Lufthansa does not see demand bouncing back for years and has responded by announcing the retirement of several longhaul and shorthaul aircraft.
When I accuse my German wife of being pessimistic, she corrects me and says she is just being realistic. It’s the German way. And at Lufthansa, the Executive Board has determined that aviation will not recover in the short-term and it will take many years for travel to return to 2019 levels. That’s not totally far-fetched considering the 1-2 punch of COVID-19 and flight shaming, but the board wasted no time in lining up several aircraft to be retired ahead of schedule.
What Aircraft Will Lufthansa Retire Due to COVID-19?
Effective immediately, Lufthansa will retire the following aircraft, blaming deteriorating demand from the current crisis:
- Lufthansa will retire five (of 13) Boeing 747-400s, citing the “economic disadvantages” of this plane type.
- Lufthansa will retire seven (of 17) Airbus A340-600s, citing the “economic disadvantages” of this plane type.
- Lufthansa will retire six (of 14) Airbus A380-800s, which were scheduled to go back to Airbus anyway in 2022.
- Lufthansa will retire three (of 3) Airbus A340-300s, which were used in it Cityline division to serve leisure destinations.
Additionally, the carrier will remove 11 Airbus A320s from shorthaul service.
Further Cuts At Austrian, Brussels, Eurowings, SWISS
Lufthansa also plans cutbacks at four additional airlines in its Lufthansa Group portfolio. The specific cuts at Austrian and Brussels have not made been public, though Lufthansa says that fleet reduction plans will accelerate. SWISS will delay the delivery of new short haul aircraft and “may” phase out older aircraft early.
Specific cuts have been announced at Eurowings. Germanwings will cease to exist as a brand and Eurowings will phase out 10 A320 aircraft. Furthermore, long-haul business class will be “reduced”, though no further explanation was offered.
This is a brutal time in the airline business and Lufthansa has adapted a
pessimistic realistic outlook on long-term depressed demand. The retirement targets some of my favorite aircraft, but thankfully there will still be 747s and A340s in the fleet. Expect first class routes, however, to be more limited.
I get the impression that many people are anticipating a quick return to ‘normalcy’, and that by the end of the northern summer it will be ‘all systems go’. It IS going to take years to recover. Years and years.
Even in the event that Cheeto crashes through and goes for “herd immunity”, borders will be closed in many regions. The EU might dissolve into chaos unless they can sort out a decent package for Italy and Spain. Conceivably it could break apart.
Put in Churchillian terms, it’s not the beginning of the end or even the end of the beginning.
At least Lufthansa will survive, albeit in greatly reduced circumstances ( as for many of us…)
I’m still waiting for the announcement that they are removing First from all aircraft as they sit idle for months. I just can’t imagine that they see much demand for it in the future. And this is an opportunity to switch out First cabins with an expanded Business class. Over the past few years my LH First flights rarely had more than 2 other people in it (my last one in mid Feb (pre-Covid19 hysteria) I was the only one on the IAD flight). And, let’s be serious, most flying First were using points like me. Lufthansa is just one. American is another. And Air France.
Gonna be a sad day when all we have left are the memories of a Rose by our seat along with Caviar and white asparagus at 35K feet.
My prediction will be that going forward in a few years the last two airlines to offer First cabins will be Emirates (as they have built an entire brand on the aspiration) and Singapore (as they actually have demand for it on certain routes). BA will probably keep it for awhile as it’s not much worse of a footprint on the aircraft than the new Club World would be. And they can sell their $1000 upgrades from Business to justify it. But I expect all future BA aircraft deliveries will no longer have it.
I hate to even speculate about that. I do think AF will also keep first class long-term. BA, probably not.
If demand is down, then what’s the point of going through the expense of effectively densifying the cabin? Besides, demand may be down for the unwashed masses for years, but there will still be plenty of elitist Europeans wanting to jet around the world to their next holiday or climate change conference. If the demand of F is way down then I’d say a more appropriate response may be to cut service levels and price of first class, making it more of a premium business product.