A Germanwings Airbus 320 carrying 144 passengers crashed in southern France Tuesday morning as it was flying from Barcelona, Spain, to Düsseldorf, Germany.
Germanwings is a low-cost airline that is entirely owned by Lufthansa, Germany’s flag carrier.
Based in Cologne, it was founded in 2002 as a subsidiary of another Lufthansa-owned airline, Eurowings.
Germanwings was set up as a direct competitor to Ryanair and easyJet, Europe’s top budget airlines. The whole fleet is economy class only.
Germanwings has an excellent safety record, according to AirlineRatings.com, which gave the budget carrier 6 out of 7 stars on its website. According to aeroinside.com, there have been several reports of a cracked windshield in the past, although this morning’s crash is the first major incident for the Lufthansa subsidiary.
In 2012, Lufthansa announced it was combining all its short-haul flights under Germanwings, except those from its Munich and Frankfurt hubs. The move was intended to save costs on domestic and short international flight, and at the same time allow Lufthansa to focus on intercontinental trips to North America and Asia.
The reorganization brought the Germanwings fleet up to 83 active planes, most of them Airbus A319 and A320 jets. Germanwings flies to 117 different destinations in 31 countries.
Germanwings is known in Europe for its “blind-flight” promotions: costumers can buy discounted tickets to unknown destinations, choosing their flights only from the departure airport and the type of trip they are looking for. Travellers can choose from clusters like “Shopping,” “Party,” or “Gay-friendly,” and then the system will allocate tickets to the destinations accordingly.
Earlier this year, Lufthansa announced it was transferring all its Germanwings operations to its former parent company Eurowings in another move intended to slash costs and restructure operations.
Last month, hundreds of flights from Munich, Frankfurt, and Berlin had to be cancelled due to a 36-hour walkout over anticipated pension plans for 5,400 Lufthansa pilots and operators, including several Germanwings employees.
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