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.

Lufthansa
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.

Lufthansa
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.

Video of the day:

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.

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Rade74

Yes, they must retiring quickly B 747-400.In october with my family i will flying from Frankfurt to New York with B 747-8.

Blair

I will happily fly a 747 around the world for the next 20 years. Safest plane in the sky, especially if the maintenance is done by Lufthansa.

Codyrain

Enjoy your flight! Enjoy New York!

Alex

Lufthansa favors the 747-8 because of it’s larger floor space versus the 777 allowing them to add more business and premium economy seats, which Lufthansa sell a lot of in the long haul market. Not too sure about the A380 though, maybe too much floor space? Anyhow I’d expect the 747-8 to stay in service until at least 2030, given it’s Lufthansa’s flagship aircraft and maybe their management also favor the 747 partly for it’s nostalgia? who knows…

In-Frequent Flyer

I’d say the problem with the A380 is that it’s too big to be of much use and can only visit certain airports that can handle it, unlike the 747 which can fly to just about any airport with a long enough runway.

FlemmingDK

I have flown LH 747-8 to MEX and SAO and nice flights. The distane for LH to South America (BUE) no problem. Have flown their 380 biz to JFK, but too many pax in buz feels better on 747-8

Jim Ewida

Lufthansa is an airline which aims mostly to have a variety of airplane types in its fleet.Fleet complexity is considered a strong selling point for the airline.Although operating fewer aircraft types and more efficient ones is more beneficial in terms of fuel burn. So what their next move should be is to keep their last 747-8Is for some years and then look for other more efficient aircraft for their operations.

Robert Oliver

Nice revisionist history! “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.” Except the A380 is NOT older than the 777; with the opposite. The 777 first flew a commercial flight in 1997, and the A380 ten years later in 2007! The A380 is being retired by ALL airlines but because of age, but because of lack of demand. Boeing saw that lack of selling m demand and decided against… Read more »

Keith

Have flown (in the last few years) both the LH 747-400 and 747-8. Both with modern updated interiors. They provide a better PaxEx compared to 787-8, 777-300, 777-200 (also flown in the last few years). Contrary to what you say the only improvement that “modern” aircraft bring to PaxEx is the higher cabin pressure. The LH 747’s all have large bins. The window size is largely irrelevant on long haul (>6hrs). The 747’s score because they allow the correct seat width and aisle width for 10 abreast- There is no “sardine can” feeling in these aircraft compared to their modern… Read more »

Stuart Jarvis

They are being very sensible. I still fly the BA 1040am flight from Heathrow to LAX because it’s a 747 and it’s scheduled to operate until end of the year. I think some airlines will regret their decision to scrap this aircraft. Passengers still enjoy flying in it. I feel safe!

Matt

The 747-8 isn’t that inefficient. The engines are almost identical to the 787. It has the downside of the additional maintenance on 4 engines instead of 2. Other than that, it shouldn’t have to many downsides. The 747-8 was also built pretty much to Lufthansa’s liking, so I would think they would be the ones operating the majority.

In-Frequent Flyer

They are the same engine, just that those on the 8i are rated to have higher pounds of thrust. Not surprising, since this is a big aircraft we’re talking about.

Nigel

According to this link (and others), the 747-8 will be leaving Lufthansa earlier than originally planned:

http://www.flightsinternationaluk.co.uk/blog/lufthansa-to-retire-new-747-8s-earlier-than-strategic/

A detailed look at the figures in this link reveals that the fuel performance of the 747-8 is relatively disappointing:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_economy_in_aircraft

Carlos Gilbert

Interesting to look at the fuel economy on long haul routes shown on wiki in the link provided above. The 747-800 in the 405 pax and 7,200 miles range config has a comparable fuel burn per seat/mile (70 mpg/seat) as the A330-200 (71 mpg/seat), the A380 (72 respect. 74 mpg/seat) and the B777-200LR (72 mpg/seat). In this kind of comparison the King is the A340-300 with 67,4 mpg/seat. No other airplane achieves to burn per mile per seat in the 60-70 mpg/seat category! I guess this makes one think a bit about economics in aircraft use… After all, what counts… Read more »

Carlos Gilbert

Sorry, discard my above comment! Being European, I’m used to calculate liter/km, not mpg… thus I made the wrong calculations…

Nigel

You still made valid points, despite the miscalculations. For example, on longhaul routes >7200 nmi, the 747-8 (3.35) is one of the worst performers in the table…consuming more than a 777-300ER (3.11) or Airbus A380 (3.27) on a seat-mile-cost basis. For medium haul (>3000 nmi), the 747-8 scores worse (2.65) than a 767-400ER (2.44) or 767-300ER (2.56).

Khalid Gil

747 Jumbo Jet is Super King of A/C Family and no other Aircraft can match its safety record and its tremendous comfort sound proofing you feel Homely the moment you enter this spaciousAircraft.
Me and my Family Love to fly on 747 Jumbo Aircraft.
Long live 747…Amen!!!
KNGIL FROM DUBAI UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Jim Angel

I go out of my way to fly Lufthansa’s 747 in business class because of the extra room they provide. The upper deck is fantastic.

Robert

Love the 747 replace the 747-400 for the 747-8i be the 1 company that is keeping the best aircraft ever in the air !!

Azman Shah Kader Ibrahimsah

Why should I replace a Queen of the skies which has an excellent track records with the one who has a lot of trouble and the latest one which delayed flying. Customer safety cant be compromised.

Richard Levy

Just flew a 747 on Lufthansa from Dulles to Frankfort. SUPER comfortable in Enhanced Economy.
Still the best plane in the sky!!!
Lufthansa definitely one of the best for cabin service and food. Would definitely fly them again AND left exactly on time and arrived early- going to and from Frankfort.

In-Frequent Flyer

I think I might’ve been the one who fueled the plane you were flying. Can’t remember exactly since it was a month ago, but I’ve had to service Lufthansa frequently lately.

Ehling

Jumbo forever. I love to fly with a 747 it’s my favorite airplane

Tom Boon

I’ve only flown on a rather old 747 before and wasn’t a huge fan. I guess the 747-8 could be different though.

brettio

4 engines over the pacific. peace of mind. 2 fragile new generation engines ..one goes pop.. the other engine of same age suddenly has to work at max capacity…what do think is going to happen sooner or later.. just ask airnz that second engine was full of cracks.

They say its for fuel economy and passenger safety has now become an acceptable risk with a good maintenance schedule….but its just greed. ETOPS madness.
and on a final note
….. heads of state fly in aircraft with 4 engines for a reason.

Chris

Lufthansa seems like the only major airline that is using 747-8 for passenger fly. Compared to 380, 747 looks smarter and more elegant.

Tom Boon

Hope to be able to try the Boeing 747-8 soon and compare it to my -400 experience.

Ally

No, they should NOT. Replace it with much more advance high-eff engines and keep being what it is – Queen of the Skies.

Brian minemier

I just like the look of the newer 747-8

Smokerr

Me thinks Lufthansa will decide this not us.

Zoran Stosic

The 747 planes are much more comfortable than any other (also A380). And what we are talking about? That people 50 years ago traveled with space luxury 747, 4 engine plain and that we will be happy with cocoon like 777 or A350 on intercontinental trips. You are talking about LED lighting and windows in lavatories as a new features and don’t talk about we will travel in a can (conserve) comparing with the queen of the sky, 747 and A380. Commercial air industry has strong increase and nobody talk how is possible that airliners can not be cost efficient… Read more »

Todd

My first plane ride was on one of the first 747’s in June 1971 (JAL to Tokyo from LAX). Got to visit the cockpit (the good old days). Recently flew PE ORD to FRA on a LH 747-8. Loved it. I enjoyed taking long walks up and down the world’s longest passenger airliner.

Alan

Last year I flew on a 747 (Lufthansa 747-400) for the first time in 20 years and I realized that I had forgotten just how much better the experience is on a 747 vs other widebodies like the A330 and 777. I’m not sure if I can quantify it except that the larger interior volume is less exhausting in some way. Plus it sure seems like the pax/lavatory ratio is better, I never had to wait! I hope Lufthansa keeps flying the 747 for many, many years and that other airline realize just how much more the 747 is preferred… Read more »

Cap. Mantarraya

No, I don’t think Lufthansa will retire the most beautiful airplane ever built, long live the king of the sky

Peter Dolan

I have flown both A380 and B 747 I8 with Lufthansa and, in my opinion, the A380 is streets ahead.

Trevor H.

I’m glad to see Lufthansa being one of the few airlines, alongside Air China and Korean Air, giving the passenger 747-8 a chance to live for the next few years.

Carlos

747-8 are new ! New engines and wings. So they’re going To fly them for many more years…

Aryeh Luria

I am in favor of 4 eng Aircraft and the reason is safety I logged 25000 flt hours as. Flight Engineer on 707 747 200 never ever were we forced to make an emergency landing due to an eng failure or precautionary shut down excluding bird strikes they are dangerous ,usually occur close to the airport during take off or landing .
In the case of an eng failure on a two eng aircraft 50% power loss requires immediate landing , if you are over water make the conclusion .Love the 4 eng Machines.