Lufthansa To Order Airbus A350-1000s
FRANKFURT/BERLIN—Lufthansa is expected to announce its first order for the Airbus A350-1000 on March 2, following approval by its supervisory board.
The decision comes as Lufthansa benefits from unexpectedly high demand on long-haul routes and amid delayed deliveries of Boeing 787s and a yet-unclear 777-9 timeline.
“We have too few large widebodies in the fleet,” Lufthansa Airlines CEO Jens Richter said Feb. 28 on the sidelines of a company event in Berlin. The A350-1000 would help in that regard, though Ritter did not confirm an order was coming given that management still needs board approval. He also did not specify how large the order would be, but Lufthansa typically does not go for subfleets of less than 10 aircraft.
Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr has made clear in the past that one of his aims is to simplify the fleet structure, but the addition of the A350-1000 at Lufthansa Airlines is making the effort even more difficult. Depending on future demand levels and aircraft delivery streams, the -1000 could accelerate the transition to a more modern fleet and the retirement of four-engined aircraft. But for at least the next several years more complexity is added.
The airline is in the middle of returning up to eight of its A380s to revenue service, a step it had categorically ruled out until recently. Four of the aircraft are to be used in the upcoming summer. They will be based in Munich and initially fly to East Coast destinations, with Boston as the first airport to be served. Washington-Dulles will also become an A380 destination. Boston is currently served with A380s, Washington is a 747-8 route. Whether all eight are returning is still not decided, but likely, given how strongly long-haul demand has returned. Before the pandemic, Lufthansa’s A380 fleet consisted of 14 aircraft, six of which have been sold back to Airbus as part of an earlier deal for more A350-900s.
According to Aviation Week Network’s Fleet Discovery database, Lufthansa also still has a combination of 24 747-400s and -8s in service; three additional aircraft are parked. The airline also has 21 A350-900s, three of which are parked; and 26 A340s, nine of which are parked. Other group airlines have 767s (Austrian), A340s and A330s (Edelweiss), A330s, A340s and 777-300ERs (Swiss) and A330s (Brussels Airlines, Eurowings Discover). ITA Airways, which is in the process of being bought by the group, has A350s and A330neos on order. The airline operates A350s and A330-200s.
Lufthansa Airlines’ order book includes 20 777-9s and 32 787-9s, the first three of which have been delivered. The carrier has also committed to 28 more A350-900s.
According to company sources, Lufthansa had first been considering the A350-1000 as a back-up solution in case the 777-9 would be delayed further beyond 2025. But more recently and given how strong demand is, the thinking has shifted, with management concluding that the airline can operate both types. The 777-9 has about 50 more seats than the A350-1000.
At Lufthansa, the 777-9 has been planned to replace the 747-400. It will ultimately be the airline’s largest aircraft when the 747-8s are phased out, though Lufthansa plans to operate these well into the 2030s.