Lufthansa today made public its intention to station another two A380-800s at its Munich hub. The jets will begin operations in the summer of 2020.
Once again, Lufthansa has opted to move some of its A380s from Frankfurt to Munich. Two years after the first shuffle of the fleet, the German flag carrier announced that it will move two more superjumbos to Munich, in readiness for inclusion in the summer 2020 schedule.
The placements will allow the carrier to fly A380s from Munich to Boston for the first time. And LH’s San Francisco service will be operated throughout the year. The carrier also announced new summer flights from Munich to Miami and Shanghai, to be serviced by the Bavarian A380s.
Lufthansa’s Munich A380s currently fly to Los Angeles, Beijing and Hong Kong.
5-star hub Munich
LH Executive Harry Hohmeister said of the move,
“Since last March, the A380 has been operating very successfully from Munich. A few weeks ago, we welcomed the millionth A380 passenger on board in Munich. Our customers and our crews love the A380 experience. The flagship of our fleet is perfect for our 5-Star hub Munich. We will continue growing where quality and costs go hand in hand.”
The carrier now has its 14-strong A380 flotilla split evenly between Munich and Frankfurt. The latest move suggests to some that LH plans to bring all of its A380s to Munich in the next few years, in tandem with the type’s phased retirement.
Frankfurt out of favor
The transfer of the type to Munich is a perpetuation of a sudden policy change for Lufthansa.
The carrier had initially intended Frankfurt to be its main operating hub for the type, basing the A380 there exclusively. However, in 2017 its relationship with airport operators Fraport was soured by the operator’s decision to offer European LCCs discounted rates of usage.
LH executives were angered when Fraport agreed to welcome competitors such as Ryanair at a discounted rate. The German carrier (once Fraport’s biggest and most loyal customer) had tried and failed to negotiate ‘mates rates’ for years.
In response to the move by Fraport, LH promised to, “divert more investments to other hubs, in Munich, Vienna and Zurich,” writes German news network The Local. Added a spokesman at the time: “There is no direct connection [to the Ryanair dispute] but of course growth will happen where the best conditions are, and costs are of course a factor.”
Fraport has since stood by its decision to offer sweeteners to foreign LCCs. It states that LH’s 2017 move away from Frankfurt was not only the “wrong one” but also proof of the airport’s need to curry favor with other airlines.
Replying to our question about Frankfurt’s fall from grace Lufthansa avoided direct reference to the tiff. A spokeswomen told us: “Frankfurt continues to be our largest hub with the most connections, however the airport growth capacity has reached a limit.”
Munich on the up
There is however more to the Munich announcement than the carrier’s spat with Fraport. Lufthansa acknowledges that the airline continues to see “very strong growth” from its operations in Munich.
Since the routes from Munich to Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Beijing were opened in the summer of 2018, the airline has seen passenger numbers rise steadily. The upward trend has reinforced LH’s opinion that the relocation of the A380 is one that yields positive financial results.
Munich is also a preferred starting point for many customers due to its location, according to some industry observers. Boarding Area suggests Munich Airport is a lot easier than, “navigating the maze that is Frankfurt, with well-defined gates system and Schengen entry/exit point.”
In their reply to us, Lufthansa said of Munich: “The customers are very enthusiastic about the A380s that are already stationed in Munich and introducing A380 operations from there continues to show great success.”
Furthermore, LH has found the area awash with eager employees. By the time the first A380s arrived on the tarmac in Munich, the carrier was already in the process of adding 500 new employees to an existing workforce of over 11,000.
Reduction in fleet
The jury is out on what plans Lufthansa has for the remaining half of its fleet still housed in Frankfurt. In any case, the airline plans to reduce its A380 fleet by almost half over the next three years.
As we reported in March 2019 LH is already in the process of selling six of its A380 aircraft back to Airbus. The carrier intends to replace them with B787-9s and A350-900s.
The popular theory is that Lufthansa will house its ever-dwindling super jumbos at Munich during the type’s retirement program.