Could Lufthansa Delay 777X, New Business Class?

Filed Under: Lufthansa

Earlier I wrote about how Cathay Pacific is rumored to be dumping their 777X order, instead choosing to extend the leases on existing 777-300ERs.

Well, it looks like they’re not alone among 777X customers, and in this case there could be even bigger implications.

Lufthansa could trade 777X for 777F

Airline executives have differing perspectives of how long the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt. Lufthansa is no doubt taking one of the more extreme approaches:

Lufthansa has a total of 20 Boeing 777-9s on order, which they’re supposed to take delivery of starting in 2021. I think it goes without saying that they likely don’t want these planes anymore, at least not in the next few years. But these contracts are agreed to way in advance, so this comes down to their ability to negotiate adjusted terms.

Rendering of Lufthansa 777-9

It’s being reported by aero.de that Lufthansa wants to swap some of their early Boeing 777-9 orders for Boeing 777Fs, which is a freighter that’s based on the 777-200LR. What’s the logic here?

  • Lufthansa sees demand for cargo increasing, rather than decreasing, unlike the demand for passenger travel in the next few years
  • Lufthansa Cargo currently has a fleet of seven 777Fs and six MD-11s, and those MD-11s are supposed to be retired by the end of the year (though may now be kept around a bit longer)
  • The company only has two additional 777Fs on order, though now could see value in having more of them

To be clear, it doesn’t sound like Lufthansa plans to cancel their 777X order altogether, but rather just convert some of the orders into freighters, and then start taking delivery of the remaining 777Xs several years down the road.

Lufthansa Cargo fleet — 777F & MD-11

What this means for Lufthansa’s new business class

In November 2017 Lufthansa revealed the details of their new business class, which was set to debut on the 777-9. Then conveniently shortly thereafter Lufthansa became a Skytrax 5-star airline, taking into account the new business class, even though it was still years off. Totally legitimate, I’m sure.

Rendering of Lufthansa’s new business class

Anyway, without a 777X there’s also no new business class for Lufthansa. The 777X was initially supposed to be in service as of 2020, and then was delayed due to some issues with the plane. If Lufthansa postpones their 777X deliveries, you can bet that will also mean they are postponing introduction of their new business class.

At this point I can’t blame them since I understand it’s a fight for survival. But it’s sad that they let it get to this point, where in 2020 a global airline doesn’t have any planes with direct aisle access from every business class seat.


Rendering of Lufthansa’s new business class

Bottom line

While this is only a rumor at this point, it sounds like Lufthansa is trying to swap some of their early 777-9 orders for 777Fs. If they’re able to come to reasonable terms with Boeing, then this makes perfect sense. Lufthansa sees cargo doing well in the next few years (and beyond), while the airline thinks it will be a few years before passenger traffic recovers.

Unfortunately this would also mean a delay for Lufthansa’s brand new business class…

What do you think the odds are of Lufthansa taking delivery of the 777-9 in 2021?

Comments
  1. Sorry guys.
    The (grey) hairs on the back of my neck tell me that this doom and gloom for years to come is a cynical ploy to reduce seats in order to force up prices.
    It is ridiculous to say demand for flights might not return for years or worse to suggest it is gone for ever.
    The world is an ever shrinking place. People are ever more seeking better vacations, experiences and locations.
    Whilst economies have seized this is temporary. It will recover and if we all started being a bit more positive it will happen all the quicker.
    Airlines with this shrink philosophy are just seeing it as an excuse to shed staff and fill fear planes at higher prices.
    They are driven by greed at the top. Screw staff. Screw passengers.
    It is particularly sad to see Lufthansa (Group) thinking like this. I have great love of them as the premier European airline (group). They have grace honour style and class.
    United, flagging, as it did today, deep cuts come October I understand and accept this albeit ruefully. It’s the new way in the Trump era USA.
    These airlines are just trying to manipulate the market to suit their own (Directors) ends and pockets.
    Shame on them all.

  2. Strange, but when i look at all the ‘modern’ business class layouts it’s overwhelmingly obvious that we all have been on our way to and have been wishing for ‘social distancing’ for years, preferring self-isolation and literally sitting in a box over sitting next to someone else – it’s like that virus came and made this unconscious wish come true anywhere and at any time…

  3. Today LH also announced that they’re parking all the A340-600s in Spain and do not see being brought back into service in the next 1-1.5yrs. First class is now only available on the 8 A380s remaining and the B747-8.

    Yea, i don’t see LH taking the 777-9 any time soon.

  4. @HereWeGo Excellent point, current generation LH business class seats are actually an infection risk because you are seated so close to your neighbour. I was on LH A380 to LAX early March before the world went into lockdown and the lady next to me in business class was sniffling like mad… I was dreaming of a ratty old UA 767 with loud as heck engines, poor food and angry old aunties as FAs but a lovely isolated Polaris aisle access seat.

    Now the new LH seat that made em Star Trax 5 Star (well deserved by the way eh) may be years off still..

  5. Lufthansa’s new business class is basically the same as Berlin Brandenburg airport. Constantly being pushed back so that all the hype surrounding it dies and it just becomes a bit of a meme. They might as well start retrofitting it to existing aircraft soon. It’s hard to believe that Lufthansa unveiled a brand new business class in 2017 and then continued to receive brand new planes with the old and outdated product. By unveiling their new business class so far in advance, Lufthansa handed a golden opportunity to its rivals. British Airways for example probably bench marked their Club Suite against Lufthansa’s therefore BA releases a better product way in advance making Lufthansa seem lazy and their product underwhelming.

  6. Looking at the customers for the 777X except the ME2 (I’m discounting Etihad) can’t see any of the other airlines being that keen to purchase them with the way the industry will be going for the next couple of years.

  7. Ha! this is the new post Covid world, virtual meetings, remote working, and now courtesy of LH virtual biz travel. LH anticipated this new reality perfectly with their new virtual biz seat. It will never exist in physical form, just a state of mind 🙂

  8. @Noah you read my mind. I was about to make that same BER and new LH J analogy too. Also goes to show how LH overhyped it only to potentially end up dropping their “revolutionary” seat… meanwhile NH dropped a pretty solid one with just a couple of weeks after their announcement.

    #germanefficiencyisamyth

  9. @Graham C

    even if demand for leisure travel remains the same, we will certainly see a decrease in business travel in the future. Companies are fast realizing that they can get things done over conference calls, and will change their ways of doing business as a result.

    To be honest, the world will be a better place with less business travel. It would mean higher density configurations and less flights per route, and thus a lower carbon footprint as a result.

  10. If the seat that’s giving them 5 stars is being delayed, then their “5-star rating” should also be…just saying…

  11. Who knows if by then LH is still around. Or Boeing, e.g. if nobody wants to buy this 777X or MAX anymore.

  12. I think the big question mark here is still what will happen with the price of oil. Oil is so cheap right now that it really changes some entrenched pricing dynamics that were in place the last few years around efficiency of new jets.

  13. I don’t get why airline executives think it’ll “take years” for airline travel to resume
    To normal levels? I don’t know about you but as soon as borders open and they lift these shelter in place orders I’m on the next flight around the world.

  14. @Noah Bowie

    Comparing the LH business class seat to BER airport is so very apt! By the time they come online – which is not guaranteed – they’ll both be outdated, at the very least. Some might even say obsolete. Take BER airport for example. The layout looks ok, but already some of the finishes, colour schemes and materials look 10 years old (i.e. extensive faux wood panelling etc). Which is not surprising because the plans were done waaaaay back in the early 2000s. As for that LH business class seat endorsed by ScamTrax as 5*…….I’ll stick with AF, thank you very much.

  15. Demands for 787-9 & A350-900 would likely increase, as airlines flying mid to long haul routes are more interested in range, instead of capacity.

    ANA used to fly 747-400 with less than 300 seats. Of the 28 777-300ER currently in ANA’s international fleet, 13 have 212 seats, 9 have 250 seats, & 6 have 264 seats. Meanwhile, of the 31 787-9 currently in ANA’s international fleet, 12 have 215 seats & 19 have 246 seats.

    As for SIA, all 27 777-300ER have 264 seats, while all A350-900 (non-URL) for mid to long haul routes have 253 seats.

    Furthermore, this could be the end of commercial airlines first class, as the ultra riches are going to fly private jets (NetJets & Flexjet) instead of risking infection.

    As for Boeing’s replacement for 757, would a revived & updated 787-3 has lower or higher per seat-mile (or per seat-kilometer) cost when comparing to A321neo?

  16. The new LH business class was outdated already when they introduced it. Years later it will be the worst product of any major airline in the sky. Lufthansa is average 3* definitely not 5*. Skytrax is a joke. Lufthansas biggest problems are strikes, massive delays mainny caused to no hand luggage restrictions, very poor food, not existent customer service, unfriendyl staff and Museum like planes. And ofc the bad games they play with cash refunds violating German and European law.

  17. Lucky, I do not understand,

    when you travel with your partner, don’t you prefer the classic business layout as on LOT and Turkish with lots of place and east of communicating together.
    I really don’t like all the direct aisle access coffins, as I cannot even look at my partner easily let alone talk, eat or watch things together.

  18. @Mark Fischer

    Right you are. LH is not a bad airline, but it’s so very far from being truly 5* in any meaningful way when compared to industry leaders from Asia and the Middle East. But most regular travellers know all this, and would rank LH as nothing more than 3*. In other words: average. Which is why we know not to fall for the ScamTrax rating deceit.

    What I find unconscionable is that LH uses this ScamTrax 5* rating deceit to lure in less well travelled customers (i.e. newbies, irregular travellers, etc) who don’t know any better. All they see is 5* in front of their faces and they think they’re buying into a truly all-round quality airline. Which LH is certainly not.

  19. @ stogieguy7
    “ next year when a vaccine is introduced”

    You know that, historically, we’ve found it impossible to produce vaccines for some viruses? There is absolutely no certainty that we will find a vaccine for Covid19.

    But then you wrote:
    “caused by a careless secret Chinese lab”
    … so I know you don’t know much.

    I can put you in touch with some of the conspiracy theory whack-jobs here in the UK, who have decided Covid19 is spread by the new 5G mobile phones masts, and that it was deliberately introduced by the UK government (not China…), to eliminate old and sick people. They have so far burnt down more than a dozen masts in arson attacks.

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