Lufthansa Pursues Order For Small Narrowbodies
FRANKFURT—Lufthansa is in the market for a new fleet of smaller narrowbodies as it seeks to adapt its fleet structure to new market realities.
“We will definitely have to buy again for short-haul [routes],” CEO Carsten Spohr told an internal employee forum. “We are lacking smaller category aircraft.”
According to Spohr, a lot of the markets that Lufthansa has traditionally served for feed to its hubs now have a more significant presence of low-cost carriers, and some even have direct long-haul connections as spokes to hubs abroad. Therefore, “we are forced to connect more of the smaller airports,” he said.
Lufthansa Group has a large fleet of 195 aircraft that seat up to 150 passengers across its operating entities. Regional carriers Lufthansa CityLine and Air Dolomiti fly 28 CRJ900s and 26 Embraer 190/195s, respectively. Austrian has a further 17 Embraer 195s. Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) operates 30 Airbus A220s. A total of 94 A319s are split between Lufthansa and Lufthansa CityLine (43), Eurowings (36) and Brussels Airlines (15). Nineteen of the A319s are older than 20 years.
Spohr did not say how many aircraft the group is looking at ordering and how many it needs to serve additional secondary routes. Lufthansa had indicated several times in the past that it needed to renew its fleet of large regional jets, but the effort has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and as priorities shifted to buying more widebodies first. Likely top candidates for the sought-after role are the A220 and the Embraer E2.
The group is using the A220 and the first-generation Embraer 195 in different roles. The A220s are feeding SWISS’s Zurich hub and are also flying longer thin routes from a Geneva base. The Embraer 195s have been moved around several times and are now mainly flying the smaller routes for Austrian from Vienna. Italian affiliate Air Dolomiti is understood to be getting two or three more aircraft now that the Italian government has decided not to sell ITA Airways to a consortium of the MSC shipping company and Lufthansa.
It is not clear who would operate additional aircraft, particularly if Lufthansa opted for more A220s. Lufthansa currently has an agreement in place with the Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) pilot union that allowed it to move part of the A319 fleet to CityLine, where pilot costs are somewhat lower than at the mainline carrier. CityLine is also flying up to three A321Fs for Lufthansa Cargo.
The two sides have agreed to negotiate a new framework agreement that would define minimum fleet sizes for the various operating entities, and possibly also areas of expertise and aircraft sizes on which they would focus. The talks are part of a compromise that ended strikes in September and are scheduled to be concluded by June 2023.
Lufthansa already has 47 more A320neos and 25 A321neos on firm order, in addition to its large commitments for long-haul aircraft that include Boeing 787-9s, 777-9s, 777-8Fs and Airbus A350-900s.