Over half a century, Lufthansa operated a total of 155 Boeing 737 family aircraft. However, the German airline took its final flight with the type almost two years ago. What happened to all those 737s and where are they now?
Lufthansa’s love for the Boeing 737
Building on the designs of the Boeing 707 and Boeing 727, the concept of a cheaper twin engine jet aircraft was mooted by Being in 1964. Lufthansa loved this idea, and immediately placed an order for the type. The German carrier became the launch customer of the 737-100 in February 1968. Over the next three years, Lufthansa would receive a further 21 of the type, making them by far the biggest operator of the plane, of which only 30 were ever produced.
The next 737 out of the Boeing stable was the 737-200, which extended the fuselage of the -100 and allowed for a greater passenger capacity. Lufthansa would go on to order and operate 47 of this model, making it the most prolific 737 version in its fleet, but only just. The final 737-200 was delivered to Lufthansa as recently as 1997.
The 80s brought with them the launch of the 737 Classic series, which was made up of the -300, -400 and -500. Lufthansa would operate all three variants of the type, the most prolific of which was the 737-300 of which it flew 46. Just seven 737-400s flew in Lufthansa livery, while 33 of the largest 737-500s had a place with the airline.
Falling out of love
Unfortunately for Boeing, at the same time as the Classic series was gripping the market, interest in a competitor aircraft was on the rise too. The Airbus A320 launched in 1984, and fast became a firm favorite as an alternative to the 737 family of aircraft. Being produced in Europe added to its appeal to the German airline, and it began receiving its fleet of A320-200s in 1989.
Over the next couple of decades, Lufthansa would receive 76 A320-200s as well as 27 A319s and 63 A321 aircraft, of which it was the launch customer in 1994. With the incoming of the Airbus, the outgoing of the Boeing began.
Lufthansa operated its last flight with a Boeing 737 on October 31st 2016. The flight operated by a 737-300 registered D-ABEC flew from Hamburg to Frankfurt as a ceremonial final goodbye. However, the last revenue passenger flight had already taken place two days before, using D-ABEF from Nuremberg to Frankfurt. With these flights, over half a century of love for the Boeing 737 ended.
In 2016, Lufthansa became the first operator of the revamped A320neo, of which it now flies 20 plus two A321neos. It is surely no coincidence that the neos began to arrive in the same year as the 737 took its last flight for the airline.
What happened to Lufthansa’s 737s?
For the 737-100s, we can say with confidence that none are around today, as there are no 737-100s still in operation around the world. Apart from a few museum pieces, all have now been scrapped.
Of the 737-200s, a surprising number are still around. While some have been scrapped, a huge number are in storage and there are 12 that we know of which are still in use today. Seven of these are flying for various airlines in South American, while the other five are operated by Transporte Aéreo Militar (TAM), a Bolivian Air Force owned airline offering flights to rural communities in the nation.
One former Lufthansa 737-200 could live much longer than most. D-ABCE (the last to fly in Lufthansa livery) was converted to a cargo aircraft in 1995, but is now to be restored and displayed at the Dornier Museum in Friedrichshafen from 2019. However, one Lufthansa plane did not have such a happy ending. D-ABHD crashed while attempting to land in Turkey, killing all 11 passengers and five crew on board.
Of the 46 737-300s, 22 were scrapped by Lufthansa at the end of their useful life. 15 were sold to financing firm Automatic LLC, and the rest to other airlines. Some have gone on to be scrapped, others are stored but, despite their 30 years plus age, 12 of these are also still in service. Seven have been converted to cargo carriers, while the other five are still passenger planes, flying all over the world from Malaysia to Chile.
The -400s, of which Lufthansa had just seven, have had a mixed fate. Two were scrapped, two are stored and three are in service today. Of the active airframes, Blue Panorama Airlines in Italy operates two and Blue Air of Romania the other one.
15 of the -500s were scrapped by Lufthansa themselves at the end of their service life. Of the other 18, three were sold to Braathens, two are being preserved and the rest went to Automatic LLC again. Of the three Braathens planes, one was eventually scrapped, one is stored, and one is still operating for Bravo Airways in Ukraine.
Amazingly, of the bulk sold to Automatic LLC, none have been scrapped. One is stored, two are preserved and the rest are all in active service. The active ones are shared out between Peruvian Airlines and Romania’s Blue Air. Interestingly, the two that were ‘preserved’ by Automatic have both ended up in the gigantic playground that is KidZania – one in Heredia, Costa Rica, and one in Frisco, Texas.
D-ABIA and D-ABJI have both been retained and preserved by Lufthansa themselves. One is at Hamburg and one is at Frankfurt, both being used for training by Lufthansa Technik.
Coming back to Boeing?
There is a potential surprise in store, however. Despite all Boeing 737 MAX currently being grounded, Lufthansa is said to be considering a ‘three-figure order’ of the type. In a press conference Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa’s CEO, said,
“We have not lost our trust in Boeing. They’ve built wonderful aircraft over the decades and I am sure they will fix the current issue.”
However, this is not for sure, as the Group is said to be mulling options between this and more of the A320neo family.
What do you think? Should Lufthansa return the 737 to its fleet, or would sticking with Airbus be better for them?