Lufthansa is expected to further shrink its fleet and cut first class from more routes as the German carrier ramps up its ‘ReNew' program to climb out of the COVID-induced air travel slump.
At risk are Lufthansa’s eight remaining Airbus A380s, which are expected to be grounded for the next few years and could follow a previous six superjumbos into early retirement, and all seven of the remaining Boeing 747-400 jets.
Ageing Airbus A340-300 and A340-600 jets could also be scrapped in favour of the more modern and fuel-efficient Airbus A350 and the forthcoming Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, both of which “will primarily be replacing four-engine aircraft” Lufthansa has previously said.
A report in Germany’s aero.de website says Lufthansa has advised staff that the groups executive board will “decide in the coming weeks on the final shutdown of individual types of aircraft and sub-fleets.”
Following a net loss of €1.5 billion in the second quarter, “the group tightened the ReNew crisis program and is aiming for a significantly leaner fleet structure.”
The fate of Lufthansa first class
Culling more of its long-range fleet would also result in a much smaller first class ‘footprint’ across Lufthansa’s network, as first class currently remains on only the A380s, A340-600s and Boeing 747-8s.
(Lufthansa is the world’s largest Boeing 747-8 passenger airline, with 19 of the stretched jumbos – a plane which Boeing will no longer manufacture beyond 2022.)
The Star Alliance member’s 'next generation’ fleet of the Airbus A350, Boeing 787-9 and Boeing 777X will all forego first class, and in the case of the 777X introduce a new business class cabin, alongside a new approach to selling those premium seats.
The unique seating layout will alternate between rows of 1-2-1 and 1-1-1, so that every second row provides a centre 'throne' seat – the ultimate for solo flyers seeking more space and more privacy.
But you can expect to pay more for that privilege, as Lufthansa moves towards a 'tailored' model where passengers will pay a base fare for the core business class experience – lounge access, seat and meals – with an extra charge levied on the throne, or those seats which convert into the longest bed (up to 2.2m at some prized locations).
“It's not just one business class anymore," Lufthansa exec Harry Hohmeister tells Executive Traveller. "Within the (Boeing 777X) business class cabin, you can upgrade yourself to an even better product than just standard business class… it’s a real jump forward in terms of convenience, and in terms of product selection... it's not unbundling, it's upgrading.”
Lufthansa previously expected to take delivery of its first Boeing 777-9 in 2021, although Boeing has now pushed back the commercial rollout of the 777X series until sometime in 2022.
In March 2019 Lufthansa announced that six of its 18 A380s had been sold back to Airbus and would “be leaving Lufthansa in 2022 and 2023”.
Their retirement was accelerated with immediate effect in April 2020, along with seven A340-600s and five Boeing 747-400s, “based on the environmental as well as economic disadvantages of these aircraft type(s).”
Should all of Lufthansa’s A380s and A340-600s be scuppered, this would leave only the 19 flagship Boeing 747-8s featuring first class.
Executive Traveller approached Lufthansa for comment but had not received a response by the time this story was published.
In related news, Lufthansa last week extended the suspension of a number of key Munich routes through to March 2021, including New York, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and Singapore.