FRANKFURT – Germanwings, a low-cost unit of Lufthansa, had recorded no accidents involving passenger deaths until one of its planes crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 on board.
Aviation accident databases such as aviation-safety.net showed no fatalities since the carrier was founded in 2002. Airline representatives did not immediately answer questions about the safety record.
Germany’s Spiegel magazine has reported an incident from 2010, when two pilots nearly passed out as they landed in Cologne. The magazine said contaminated cabin air was suspected.
Germanwings’ parent company, Lufthansa, has not recorded a passenger fatality since 1993, when another Airbus A320 overshot a runway in Warsaw, Poland, killing one crew and one of 64 passengers.
German media have widely reported an incident on Nov. 5 in which a Lufthansa A321-200 flying from Bilbao, Spain, to Munich, Germany, went into a sudden dive shortly after reaching cruising altitude. The dive was believed connected to faulty data from frozen flight data sensors. The crew was able to switch off a flight computer and regain control.
Germanwings, which has a fleet of around 78 aircraft flying to 130 destinations, plays a key role in Lufthansa’s effort to compete against low-cost carriers such as Easyjet and Ryanair.
In January it finished taking over all of Lufthansa’s lossmaking Europe-only flights, outside the main Lufthansa feeder hubs for international traffic in Frankfurt and Munich. Lufthansa says Germanwings’ lower operating costs helped reduce those losses last year, and that the unit may break even this year.
Lufthansa says stronger earnings at Germanwings, along with lower fuel costs, should boost earnings for its airlines division — which also includes Swiss, Eurowings, Lufthansa CityLine, Air Dolomiti and Austrian Airlines — this year.
Germanwings, which is based in Cologne, offers customers choice of three seat categories: Basic, Smart and Best, under the motto: “Reasonably priced but not cheap.” The basic level doesn’t include checked baggage or food, while Smart offers one free checked bag and Best two, in addition to other extras.
Those categories are expected to be kept as Lufthansa expands low-cost flights internationally through its Eurowings division, a stand-alone lower-cost airline that aims to compete with Gulf-based airlines such as Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.
The Germanwings brand will be merged into Eurowings later this year for sales purposes, the airline says, although passengers will still see planes painted with Germanwings markings for the time being and Germanwings flight codes will remain.
Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.