Lufthansa’s chief executive Carsten Spohr was facing the biggest challenge of his career. An aircraft belonging to his company’s low-cost subsidiary Germanwings had just crashed, after a co-pilot, apparently deliberately, crashed the aircraft into the Alps, killing all those on board. It was the kind of accident that can destroy companies, and their leaders.
Mr. Spohr took full responsibility for dealing with the crash, which occured on March 24, and its aftermath. Bespectacled and calm, he became the face of the crisis and earned praise for the way he handled it.
But now there is a new phase of the crisis, and this presents a new set of challenges for Lufthansa. A very public fight has broken out over the amount of compensation that should be paid to the families of the victims, and the fall out could damage Germany’s largest airline, and Mr. Spohr.
The dispute is an emotive one. Lufthansa’s nemesis here is Elmar Giemulla, a 64-year-old German aviation lawyer, who is representing some of the families. He has worked with the relatives of people killed in some of the worst airline crashes of modern time.
Most notably, he has represented the families of the victims of the Lockerbie crash in Scotland in 1988, the 2000 Concorde crash in Paris and the 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine.