Lufthansa Retiring Some A380s, 747s, A340s

Filed Under: Lufthansa

While airlines around the world are grounding planes right now temporarily, some long-term plans are being made as well, as airlines don’t see the demand for travel recovering anytime soon.

Lufthansa doesn’t expect demand to recover for years

Lufthansa has revealed that they don’t expect the aviation industry to return to pre-coronavirus crisis levels very quickly:

  • They believe it will take months until the global travel restrictions are completely lifted
  • They believe it will take years until the worldwide demand for air travel returns to pre-crisis levels

Lufthansa retiring multiple aircraft type

In light of the expected long-term reduction in demand, Lufthansa is retiring several aircraft type effective immediately:

Lufthansa will be retiring six A380s

Eurowings is also seeing reductions

Lufthansa Group’s low cost carrier, Eurowings, will also be seeing some reductions:

  • 10 Airbus A320s will be phased out
  • Eurowings long haul business class will be “reduced” (that’s all we know for now)
  • Germanwings flight operations will be discontinued and merged into Eurowings, in order to bundle low cost flight operations into just one unit

Eurowings will see reductions as well

Cuts coming at Austrian & SWISS as well

While the details are limited as of now, Austrian and SWISS will also be adjusting their fleet size by delaying aircraft deliveries of new short haul aircraft, as well as considering the phase out of older aircraft. We’ll have to stay tuned for the full details of that.

Austrian may phase out older aircraft

Bottom line

At first many of us were shocked as airlines around the world grounded their fleets. Now the reality is quickly setting in that many of these groundings will become permanent.

At this point it’s clear that most airlines expect it will be years before demand fully recovers. Therefore we’re seeing airlines retire planes now that they were otherwise planning on retiring in the coming years.

In the case of Lufthansa, this means we’ll see the retirement of some A340s, A380s, 747s, and more.

Are you surprised by the extent to which airlines are making long term fleet cuts right now?

  1. @Lucky

    Could you write an article on what will happen to all these retired planes? I see a hint of it above — “Lufthansa will be retiring six Airbus A380s (out of 14), which were previously scheduled to be sold to Airbus in 2022” — and a quick Google search reveals that they’re often broken down for parts.

    Would love to learn more about it, and think it would make for a great post.

  2. “I imagine they can’t get out of taking delivery of at least some of them”. We should expect a big slash from all those firm orders to Boeing, Airbus, Embraer and Bombardier, shouldn’t we?
    Boeing is going to be the most affected company, as they were already struggling with the 737max.

  3. Not surprised, the Germans don’t sugarcoat bad news and are very honest about the reality in what they assess in needing to be done.

    We are leaving the second golden age of air travel. Let’s hope that a vaccine comes soon, as I cannot see the leisure travel market truly recovering (especially when it comes to cruises and wealthy pensioners travelling long haul) until there is.

  4. wow, this is sad, in an unfortunate way.

    I am looking forward to Lufthansa’s 787-9 fleet. Hopefully they will fly them to Newark and Austin!

    Any idea of what routes Lufthansa will reduce service on? Im thinking Detroit and Philadelphia possibly.

  5. Guessing the Swiss A340-300 fleet will be fully phased out, with a handful of A330-300s and short haul aircraft pending orders deferred. At OS, I can see them trim at least one 777 and a further 2 763.

  6. It’s sad to see but the prolonged impact of this crisis will be another nail in the coffin for the Queen of the Skies. Fortunately LH has a few 747-8 that are less than 10 years old so she should be around for a bit longer.

  7. Not sure what Austrian can practically “phase out” from a long haul perspective. They have no wide body aircraft on order and maintain a tight and cohesive mix of a few 777’s and 767’s. Can’t imagine them dropping any markets long term as well in that they were always conservative with expansion and mostly serve a few key overseas Star Alliance hubs.

  8. @Frederik
    While I agree regarding the prospects of the leisure market, I assume the loss of business travel will hurt more.
    In absolute passenger volume, in total revenue and in Rev per passenger mile business pays the bills.
    The prospects do not look good.
    With an almost halving of the long haul fleet I am guessing award flights might get harder to find.

  9. I expect more and more carriers to accelerate retirements and dump aircraft. Virtually all passenger airlines will come out of this crisis a fraction of their late 2019 size.

    There’ll be a small army of airline employees – office, airport and airplane crews alike – out of a job, potentially unable to get a job in the industry you trained in for potentially years to come. Professions like piloting are so specialized; many will need help retraining in other careers.

  10. Eurowings has been completely discontinued, which was surprising for me to read just now as i thought they folded after the suicide pilot incident a few years back.

  11. Sad if this crisis accelerates the demise of 4-engined planes like these. I will still always fly one if given the choice.

  12. SWISS could send some planes over to Edelweiss. The A340s have new interiors. Crazy if they retire them.

  13. Bad news for economy travellers – A340s & A330s still offer the best economy experience compared to new 787s or A350s with 2-4-2 config. Flew the Lufthansa Cityline A343 at Christmas and was delighted with the seat comfort, recline and config. Was thinking Lufthansa would become my go-to airline for the route specifically for that plane. Will have to wait and see now.

  14. Lufthansa operates their Tampa route through Cityline on their A340-300. It would be interesting what plane that would be replaced with, given that there would probably be reduced leisure traffic. They also fly a 747 to Orlando, so I’m afraid they might end the route or something.

  15. This is no surprise at all, given how pragmatic Germans are. Even with a vaccine for this specific virus (which is still likely more than a year away), COVID-19 has fundamentally changed people’s view of international travel. While it might be exciting in the moment to take that trip abroad, it’s simply not worth the risk of becoming a statistic during the next international pandemic (either contracting the virus, or being stuck in a foreign land when the outbreak unfolds).

    Whether justified or not, people respond strongly to fear. Think of how long it took for travel to come back post-9/11, for example; now imagine that response on a worldwide scale. This “new normal” is going to last for many many years to come, at least for international travel. Domestic travel isn’t likely to be hit quite as hard for as long, as people feel safer within their own borders.

  16. @Josh

    Travel rebounded quite quickly after 9/11. Certainly the ease of travel didn’t, sure. But people came back rapidly.

    While you have a point I do think that people also have short term memory of a crisis in how it affects their choices. Yes, we are looking at a year at least (unlike 9/11 which was a few months) for things to even seem “normal” again. And perhaps 3-4 years for airlines to return to their pre-Covid19 levels. But to imagine that this will become a paradigm shift in people thinking twice now to leave their homes and for travel to never be the same is a bit much.

  17. Stuart,

    I agree and personally cannot wait to take a flight overseas and will as soon as I can.

    If people think like Josh that means cheaper fares and hotels, and lighter loads for more comfort.

  18. @Tom – I agree that travel companies will do their best to court whatever travelers remain after this is over, but they simply can’t sustain 2019 services at current demand levels. Whether it’s shuttered hotels, reduced lounges, retired planes, etc., these companies will be forced to adjust.

    @Stuart – I think you’re being overly optimistic, which is fair enough since this is a blog dedicated to travel. My point is that this pandemic has made the world keenly aware of how no place is truly safe. One can no longer simply think “I’m not going anywhere that’s involved in a conflict, so I should be OK” (or insert your own personal qualifier). Now, one can only hope for the best – no matter where they go. That’s the paradigm shift.

  19. While tourist numbers flying will be down, as we are seeing, airlines can trim their fleets to suit the times. Hotels, especially those in ordinarily tourist-saturated locations, do not have this option. Closing a property for a time is a very expensive operation for large chains and independent operators alike. Keeping open is often the least bad option.

    Expect to see bargain basement offers for hotels for a few years. Expect to see major collapses of those who are not nimble, and those who refuse to accept reality.

  20. This evening did a 3 mile round trip walk starting eastbound towards Miami Beach on the Venetian Causeway.
    During the stroll of about 50 minutes I saw 3 planes from MIA go overhead: this contrasts sharply and sadly with the 2 or 3 I used to see every couple of minutes heading in different directions from MIA st this time of day.

    Just prior to the virus I booked SWISS for a trip to ZRH in sep.
    I saw the flight showing on the swiss website but wonder if it will happen.

  21. I can’t see Airbus being too concerned about cancelled orders at the moment, given the problems with the Max, about which we are not seeing much these days

  22. “Are you surprised by the extent to which airlines are making long term fleet cuts right now?”


  23. they said 10 year of A380 worth about 80 million, it was 450 million new. Some private jets are more expensive than that

  24. All airlines are taking this as an opportunity to shed their oldest and least efficient aircraft and some less profitable routes.

    In a year or two they will have made up some cash flow and place orders for new aircraft to expand into newly profitable routes. It makes a lot of sense.

    I’m wondering if LH will be sending some 787s to OS and retire the 763s, though they’re not all that inefficient. It seems LH once again finds itself with too many brands on hand. They just can’t help themselves!

  25. Then there is the “Leasing Companies” to come? If this does go 12 months or a vaccine is invented the number of Airlines, airports, manufactures and their suppliers will be will be counted in fractions of their current size and brands. Without cash flow most would be lucky to last 3 months let alone 12 or more months. The cancellation and or deferment of plane orders will be a tsunami.

  26. Don’t forget the crack down on redeaming points! Once everything is shut down the biggest cost for most airlines is their FF program. While not a “Lucky Approved” use of points a lot of people use them to buy items, gift cards, subscription s etc.. we are already seeing some Airlines putting restrictions on the use of points and that includes the transfer of points to other airline programs. Of course in Bankruptcy ya points are well truly gone.

  27. I feel some of us are over reacting. The Airlines companies are retiring planes and making quick and hard decisions because of the immediate downturn and the apparent bleak future ahead. For them a huge amount of money, loans, and interest are involved and they do not have any alternative unfortunately. At the same time, I feel that humanity would like to slowly but steadily bounce back to activity gradually as the crisis weakens. We all know that life is short and unless we are very young, we do not have the world of time to wait for years for a guaranteed safe travel experience. As an avid traveller and an optimist I think it will take about eight months for the travel business to witness a sort of a rebound. That is, if all goes well, I think the end of October2020 or more cautiously, November 2020 should see the businesses slowly picking up. Business as well as leisure travel will pick up too. So, in the mean while , may be it is time for all of us to make our bucket lists and hope and pray that good times come back slowly!

  28. I am surprised that we aren’t seeing more drastic cuts: I was worried this would be the end of the A340 and 747-400 fleet entirely.

  29. Glad to see the reduction in average fleet age through retirement of the gas guzzlers, paving the way for more efficient aircraft. I guess that’s one advantage of Covid-19.

  30. @Josh. Of course this will be forever ingrained in the psyche of a generation. I don’t argue that. But I feel I my optimism is not some random wind check using my finger. It’s based on experiences we have already witnessed. 9/11 being the most recent and fresh in our minds. An entire generation still lives that day. The anxiety is still real for many as why else would tolerate nearly 20 years later the intrusive manner we endure security and the diminished level of service that came as a result. But did it stop the general public from travel? No. We accepted the new reality and got on with our lives. Humans are, for the most part, a resilient bunch. It will take some time and a vaccine of course, but to imagine that people will completely alter their perception of travel and thus do it less in the long term is far fetched at best. Will they travel differently? Sure. People will be conscious of hand washing, wear masks more, perhaps even wipe down their seats and travel with Lysol for hotel rooms. But it won’t stop them. Just like all the changes after 9/11, we came to accept and deal with them as a new reality and just get on with it.

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