Lufthansa will be the first major European airline to order the new Airbus A320 new engine option (NEO). The airline’s board of directors on March 16 approved a plan to buy 25 A320NEOs and five A321NEOs. Lufthansa also ordered five Boeing 777 freighters for its cargo operation (Aviation Daily, Jan. 27).

Lufthansa says it will start taking delivery of the NEOs in 2016. The aircraft will become available in 2015, according to Airbus’ plans. The airline has not yet made an engine selection.

The concern did not specify where the 777Fs will operate. Lufthansa’s logistics group comprises the Lufthansa Cargo mainline operation, Aerologic, a Leipzig-based joint venture with DHL, and Chinese affiliate Jade Cargo. Lufthansa Cargo has 18 Boeing MD-11s that will have to be replaced in the medium term. Aerologic operates eight 777Fs, Jade flies 747-400Fs.

The 777F order is likely to be used to exert pressure on mainline cargo pilots to allow higher productivity, as Lufthansa can threaten to place the aircraft with lower cost Aerologic alternatively. The order therefore is likely to initiate another round of tough negotiations with pilot union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC).