CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- US Airways' merger with American (AAL - Get Report)AAL means Charlotte will become a Oneworld hub rather than a Star Alliance hub, but Star co-founder Lufthansa said it will stay in Charlotte nevertheless.
Lufthansa operates daily Charlotte-Munich service aboard an A330 seating 221 passengers in three classes. US Airways, which operates about 90% of all Charlotte flights, has said it will leave Star on March 30.
About half of Lufthansa's Charlotte-Munich service originates in Europe, while about half of the passengers originating in Charlotte -- or about 25% overall -- connect to and from US Airways.
Despite US Airways' alliance switch, "we are here to stay," Juergen Siebenrock, Lufthansa vice president for the Americas, told reporters on Tuesday. "We are committed to Charlotte. We have a strong presence here. People know us. But we need some support; we need a larger portion of the local market."
Siebenrock said Charlotte-Munich is "one of our best routes," largely as a result of a strong Charlotte regional presence by scores of German corporations. In South Carolina, German company BMW is among the largest employers and Continental Tire has its U.S. tire headquarters. In fact, as Siebenrock spoke at a south Charlotte hotel, Continental Tire held a national sales conference in a nearby conference room.
But it's not just big German companies that fill the first and business class seats on the Charlotte-Munich flight. When Lufthansa inaugurated Charlotte service in 2004, the Charlotte region had about 150 German companies. Now it has more than 200. Most are mid-sized businesses.
German customers are loyal, Siebenrock said. "It's a part of their home when they step on a Lufthansa plane," he said. "Lufthansa is a very strong brand in Germany, one of the most popular employers."