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In good hands with the "Red Caps" forty years on

6th May 2008 Print
Forty years ago to the day, 24 "Red Caps" turned up for work at the launch in Frankfurt of Lufthansa’s special service for people in need of assistance. Their job is to help and host "mothers with small children, unaccompanied minors, elderly people and disabled passengers especially in the airport area," as a Lufthansa press release put it in 1968.

Meantime, this Lufthansa Special Service has become a firm and important fixture in the services which Lufthansa provides on the ground.

The moment a red cap was presented as the staff’s headgear and as a mark of recognition of the Special Service when it was launched at a press conference in 1968, an observant journalist on the occasion promptly dubbed the assistants the "Red Caps", and the tag stuck. Although the red cap is no longer part of the uniform but has been replaced by red badges on the assistants’ lapels, the nickname has become common usage and stands for the personal and helpful care rendered by Special Service staff.

Meantime in Frankfurt alone, Lufthansa employs more than 400 staff on its Special Service to look after unaccompanied minors, senior citizens, people with ailments or the disabled travelling with the airline. In 2007, around 461,000 passengers made use of the service, among them 54,500 unaccompanied minors.

For persons in need of assistance, Lufthansa has specially designated desks for check-in. From then on, they are escorted through security and passport control right through to the departure gate. Elderly or disabled passengers are driven there by electro-car. A special lounge with magazines, newspapers and a choice of drinks is available for them to spend the time prior to flight. A treasure-trove of toys, colouring books and game consoles keeps unaccompanied minors occupied before boarding their flight. Linguistic skills are part of the package: Lufthansa Special Service staff speak around 30 different languages.