SunExpress, a Turkey-based carrier that is a joint venture between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, has appointed Dr Max Kownatzkias its new CEO. The 47-year-old has become the CEO of one of the largest airlines in tourist and ethnic traffic between Germany and Turkey, as well as one of the most popular holiday airlines in Europe. He succeeds Jens Bischof, who has been CEO of Eurowings since March 2020.
Kownatzki, who was formerly senior vice president of network & partnership management for the hub airlines of Lufthansa Group, takes up his new position in challenging times. The Covid-19 crisis has kept a large part of the airline’s fleet on the ground for a few days, though some aircraft are still flying on behalf of governments and tour operators from a wide range of destinations. SunExpress also supports German agriculture as part of the Lufthansa Group, and flies in much-needed harvest workers to Germany with special flights set up at short notice.
Kownatzki said of his appointment, “I am very happy to be part of the SunExpress team. In the current situation, I see how much experience, energy and passion are in this company. The flexibility, speed and creativity with which SunExpress responds to the effects of the corona crisis are remarkable. Not only because of this, but also because of the strong market position so far, I am convinced that SunExpress will emerge stronger from this crisis and that we will continue the success story together.”
Kownatzki has extensive experience in the airline industry, with a special focus on strategic and commercial issues. He began his career in 2002 at the Oliver Wyman strategy consultancy in New York and Munich, where he served clients in the field of aviation until 2013 in various senior positions, most recently as a senior partner. In 2013 he joined the management of the Australian Jetstar Group, a subsidiary of Qantas, as head of Qantas strategy.
In 2015 he joined Lufthansa, where he initially worked on the establishment and development of the low-cost subsidiary, Eurowings, for which he became chief commercial officer and subsequently senior vice president of business development. For the past three years, he has been responsible for network planning and strategic alliances between Lufthansa Group’s hub airlines of Lufthansa, Brussels, Swiss and Austrian Airlines.
Kownatzki studied business administration in St Gallen, Switzerland, and then obtained his doctorate. He holds both German and American citizenship and has a commercial pilot licence. He is the father of two children.