Why Lufthansa Won’t Retire Their Boeing 747’s Anytime Soon

A common theme that we have reported on here at Simple Flying is the retirement of aging aircraft fleets, as airlines switch from the older Boeing 747s and A380s to newer planes like the Boeing 777 and Airbus A350. But Lufthansa, who operates a large fleet of Boeing 747s, won’t be retiring the type anytime soon.

A Lufthansa Boeing 747-8. Photo: Lufthansa

What role does the Boeing 747 play in their fleet?

Lufthansa began it’s history with the Boeing 747 back on April 26th, 1970, flying a 747-100 on a route between Frankfurt and New York. Lufthansa was the first European carrier to have the aircraft and the second in the world behind launch customer PanAm.

“The excitement of the passengers and crew on board was immense. Right from the entrance point to the jet, one gets into a celebratory champagne mood. Hardly surprising, when considering that there was a bar in the First Class Lounge on the upper deck of the aircraft.” – Excerpt from Lufthansa’s 50-year history.

An older Boeing 747-200 takes flight in Lufthansa livery. Photo: Lufthansa

The airline currently has 13 Boeing 747-400s and is the largest operator of the newer Boeing 747-8I, with 19 of the type operational. An interesting item of trivia is that in its 747-8I fleet, Lufthansa has the 1500th 747 to ever be built.

What is the case for retirement?

There is a strong case for an airline to retire the Boeing 747.

For one, we are now in the age of fuel efficiency were twin-engines are king. A four-engined aircraft like the Boeing 747 simply burns way too much fuel compared to an equivalent two-engined aircraft (For example the Boeing 747 vs The new Boeing 777X)

Plus, there are a variety of comforts that passengers are coming to expect on newer aircraft, such as LED mood lighting, larger overhead bins and big windows (some aircraft even have a window in the bathroom). This also goes for quieter engines, better humidity and better cabin pressure on board. Being an older design, the Boeing 747 can’t really compete with these new features.

A380 landing
Lufthansa is likely to retire the A380 before the Boeing 747 and will phase out six in the coming years. Photo Wikimedia

Why won’t they be retiring the type anytime soon?

But Lufthansa isn’t planning on retiring the Boeing 747 type anytime soon.

They are phasing out their fleet of 13 Boeing 747-400s over the next few years as they take delivery of their new Boeing 777X (which is still suffering delays and may not even fly this year). However, they will keep their newer Boeing 747-8Is for many years to come.

Today, they use their Boeing 747s as the flagship aircraft of their fleet, introducing new livery and new cabin concepts to passengers before it filters through to the rest of their mainline fleet (However, the Boeing 777X will have a new first class concept).

“Lufthansa was the world’s first passenger airline to receive the first Jumbo Jet’s “grandson”, the Boeing 747-8, on May 2nd, 2012. The modern aircraft can accommodate up to 364 passengers in First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy Class.” – Lufthansa

What do you think? Do you think Lufthansa should retire the Boeing 747 as quickly as possible? Let us know in the comments.