Report: Lufthansa May Retire All A380s & 747-400s

Filed Under: Lufthansa

The current pandemic is causing airlines to make all kinds of tough decisions with long-term implications. Lufthansa has already announced retirement of 18 long haul aircraft, though it increasingly looks like Lufthansa may be drastically increasing the number of planes that it retires.

Lufthansa may retire A380s & 747-400s

Lufthansa has had a pessimistic view of a recovery since the pandemic started, and that stance hasn’t changed much. Bloomberg is reporting that internal sources say that Lufthansa plans on retiring its entire Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-400 fleet, as well as a majority of its Airbus A340 fleet.

It’s expected that this decision will be announced fairly soon. Unfortunately this wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to me:

Could Lufthansa retire its entire A380 fleet?

While I could see how this makes sense, as an aviation geek it sure would be sad:

  • Lufthansa would become the second airline to entirely retire its A380 fleet (after Air France)
  • Rossiya and Thai Airways would be the only passenger airlines in the world operating fleets of more than five 747-400s

Lufthansa’s first class footprint would shrink further

From a passenger experience standpoint, one thing we’ve seen during the pandemic is that airlines have greatly decreased the number of planes with international first class. This move isn’t even necessarily that deliberate, but rather:

  • Generally the biggest planes have international first class cabins
  • With demand greatly reduced, airlines are largely parking their biggest planes, and therefore eliminating or reducing first class

Back in the day, Lufthansa had one of the largest international first class footprints of any airline. Going back 10 years, the airline had first class on its fleet of A330s, A340s, and 747s.

The good old days of Lufthansa’s “blue” first class

Unfortunately over the years the number of Lufthansa aircraft with international first class has been reduced significantly:

Lufthansa’s new business class, debuting on the 777-9 (eventually)

At this point, Lufthansa has first class on the following planes:

  • Its A380s — the airline had 14 of these planes, but has announced that six will be retired immediately, meaning there are only eight remaining
  • Its 747-8s — the airline has 19 of these in its fleet, and hasn’t announced any formal retirement plans
  • Its A340-600s — the airline has 17 of these planes, but has announced that seven will be retired immediately, meaning that there are only 10 remaining

Lufthansa A380 first class

In other words, as of now Lufthansa will have at most 37 aircraft with first class in the future. The airline has A350-900s, 787-9s, and 777-9s on order, and none of those planes are expected to feature first class.

Lufthansa 747-8 first class

If Lufthansa were to retire all A380s and the remaining A340s, Lufthansa’s first class product would be limited to its 19 747-8 aircraft. In fairness, that’s not a terrible footprint, and would allow Lufthansa to serve most “key” premium destinations with first class.

Still, this would mean that Lufthansa’s first class footprint would be somewhere around 20% of what it once was.

Would Lufthansa bother keeping the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt?

Bottom line

Lufthansa is apparently planning on retiring its entire A380 and 747-400 fleet. We’ll see if it actually happens, but frankly it wouldn’t surprise me. Presumably the A340s and 747-400s would have been headed for retirement in the coming years anyway.

The A380s are still fairly new, but with more and more airlines considering retiring these planes, Lufthansa may do so as well.

What do you make of the prospect of Lufthansa retiring its entire A380 and 747-400 fleet?

  1. Hey @Ben @Tiffany, I know it’s been a while already, but do you know if the button that redirects you to the comments section will work anytime soon? I believe you mentioned there was some ongoing issue with it, but I don’t know if you planned on fixing it or retiring the function.

  2. @Silver Arrows maybe we can treat them like shipping containers and make (not so) mini homes and food trucks out of them?

  3. I guess they foresee low utilization for many years. This move does not bode well for those sitting on miles. There are some indications that Business travel might resume later and at a lesser pace than leisure, this might leave more premium spacer available.

  4. @JBM Very likely not, aircraft are too specialized and expensive. If the secondary market completely craters, I can imagine freighter conversions if the price is right. Otherwise, companies could strip the planes for parts, which would be a shame.

  5. Lufthansa still has first class on some of their A330s too don’t forget. (two of the three layout variants if I’m not mistaken)

  6. Hi Fly must be thrilled at so many A380s coming to the second hand market for them to buy! Are they still the only airline to have ever bought a used A380?

  7. The fact is, a380 economics only trump the 1980s 747-400 when it is over 90% filled. The 747-8 and 777x will be enough for Lufthansa’s post COVID premium long haul offerings. Especially if business travel declines with the long term structural changes now predicted.

  8. Wow. That picture of the old first class shows just how far things have improved. Those seats would barely qualify as business class now. If it wasn’t for them being lie-flat, they might even pass for a good premium economy these days 🙂

    But that said, one thing I don’t like about the new business class seats is that many of them are now significantly narrower. Personally, I would trade all the partitions and enclosing walls for an extra inch or two of seat width. Of course, with covid, maybe the walls are preferable…

  9. I hope they don’t retire the 747-400s for at least six or so months. I want one more shot at flying in that nose.

  10. Regarding Freighter use.
    The 747 was originally planned for freight and therefor had the flight deck “upstairs”. This allows for a huge opening at the front and easy/fast loading on a freighter. Turning a passenger 380 into a freighter would have major costs, loading it would take much longer in a business where aircraft earn money only while flying.
    I might be wrong but read that the 380 has pretty serious restrictions on weight which might come into play in freighter use.

  11. @Donato Yeah, accessing the upper deck is a problem. The wings would have to be strengthened too. 777F is popular with normal cargo doors though.

  12. I fail to undertand how Emirates is not sweeping up (but maybe they do) all these A 380’s at dirt cheap prices, spending a few million dollars to refurbish them to EK standard and a few more to keep them in storage these few difficult years.

    When this thing goes away, and it will, EK could become the almost exclusive flyer of these planes (they have always been the only ones to operate them at a decent cost through economies of scale and practically free fuel prices at home). Depending on the economics ahead, they could juggle with the number of planes in service vs those cannibalized for spares, and probably operate the A380 safely and cheaply into the 2040 or 50’s. This is no different from what Delta has been doing for decades, buying old planes and refurbishing them (and DL pays for its fuel).

  13. What a sad abrupt death for the A380. =(

    It wouldn’t surprise me if LH installs F or some sort of enhanced business class on their new aircraft in the future.

  14. After reading this, I have finally concluded that I will likely never fly aboard an A380. In recent years, most of my flights have been 737, A320, and, occasionally 777 or A330. There’s still hope for a Singapore Airlines A380. Qantas might bring them back in 5 years because there usually is a lot of LAX-SYD traffic, more than a 787-9 can handle. I don’t have any need to fly to Dubai on Emirates.

  15. I though that initial 777-9 deliveries wouldn’t feature first class (only the new business class), while later deliveries would feature both?

  16. I’m glad I had the chance to experience the FCT and enjoy FC twice from FRA to ORD. Hopefully I will get to do this again!

  17. I think the consequence of phasing out First Class on any airline is remarkably shortsighted.
    Coronavirus has changed a lot of attitudes and one’s own mortality is more in focus.
    I would be more inclined to treat myself to FC rather than Business (hopefully using miles!) in the coming years as a treat for ‘doing the right thing’ and surviving this thing. Do others feel this way?

  18. Presumably, the aircraft can be retrofitted to include 1st class if initially delivered with only business/prem eco/eco.

    At some point, and it may take 2-4 years, there will be a demand for 1st class, but perhaps the economics support only biz for that period with any retrofitting in that time frame to be less expensive than flying with underutilized 1st seats.

  19. You make it seem like Lufthansa actually has a fleet plan right now. They actually don’t.
    They are literally just looking which aircraft make sense right now and they are not looking if those have F or not. Keep in mind they can retrofit F into A350s, B787, B777 if necessary, just as they did with the A340-600. The 2023 A350s don’t even have decided seat map yet.

  20. All incredibly depressing. Access to F is about the only thing that has kept me flying in the last few years now I may not even be able to enjoy during any future retirement. Even flying in F in aircraft with walk through cabins like 777 or 350’s has much less appeal. Being in 1A or 1K on a BA 747 was perfect….not because of the food or the service but just for the serenity.

  21. I’m pretty confident that actually premium cabins will recover earlier than Economy. I know of of at least a handful of corporates now permitting Business class in cases they did bot permit before. This because distancing is obviously easier in Business. Also in the leisure market, those who can afford Business or First can also afford premium health coverage and repeated COVID testing.

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