On March 25th and 26th, a Lufthansa 747-400 spent more than 20 hours flying from Frankfurt to Auckland. These flights were part of the German government’s efforts to repatriate its citizens in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The flight, however, was not without a stop. In fact, the jumbo jet spent about two hours on the ground in Tokyo on its way towards the southern hemisphere.
According to FlightRadar24.com, the flight from Frankfurt to Auckland via Tokyo Haneda operated as LH9902. Operated by a 20-year-old Boeing 747-400 with registration D-ABVY, the flight left Frankfurt at 19:00 local time on March 25th and arrived at Tokyo Haneda at 14:15 the next day, March 26th. Then, after less than two hours on the ground at Haneda refueling, the aircraft left at 16:14, arriving in Auckland at 06:17 the next day (March 27th).
Given that the combined flight time from both legs was recorded to be 20 hours and 41 minutes, we can see that the journey for the flight crew just to get to their destination was close to 24 hours, when factoring in pre-flight time in Frankfurt and layover time at Haneda.
The aircraft being used, registration D-ABVY, is nearly 20 years old, having been delivered to Lufthansa in the year 2000.
German repatriation efforts
Unless there were New Zealanders aboard flight LH9902, the actual repatriation part of the journey will be the return flight, number LH345. This flight left Auckland today and is currently on its way back. It will also make a stop in Tokyo before heading on to Frankfurt.
“In cooperation with the Federal Government we want to enable German citizens who are stranded abroad to return home,” -Lufthansa website
Germans interested in repatriation flights can view Lufthansa’s schedule on the airline’s website. However, booking for these flights appears to be done through a government portal. The website rueckholprogramm.de is the central registration service for repatriation efforts.
Other repatriation flight destinations in the near future include Windhoek (Namibia), Delhi (India), Manila (Philippines), and several more.
As you may know, Auckland is not a normal destination for German carrier Lufthansa. In fact, no European carriers normally fly to New Zealand. In terms of European airlines making similar journies, only one carrier has regular service between Europe and Oceania: British Airways’ service from London to Sydney via Singapore.
Of course, these are unprecedented times we are living in right now and it’s not a total surprise that we are seeing some fairly unprecedented flights from airlines.
If you were on this flight, we would love to know how the experience was! Share it with us and fellow readers by leaving a comment.
We reached out to Lufthansa for comment on this unique journey. However, we did not receive a response from the airline at the time of publishing.