Lufthansa Prepares Sweeping Changes To Long-Haul Fleet

Lufthansa had planned to keep on eight of its A380s but now the type might leave its fleet entirely.
Credit: Joe Pries

FRANKFURT—With the return of demand for long-haul travel still unclear, Lufthansa is preparing fundamental cuts to the group’s long-haul fleet that are likely to see several types removed entirely.

CEO Carsten Spohr said Aug. 6 that the group fleet will be permanently cut by 100 aircraft from the current 760, but the group nevertheless expects to be able to offer the same amount of capacity by 2024 as measured in available seat-miles, mainly through more efficient asset use. 

Company sources said the widebody fleet will take the biggest hit with the Boeing 747-400s, Airbus A340s and A380s about to be axed. The airline insisted, however, that no firm decisions had been made yet.

Lufthansa’s widebody fleet is already complex and the company will add two more types, the Boeing 787 and 777X, in the coming years.

As of June 30, the 747 fleet consisted of 32 aircraft, 19 of which were 747-8s and are expected to stay, being the youngest of the aircraft at only five years old. The 13 remaining 747-400s are now unlikely to return. The largest capacity cut will be made with the permanent retirement of the 43 A340s. Of those aircraft, 34 are a mix of -300s and -600s operated by Lufthansa, with nine flown by Swiss. All of the A340s and 747s are owned by the group.

The airline was initially planning to keep eight of its 14 A380s when it was expecting long-haul demand would return faster. Six of the aircraft were sold back to Airbus as part of a pre-COVID-19 order for more A350s. Now, the airline is moving towards a decision to not return any of the A380s to revenue service, following other airlines such as its largest rival Air France.

In total, and if confirmed, Lufthansa would retire at least 70 widebodies earlier than planned because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group has also decided to phase out the last six remaining MD-11Fs at Lufthansa Cargo by the end of the year. The fate of Austrian’s 12 aging widebodies—six Boeing 767s and six 777-200ERs—is unclear.

As the group emerges from the crisis in the coming years, the widebody fleet will initially consist of A330s (Lufthansa, Swiss, Brussels Airlines), A350s (Lufthansa) and 747-8s (Lufthansa).  There are also firm orders in place for 20 787-9s, 20 777Xs and two more 777Fs. On the Airbus side, Lufthansa has firm commitments for 27 more A350s. While the 777X are earmarked for Lufthansa, the A350s and 787s are likely to be distributed groupwide.

The current widebody fleet consists of 198 aircraft including freighters.

Jens Flottau

Based in Frankfurt, Germany, Jens is executive editor and leads Aviation Week Network’s global team of journalists covering commercial aviation.