German Members Of Parliament No Longer Receive Complimentary Lufthansa Senator Status As Of This Year
Lufthansa Miles&More used to supply members of the German Bundestag (national parliament) with a complimentary VIP Senator card that doesn’t require any qualification but this practice has now been stopped.
According to news reports, Lufthansa has ceased to nominate politicians as VIP Senators as of the current legislative term following the 2021 election and all previous Senator-MdB’s expired in February of this year.
The practice to give Senator cards to policians on federal and local level started in the 1990’s under Lufthansa managers Weber / Teckentrup and initially the official rationale behind it was that they are designed to offer a space for confidential meetings at airports and similar hogwash.
An old Spiegel article from 2002 outlines the history of the complimentary Senator cards that were always a contentious issue, just as well as politicans who used their bonus miles for personal flights.
As of 1997 when the federal government sold all it’s Lufthansa shares and the carrier was no longer a state enterprise but a public listed company, airline manangement decided to no longer extend the VIP Senators for local politicians and union bigshots but the members of parliament would keep the membership – until now.
Apparently this was decided last year but totally escaped my attention until this week when some media outlets in Germany reported about it again.
Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland reports that a Lufthansa spokes person confirmed the complimentary VIP Senator memberships have ended and if desired, the members of parliament (some are now formaer members) can extend the Senator for 2000 Euro/year.
Furthermore, members are now only permitted ONE account and not two as it has been in the past following various political scandals about misappropriation of airline miles. Politicans are now responsible to disseminate and account for themselves which miles were earned by “on duty” flights paid by the government. Such miles can only be used for duty flights as per German law and ethics rules of the Bundestag.
German members of parliament remain eligible to receive a Bahn Card 100 for unlimited train travel within Germany, access to the Chauffeur Service of the Bundestag and of course full reimbursement for all other travel (flights included) as necessary for their job as a legislator.
This matter is solely about the complimentary Senator card and with good reason. While according to the article neither Lufthansa or the Bundestag wanted to provide specific reason about this case, there have been clear conflicts of interest that emerged most recently when Lufthansa needed government approval for financial assistance during Covid.
In 2020 when Covid hit, Lufthansa got in financial difficulties to the point of where they couldn’t repay passengers their money for cancelled flights. In long negotiations the German Federal Government eventually agreeed to a 9 Billion Euro rescue package for the airline. Lufthansa has since paid back this loan and the German taxpayer made a good 1 Billion in profit. Nevertheless, the decision was in the hands of people who had profited for years if not decades from Lufthansa’s little gift (bribe) of a free Senator status.
In times where compliance is a huge issue in almost every company as well as in goverment it always had a bitter taste that a German company is allowed to gift politicians something that’s worth in the very least 2000 Euro per year. There is an official limit for presents in the amount of 200 Euro. Beyond that the items have to be handed over to the President of the Bundestag and they can be retrieved when the difference is paid by the member of parlimanent to the Bundeskasse. Obviously the gifted VIP Senator exceeds this limit by 1800 Euro.
The final straw might have been the requirement of the government to make a direct, favorable decision to the benefit of Lufthansa and it was ultimately decided that this is not longer an acceptable practice, let alone likely an illegal one as well.
According to this article from March of this year there was an inquiry if the expense of extending the Senator Status for cash should be born by the parliament but the responsible committe has declined this.
Also, let’s quickly consider the size of the German Bundestag which as of this term has 736 members (plus 69 in the Bundesrat), the largest democratically elected parliament in the world. For just 83 Million people. In comparison, the U.S House of Representatives has 435 members (plus 100 Senators) for 330 Million Americans.
I wonder how many of these 736 members managed to keep their Senator status simply because they fly so much either on the job or for personal reasons.
Lufthansa has pulled the plug on the complimentary VIP Senator memberships for members of the German parliament. The practice of a private company giving politicians free Gold Status which based on their own pricing is valued at 2000 Euro per year has long been seen as improper and contravening ethics rules for legislators.
When Lufthansa was dependent on financial assistance by the German government in 2020/2021 the matter became a focal point once again and questions were asked how objective someone can be who received these valuable goodies for the entire time while sitting in parliament.
German members of parliament still can achieve Senator status like any other member – by flying. Considering the often times rather busy schedule of these people (some flying weekly) I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them are Senator or even HON Circle based on their flight activity alone, compliments of the taxpayer.