LONDON – Lufthansa (LH) has today announced that four of its Airbus A350-900 aircraft will be deployed to its hub at Frankfurt (FRA) as the Winter 2020 schedule approaches.
The airline states that the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental aircraft that are in the fleet will be “temporarily replaced”, with the A350s operating services to Chicago (ORD) and Los Angeles (LAX) to begin with. From December onwards, the airline will then service the Tokyo-Haneda (HND) route, which will replace the airline’s aging Airbus A340-300 fleet.
The four A350 will make its way from Munich (MUC) to Frankfurt, with the airline noting that “all flight will be operated by Munich-based cabin and cockpit crews”.
Better Fuel Efficiency
The airline has stated that this will produce better efficiencies in the wake of a global pandemic, but for the environment also. Airbus A350 in LH’s fleet will consume around 12% less fuel and CO2 than its Boeing 747-8 aircraft, with the airline noting that “the fleet will be optimally used in an efficient and sustainable way under the current circumstances”.
This is good news for the airline as it can reduce its carbon footprint drastically and also reduce any unnecessary overheads it may have had during the pandemic. For LH, this comes at a good time, especially when the airline is currently in the middle of a restructuring, following bailouts from the German government.
Deciding on Demand
At the MUC base, the decision to move aircraft to FRA comes in the wake of the ongoing pandemic. With a fleet of 16 A350s at that airport, only seven will operate from the airport going into the Winter season.
This is due to the continued decline in demand for travel as well as the continued travel restrictions imposed by countries around the world in the LH network. With the four A350 going to FRA and seven operating at MUC, this means that five aircraft will remain on the ground, idle and doing nothing until the demand picks up again.
At the time of writing, only three A350 are out of storage, being D-AIXE, D-AIXF, and D-AIXO, with the other 13 units being stored, according to Planespotters.net.
Delays on Deliveries Ahead?
Back in July this year, the airline had announced it expects its first Boeing 777X in 2021. With demand levels at a significant low, will there be a delay in such deliveries for the aircraft?
However, the COVID-19 pandemic may have come at a blessing for LH in terms of a non-negotiated deferral. Emirates (EK) stated at the same time that it is not expecting to fly the aircraft until 2022 due to production delays caused by the pandemic.
Even then, EK is aiming to switch around some of the orders of the 777X to the 787 Dreamliner, in order to diversify the fleet beyond the 30 units of the type it has on order already.
As for Lufthansa, it may be recommended to diversify the fleet, especially in the wake of a global pandemic. Because air travel has dropped out of the skies, it means that smaller aircraft will be needed to service certain routes.
It remains clear that for airlines such as LH and EK that are trying to adapt its finances in a COVID-dominated world, there may be a lot of pushback with manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing. Those who work on the production line will want to get aircraft flying out of the factories again, meaning that the scope for deferral negotiations may be very thin, especially with other airlines already approving its deals.
Boeing and Airbus need to deliver aircraft going into the next year in order to keep its revenue streams flowing consistently to prevent any chance of further downturn. It will be interesting to see what the outcomes will be for the likes of LH, especially with a level of confidence over receiving the 777X next year in a COVID world.
Featured Image: Lufthansa Airbus A350-900 seen taxiing out to the active runway at San Francisco Airport (SFO). Photo Credit: Luca Flores