Has Lufthansa Put Charlotte on Global Map?

When Lufthansa began direct Charlotte-to-Munich service in 2004, business leaders immediately trumpeted it as a recruitment tool.

They said the service would help put Charlotte on the map for the business community in Germany and in Europe as a whole.

Has it happened?

Karl Ulrich Garnadt, who oversees the Munich hub for Lufthansa, said demand for seats on Charlotte flights has lagged behind expectations. He declined to elaborate, but said bookings are running below the airline's goal of 80 percent of seats.

"I think we have huge potential to connect Charlotte to all of Europe," he said. "In the long run, we are convinced that on the basis of the product we offer, we will succeed."

Duane Copeland, who flies the Charlotte-to-Munich Lufthansa flight regularly for his job as a project engineer at the BMW plant near Spartanburg, said the connection has made a difference in Charlotte's name recognition.

" When you mention Charlotte, people know where it is," said the UNC Charlotte graduate. "It's exciting to have the opportunity to see the Carolinas being more on the international map."

But interviews with a handful of businesspeople on the downtown streets of Munich as the city prepared for Oktoberfest, a major international gathering that runs through Oct. 3, suggest Charlotte has a way to go to earn instant name recognition.

A sampling of their reactions:

"I know Hornets. That's all I know (about Charlotte)," said Toby Griesbauer, 29, who works in IT services for a Munich company.

"No (I haven't heard of Charlotte). I'm not from Munich, I'm from Cologne, so maybe it's not possible for me to know," said Thomas Kaehler, 37, founder of a mobile phone startup company called Communology.

"For the banking community or the real estate community, it's helpful (to have a direct Charlotte flight), yes," said George Jewgrafow (wouldn't give age), who works in the real estate industry. "It's much easier, for example, to go to Miami via Charlotte."

"Of course I've heard of Charlotte, because of Hoescht Celanese," said Holger Bengs, 42, a consultant in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

"I know North Carolina, but not Charlotte," said Elizabeth Braams, who works for an electronics company.

Charlotte Observer

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