What Happened To Lufthansa’s Retired Boeing 747s?

The iconic Boeing 747 has been a part of German flag carrier Lufthansa’s fleet since 1970. At this time, it took delivery of its first 747-100, with the -200 variant following a year later. 50 years later, it still operates a handful of the -400 and -8 versions of the ‘Queen of the Skies.’ But, of the examples of the -400 to have left Lufthansa’s fleet, which were able to find a new lease of life?

Where can you fly the 747 after COVID
Lufthansa continues to operate the Boeing 747. However, the last 10 years have seen its remaining examples of the -400 variant retired with increasing frequency. Photo: Getty Images

The 747-400 at Lufthansa

According to Planespotters.net, Lufthansa took delivery of its first Boeing 747-400 in May 1989. Registered as D-ABVA, it bore the name Berlin. In a way, this name proved rather apt, with the fall of the Berlin Wall occurring on November 9th of that year.

With further deliveries following throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, Lufthansa’s 31 747-400s became the flagships of its long-haul fleet. However, two decades later, the 2010s saw something of a changing of the guard in terms of the German flag carrier’s high-capacity long-haul operations.

This decade saw Lufthansa take delivery of seven Airbus A380 ‘superjumbo’ aircraft. Additionally, 19 examples of the next generation Boeing 747-8 arrived at the airline between 2012 and 2015. Lufthansa was the launch customer for the -8, and is also now its largest operator.

Lufthansa 747-400
Lufthansa has been operating the Boeing 747-400 since 1989. Photo: Getty Images

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The 2010s – a decade of change

This coincided with the retirement of 20 of its remaining 30 -400s during this decade. The first departure had already occurred in 1992, with D-ABVM being re-registered as V8-ALI and transferred to the Brunei government for VIP operations. This aircraft has been in storage in Marana Pinal Airpark, Arizona since March 2018.

Unfortunately, most of the -400s that Lufthansa retired during the 2010s were scrapped, having served the airline for 20-25 years each. However, two examples did initially manage to escape the cutter’s torch. D-ABTE Sachsen-Anhalt was re-registered N769CK and transferred to American cargo airline Kalitta Air.

Meanwhile, D-ABVC Baden-Württemberg briefly enjoyed a new lease of life at Atlas Air as N472MC. However, this aircraft was broken up at Mojave, California in 2016.

Lufthansa (Retro Livery) Boeing 747-830 D-ABYT (2)
Lufthansa used one of its new 747-8 aircraft, D-ABYT, to showcase a retro livery. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

2020 – a difficult year for the jumbo

2020 has not been a kind year to larger aircraft, and Lufthansa’s remaining 747-400s are no exception. D-AVBP, which bore the name Bremen until December 2015, is a prime example of the type’s misfortune this year. Despite operating a repatriation mission to New Zealand in early to mid-April, Lufthansa withdrew the aircraft from service less than a week later.

D-ABVP was one of six Lufthansa jumbos to be stored at Enschede Twente Airport in the Netherlands this year. However, in November, it flew to Mojave for its permanent retirement. Two further examples, D-ABVO Mülheim an der Ruhr and D-AVBS, followed in its footsteps earlier this month. Other storage locations for Lufthansa’s remaining 747-400s this year have included Hamburg, Tarbes (France), and Teruel (Spain).

Lufthansa 747-400
Lufthansa plans to retain some of its 747-400s for a little while longer. Photo: Getty Images

Despite the challenging year that 2020 has proved for Lufthansa’s 747s, the airline does not plan to prematurely retire the type altogether. Its CEO, Carsten Spohr, confirmed in September that the remaining -400s are set to leave the German flag carrier “over the course of the middle of this decade.” This should coincide with the arrival of Lufthansa’s first Boeing 777X aircraft. This will be welcome news for German avgeeks, who will also hopefully be able to enjoy the 747-8’s presence for many years to come.

Have you ever flown on a Lufthansa Boeing 747? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!