Lufthansa has confirmed chief executive Christoph Franz will step down when his contract expires at the end of May next year.
The move comes as a shock to the carrier, with Franz having been in the role for just three years.
“After a total of nearly 15 years in the Lufthansa Group, this was not an easy decision for me to make”, said Franz.
“I am proud of Lufthansa and its people, and it gives me great pleasure to work for this company.
“However, for professional reasons I have decided to call time on my activities for the Lufthansa Group once I have completed my contract in May 2014.
“By then, the SCORE programme and important investment decisions will have laid the groundwork for the Lufthansa Group to continue its successful development. This is a suitable time for a management handover.”
SCORE is an overhaul of the sprawling Lufthansa company, designed to cut costs as the carrier battles emerging low-cost carriers, Middle Eastern super-connectors and rising fuel costs.
Franz made the announcement in a letter to Wolfgang Mayrhuber, chairman of the Supervisory Board.
“I regret Christoph Franz’s decision to develop his career in a different direction, but I respect his decision,” explained Mayrhuber.
“As chairman of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Lufthansa, I trust that in the remaining months he will be able to bring his work for our company to a successful conclusion.”
Franz, 53-years old, will take up the role of chairman of Swiss drug maker Roche Holding.