The global passenger Boeing 747 fleet has taken a massive hit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, one airline is remaining committed to operating the type. German carrier Lufthansa is operating around half of its 747-8 fleet, but where are the aircraft flying?
COVID-19 hasn’t been kind on four-engined aircraft. While Air France has ended its relationship with the giant Airbus A380, Virgin retired its final Airbus A340s. Meanwhile, the population of the remaining Boeing 747s has been deeply impacted, with airlines such as KLM, British Airways, and Qantas all bidding farewell to their 747 fleets ahead of schedule.
A major Boeing 747 operator
As a result of the aviation industry’s changing dynamics, Lufthansa has been left as one of the largest passenger Boeing 747 aircraft operators. While the airline’s 747-400 fleet hasn’t flown since the crisis began, the story is different for its fleet of 19 747-8s. The airline has 19 747-8 aircraft. According to data from FlightRadar24.com eight aircraft appear to be actively flying for the German flag carrier.
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Lufthansa isn’t just using its newest aircraft like Emirates was when it brought back the Airbus A380. Indeed, three of its four newest aircraft haven’t flown since March. The aircraft not in use are parked across Frankfurt and Hamburg, with one aircraft in Xiamen in China.
Where is the 747-8 flying?
Lufthansa is utilizing its eight flying 747s on a range of five long-haul routes. Two of the routes, Bangkok and Shanghai, see the aircraft flying east from Frankfurt. Meanwhile, the aircraft are also departing to the west to fly to Mexico City, Sao Paulo, and Buenos Aires.
On the route to Buenos Aires, Lufthansa is trialing economy class beds. This sees passengers in the economy cabin allowed to purchase empty rows of seats, with bedding provided. As such, it would appear that flights aren’t operating to capacity.
What happened to Chicago and Los Angeles?
The Boeing 747-8 had been operating Lufthansa flights to Chicago and Los Angeles. However, given the US travel ban on most originating from Europe, it seemed as though the capacity of the 747-8 wasn’t effectively utilized.
Meanwhile, Lufthansa had a large number of Airbus A350s sitting grounded in Munich. According to the German flag carrier, the A350-900 has a fuel burn of 12% less than the 747-8. This means that the aircraft is a win-win for Lufthansa on such routes. As such, Lufthansa placed the A350-900 on flights to Chicago and Los Angeles.
Firstly, it is not wasting capacity. However, it is also saving money with a lower fuel burn while cutting its emissions. The cost-saving aspect is of particular importance to airlines worldwide as they cope with a vast decrease in income while fixed costs remain. The Boeing 747-8 is currently planned to resume these routes in March 2021.
Have you flown on a Lufthansa Boeing 747-8? What did you make of the aircraft? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!