Lufthansa has named Carsten Spohr as new chief executive to succeed Christoph Franz who will stand down at the end of April.

Spohr is head of Lufthansa’s passenger airlines business, a role he has held since January 2011 when he also joined the carrier’s executive board.

He will take over at Lufthansa on May 1, a month ahead of the carrier’s Star Alliance partners beginning their move to the new Terminal 2 at Heathrow.

Franz announced he would quit Lufthansa last September to join Swiss-based pharmaceutical giant Roche.

The outgoing chief executive has presided over an extensive restructure and cost-cutting programme which has seen the loss of 3,500 jobs and cuts in pensions.

News agency Bloomberg suggested Franz’s departure after less than three years as chief executive resulted in part from “animosity” provoked by the cost cutting. However, Franz insisted it is because he lives in Switzerland where Roche is based.

Lufthansa is among the most profitable airlines in Europe but issued a profit warning in October when it revised down its earnings forecast for 2013 to €600 million to €700 million (£500 million to £600 million).

Franz set an annual profit target of €2.3 billion (£1.9 billion) by 2015.

Spohr declared himself “a Lufthansa man born and bred” and said: “I’m convinced the company is on the right track. The cornerstones for future success are in place.”

The new chief executive trained as a pilot at Lufthansa and holds a captain’s licence. He has held an executive role at the airline since 1994.