ST. LOUIS — It was a history-making day and night in St. Louis on Wednesday. A business group from St. Louis headed to Germany on a trade trip as a group of travel agents from Germany came to St. Louis. Both trips marked the return of regular nonstop air service between St. Louis and Europe after nearly 20 years.   

Germany-based Lufthansa Airlines now offers nonstop service from St. Louis Lambert International airport to Frankfurt, Germany, three days a week:  Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.   

There was a light show on the ceiling of St. Louis Union Station’s Grand Hall Wednesday night for the travel agents who had flown in from Frankfurt on that very first nonstop to St. Louis.  Their visit is part of Lufthansa’s effort to drum up leisure travel here.   

Things were going great according to Ronny Buchholz, Key Account Manager for Lufthansa Group. 

“We are quite overwhelmed by the (Gateway) Arch and the Mississippi River,” he said.  “We’ve just arrived so it’s like, ‘whoah’, ya!”  

Service to Frankfurt puts St. Louisans within one connecting flight of just about anywhere in the world, he said. It also opened up even more of America’s heartland for travelers worldwide.     

Still, more than anything, nonstop service was a must for the St. Louis business community. 

Perhaps more than any other company, Bayer, which took over Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters, craves easier connectivity to its world headquarters in Germany.  St. Louis leaders predict just the three weekly nonstop flights alone will pump $50 million to $100 million a year into the regional economy, far offsetting a close to $5 million in reported subsidies plus a waiver of landing fees for Lufthansa in the first two years of the service agreement.   

“I can already say today, based on the booking numbers, that this flight is already a success,” said Frank Naeve, Vice-President of Sales for Lufthansa Group, just before a ribbon-cutting at Lambert.   

“The vast majority of it we’re going to see with impacts to business, with conferences, the meetings we’re going to be able to host here along with that major impact for Bayer,” said Cat Neville, Vice President of Communications for Explore St. Louis.    

She expected much more to come of this.  Leisure travel from Europe will undoubtedly expand as things we take for granted here become more accessible to people there. 

“These types of things are tipping points.  Once you show that it’s worth the investment, it’s worth the time, then other people come,” she said.  “If you have a direct flight, you’re much more likely to pick that than if you have to have a layover here or layover there.  So, having that direct flight is a massive advantage for St. Louis.  This is a really big win for the city. I think we should all raise a glass in appreciation.” 

St. Louis Lambert International Airport director, Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said she hoped the service would expand to five days a week and ultimately every day. 

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