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.

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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.

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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…

  3. 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

  4. 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.

    1. 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 making a dm competing full double deck plane. But European governments funded the A380 folly. Result: Double deck 747 will continue flying after the A380 is gone, and Lufthansa’s taxpayers are writing off the cost of the A380. Irony!

  5. 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 equivalent in any class – there is just more room! I will pay extra (and LH get to charge extra) for this – compensates for the per passenger fuel efficiency reduction when flight is +90% capacity. Gotta remember that fuel prices in real terms are not increasing by much and certainly not as fast as anyone predicted. LH got a good initial price on the 747-8’s and the fuel price has not increased as rapidly as forecast at the time. The new engines giving the bulk of the efficiency gain are a lot more expensive to maintain. They are no even sure when the 777X will be available so why would LH try to compete with vapourware? For PaxEx – long live the 747. Boeing so far have not produced a comparable product for long haul daily frequency and other than the A340 neither has Airbus (yes LH is keeping their A340’s until the A350 gets built in sufficient quantities.

    1. 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!

  6. 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.

    1. 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 for those guys calculating the costs of aircraft operations is how much fuel does it burn per mile and per pax, isnt’it? Or are there more important criteria?

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

        1. 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).

  7. 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!!!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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