has been flying only to a few selected destinations such as Singapore and Bangkok, will now also add Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta to its non-stop network.
"The growing engagement of the German industry in ASEAN has, apparently, prompted this initiative," he said.
The Hamburg-based German Asia-Pacific Business Council, popularly known by its German acronym OAV, comprises German companies and organizations with strong ties and business interests in the Asia-Pacific region.
Instrumental in promoting German business in Asia, OAV has been underscoring importance of the ASEAN region for German businesses in many of its recent pronouncements.
Both Malaysia and Indonesia, particularly Bali, have also been attracting travelers from Europe who are tired of the usual tourist-packed beaches of Spain, Greece and Italy and now want to explore new places and cultures.
Lufthansa's added flights to Kuala Lumpur will provide an impetus to the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 which Tourism Malaysia has been aggressively promoting.
OAV has been highlighting the growing economic significance of Indonesia as the world's fourth most-populous country.
Jakarta, Southeast Asia's biggest metropolitan region with a population of 28 million people, is an important traffic intersection point besides being the country's banking center and an important venue for the food and beverage industry and the textile and leather-processing sectors.
Lufthansa will be offering five direct weekly flights to Jakarta via Kuala Lumpur.
According to Lufthansa in Frankfurt, flights booked by Dec 3, 2013 for travel between March 30 and May 31, 2014 cost as little as 699 euro.
Until now, travelers to the Indonesian capital took a connecting flight from a neighboring country - until end 2012, travellers from Munich flew to Jakarta via Singapore.
For their connections to Kuala Lumpur, passengers until now could choose from the four flights a week to Bangkok en route to Kuala Lumpur.
The non-stop flights from Frankfurt to Kuala Lumpur will start on March 30, 2014 and operate five days a week from Thursday to Monday.
Lufthansa will deploy an Airbus A340-600 for its flight to Kuala Lumpur and thence to Jakarta.
According to Kay Kratky, a member of Lufthansa's board of management and responsible for operations: "We are happy that we can again offer our passengers direct flights to Jakarta and more flights to Kuala Lumpur.
"Indonesia and Malaysia are both important countries, in economic and touristic terms, and we are confident that our customers will appreciate and use the new travel possibilities to Southeast Asia."
The carrier will be offering 127 weekly flights to 22 destinations in Asia in the future, Kratky added.
Lufthansa Group executive vice president (test management) Nico Buchholz told Bernama three days ago in New York the airline's making a long-term plan to purchase aircraft.
"We are allocating some USD50 billion for purchase of 295 aircraft based on an average growth rate of three percent," Buchholz said.
"I will not be surprised if Lufthansa revived some of its old routes which for some reason have been closed down or were not adequately serviced in the past.
"Lufthansa's closer look at the ASEAN region now makes sense," said one New York-based aviation analyst who preferred to remain anonymous. (PNA/Manik Mehta/Bernama) CTB/CJT/RSM