Mystery Solved: Lufthansa’s Newark To Malta Route

Mystery Solved: Lufthansa’s Newark To Malta Route

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Yesterday I wrote about how Lufthansa loaded a rather surprising transatlantic route into the schedule. Now we know the reason for this route.

Lufthansa’s Newark to Malta summer 2021 flight

As noted by Brett Snyder, over the weekend Lufthansa loaded a new service between Newark and Malta into the schedule for this summer. The flight will operate with the following schedule:

LH489 Newark to Malta departing 8:45PM arriving 11:25AM (+1 day)
LH488 Malta to Newark departing 3:15PM arriving 7:00PM

Lufthansa’s Newark to Malta route

Lufthansa will use an Airbus A350-900 for the route, featuring 293 seats, including 48 business class seats, 21 premium economy seats, and 224 economy seats. The route covers a distance of just under 4,600 miles in each direction, and is blocked at 8hr40min eastbound and 9hr45min westbound.

Lufthansa’s A350-900 business class

The route will be operating very inconsistently:

  • It will be operating up to 3x weekly
  • It will consistently be operating in place of the Newark to Munich route, which is daily, except for the days where the Newark to Malta route operates
  • The first flights are eastbound on June 30 and westbound on July 11, and the last flights are eastbound on October 14 and westbound on October 15
  • There’s no consistency to the frequencies, days of the week, etc.

While the route has been loaded into the schedule, availability is “zeroed out,” meaning the public can’t book this flight. We now know exactly why this is.

Why is Lufthansa operating this route?

While I speculated yesterday as to why Lufthansa would operate this route, we now finally have an answer. As noted by @xJonNYC (and confirmed by other sources), Lufthansa’s Newark to Malta flight is exclusively a charter service for passengers taking Viking cruises.

If you look at the schedule for Viking cruises out of Malta this summer, the dates line up exactly with Lufthansa’s scheduled flights to & from Malta. Both the Viking Sea and Viking Venus will be based out of Malta this summer, and these ships each have the capacity for 930 passengers.

Viking’s single biggest customer base is Americans, so these charter flights are intended to make it easy to get to & from Malta. With 293 seats on each plane, nearly a third of passengers on each ship would be able to take these flights.

In the past having to connect to get to Malta wouldn’t have been that complicated, but right now transit restrictions at major European airports are complex (in terms of eligibility, testing, etc.), so a nonstop flight from the USA to Malta is more valuable than ever before.

Unfortunately these flights won’t be open to the general public, so anyone else looking to travel to Malta will have to find different arrangements. That’s a shame, because Malta can be a fun place to visit, and the country is even incentivizing people to visit this summer. While the country isn’t open to Americans yet, it is expected to open soon.

By the way, there had been some speculation that this route was for maintenance reasons, as Lufthansa Technik has a base in Malta. That’s totally unrelated to these flights, though — with a couple of exceptions the planes will be turning around quickly in Malta, and it would be a lot more efficient for Lufthansa to shuttle planes to Malta from Frankfurt than from Newark.

Lufthansa’s Newark to Malta flight is a Viking cruises charter

Bottom line

Lufthansa has loaded a new route between Newark and Malta into the schedule for this summer. The airline will fly an A350 in the market up to 3x weekly, and this will replace the Newark to Munich route on those dates.

These flights won’t be open to the general public, but rather will be charter flights for Viking cruise passengers. The cruise line has two ships based out of Malta this summer, and this service makes it easy for Americans to travel to & from Malta, given how complicated international travel can be nowadays.

What do you make of Lufthansa’s Newark to Malta route?

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  1. Brian

    I’m a SkyTeam loyalist. But having been to Malta before, I’d fly this in a heartbeat. Malta is one of only a handful of places I’ve been to and just have this burning, unrelenting desire to go back to. It’s just such a wonderful place.

    Invariably, every time the people who I went with get together, the trip comes back up and we all start planning again.

  2. Sean M.

    Malta has been offering huge incentives to airlines willing to launch transatlantic services.

  3. Janice H

    Viking Cruises has added a number of summer cruises that will sail from and return to Malta. Could this be why?

  4. Marc748

    Ben,
    LH Technik operates a major facility in Malta. Maybe they use this routing additionally to cycle in/out A350 for C checks, which is a service offered there.

  5. CJH

    Malta is not an usual place to begin or end a cruise. Most major cruise lines begin or end Mediterranean cruises in ports like Barcelona, Rome, Venice, Athens, Istanbul.

  6. Til

    Seems these flights a charter flights only. No single tickets sold on lh.com

  7. Micah Cohen

    If Malta was offering huge incentives to launch transatlantic services, seems like something UA would have picked up. UA added Croatia and were also supposed to add Sicily. Interesting how LH snuck in, especially at EWR!

  8. Creditcrunch

    I would say this is cruise passenger flights as a lot of the ships are doing the Mediterranean routes this year rather than the RTW or transiting the Suez Canal.

  9. Isavethings

    Visited Malta a few years ago and loved it. As an American, one the things I enjoyed best was the distinct lack of American tourists so not sure if I'm happy with a direct flight

  10. Bob

    Agree with Isavethings.
    Malta is wonderful due to lack of Americans (along the lines of Faroes)

    A direct flight bringing in 800 Americans every week is a big impact on a small place.

  11. Andy

    Well if it turns out to be a seasonal passenger route open to the public to book, that's all Lufthansa's arguments against Emirates fifth freedom routes gone down the toilet! Good luck them trying to argue that point in future haha

  12. AJO

    Will there also be a MUC-MLA-MUC flight on the 359? Intra-European widebody flights seem pretty rare nowadays…

  13. Alpha Golf

    There has been direct service before. In the ‘90s Balkan operated SOF-MLA-JFK for a while.

  14. William Agius

    Malta is expecting to have achieved herd immunity by 19 May 2021. This week the minister of tourism inaugurated the 'Malta Cruise & Fly' initiative, with Viking Cruises (I think) basing two cruise ships in the Grand Harbour. I expect the new route to EWR is likely linked to that.

    On a side note, in 1999 and 2000 Air Malta had a direct flight to New York JFK. KM870 was originally a code-share operated...

    Malta is expecting to have achieved herd immunity by 19 May 2021. This week the minister of tourism inaugurated the 'Malta Cruise & Fly' initiative, with Viking Cruises (I think) basing two cruise ships in the Grand Harbour. I expect the new route to EWR is likely linked to that.

    On a side note, in 1999 and 2000 Air Malta had a direct flight to New York JFK. KM870 was originally a code-share operated with a Boeing B 767-200 of Balkan Bulgarian that routed SOF-MLA-JFK. Later on that was replaced with a wet lease operated by a Boeing B 757-200 of ATA that routed MLA-SNN-JFK and was also operated as KM870.

  15. Ric

    My money is on the cruise charter angle and add in the LH Technik angle while we are at it !
    Certainly would make sense hitting two birds with one stone.

  16. Stephen Dedalus

    I really enjoyed visiting Malta a couple of years ago. While it was a bit nondescript in some ways, it was affordable, had a nice laid-back vibe and the local were friendly. I also thought the Hilton in St Julian is a good value on points. I was thinking of returning this summer travel opens up to Europe in the summer. The consenus seems to be that this will likely be possible, though I find...

    I really enjoyed visiting Malta a couple of years ago. While it was a bit nondescript in some ways, it was affordable, had a nice laid-back vibe and the local were friendly. I also thought the Hilton in St Julian is a good value on points. I was thinking of returning this summer travel opens up to Europe in the summer. The consenus seems to be that this will likely be possible, though I find the situation confusiing because June begins in a couple of weeks. Any idea when we will know, one way or the other, whether travel to Europe will be possible in June/July?

  17. JonNYC

    Answer is Viking Cruises:
    https://twitter.com/xjonnyc/status/1393874724724387843?s=21

  18. Mike C

    @Andy, 'Well if it turns out to be a seasonal passenger route open to the public to book, that’s all Lufthansa’s arguments against Emirates fifth freedom routes gone down the toilet! Good luck them trying to argue that point in future haha'
    Yes but no, the EU is a single territory for aviation rights, so an EU carrier operating a flight from any EU airport to a third country doesn't need to exercise a fifth freedom privilege.

  19. Bjorn Borg

    2 Viking ships will operate from Malta as from July. The ships are Viking Sea and Viking Venus.

    It was announced by Tourism Minister 4 days ago

  20. Ivan Consiglio

    Bulgarian Airlines operated a code-shared flight with Air Malta from USA to Malta in the 1990s for sure, as I was stationed myself at Fort Benning and had to use the flights for an emergency. Since then, have also no recollection if anything similar was in place.

  21. Dave

    Not finding any flights for sale... was going to try to grab some seats.

    1. Ben

      @ Dave -- Yeah, the flights are zeroed out as of now. Hopefully they go on sale soon. I'll post if there's any update.

  22. Gregory

    Great country. Loved its appearance in Pynchon's "V", loved visiting. Somewhat puzzled by the fate of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the question of organized crime more generally but guess it doesn't affect tourists.

  23. guflyer

    What would you advise as the best course of action for purchasing a seat on the flight? Can one purchase a seat through Viking cruises without the cruise part? Or will LH likely open up seats later?

    1. Ben

      @ guflyer -- The flight was just loaded into the schedule, so I'd recommend waiting a few days. Shortly we should know one way or another if this flight will be on sale to the general public.

  24. JonNYC

    My gut tells me these won't be for sale except in connection with Viking cruise.

  25. Kent

    Malta is a major destination for cruises. I lived in Malta in the late nineties and the USN Ships including the Nimitz were a frequent attraction during their R&Rs from the Kosovo Crisis. Seems like Paceville is going to be very busy this summer if these flights actually take off. It will be a nice change from the usual older British sun seekers.

  26. Steven Williams

    I think the A350 heavy Maintenance checks are carried out at LH Technics Malta. Maybe it's cheaper to offer the seats on positioning flights than just do empty ferry flights between Germany and Malta.

  27. Emily

    Definitely seems like a tie up with the cruise industry and/or combined with regular maintenance at LH Techniks in Malta. Lived there 95-99 when my dad was the Ambassador there. Fantastic country and fascinating history. I recall that visiting Popeye's village was a lot of fun. My family and I loved spending our weekends on the yacht and going over to Gozo or Comino. Would be very odd to find a large group of Americans there, though.

  28. Victor

    If this is for real, it's a God send, as a Maltese living in Canada for over 40 years, I cannot tell you how exciting this would be. As oppose to a layover in Rome, France, Germany or Amsterdam. Also this would be great for getting your check in luggage onboard, as opposed to filling a lost luggage ticket, and you might get lucky if it gets there within a few days. I'm planning to...

    If this is for real, it's a God send, as a Maltese living in Canada for over 40 years, I cannot tell you how exciting this would be. As oppose to a layover in Rome, France, Germany or Amsterdam. Also this would be great for getting your check in luggage onboard, as opposed to filling a lost luggage ticket, and you might get lucky if it gets there within a few days. I'm planning to return this July after being grounded for 17 months. Perhaps our prayers have been answered. Keeping my fingers crossed. Thanks for making my day, Ben. "Malta the Jewel of the Mediterranean". Cheers

  29. Tobias

    Hey Lucky,

    as you maybe know, Im writing for the german blog reisetopia. As I've read your article, I contacted Lufthansa. Its said: "Lufthansa plant in diesem Sommer eine Reihe von Flügen zwischen New York und Malta in Verbindung mit einer großen Reederei anzubieten, die Kreuzfahrten im Mittelmeer durchführt."

    So there's an official confirmation. :) Kind regards,

    Liebe Grüße aus Deutschland!

    1. Ben

      @ Tobias -- Thanks for confirming, appreciate it! :)

  30. Felix

    Would love to see LH selling tickets on their positioning flights between Munich and Malta.

    Don’t believe it. I am sure Viking cruises has a clause that prevents LH from doing so. They want to eliminate all Covid-related risks

  31. Nate nate

    ..."the country is even incentivizing people to visit this summer..."

    Can you add a post on this?

  32. derek

    These LH flights ARE available to the public! You just have to be creative. Book a Viking cruise and don't board the ship. After all, the cruise part is rubbish. It's the Lufthansa flight that is worth the experience! I kid you not. Look at the many people who take a flight as a mileage run or even to do some undisturbed work. :P

  33. Ernst B

    Malta not really is a fun place to visit. Just search for Daphne Caruana Galizia.

  34. vlcnc

    Will be like the day of the dead with all the boomers waiting for their disease lab to cruise around the mediterranean. Poor Malta, no one deserves that... :/

Featured Comments Load all 38 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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vlcnc

Will be like the day of the dead with all the boomers waiting for their disease lab to cruise around the mediterranean. Poor Malta, no one deserves that... :/

Ernst B

Malta not really is a fun place to visit. Just search for Daphne Caruana Galizia.

derek

These LH flights ARE available to the public! You just have to be creative. Book a Viking cruise and don't board the ship. After all, the cruise part is rubbish. It's the Lufthansa flight that is worth the experience! I kid you not. Look at the many people who take a flight as a mileage run or even to do some undisturbed work. :P

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