ANALYSIS: Lufthansa's widebody order explained

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Greater range led Lufthansa to select the Airbus A350-900 over the Boeing 787-10, says Carsten Spohr, chief executive of the airline group's passenger arm.

Meanwhile, higher capacity was the reason the Boeing 777-9X won out over the A350-1000, Spohr confirms.

Rejection of the 787 had nothing to do with the technical issues which led to the Dreamliner's grounding earlier this year. Lufthansa chief Christoph Franz describes these as teething problems.

The order – comprising 34 777-9Xs and 25 A350-900s – is Lufthansa's largest ever by list-price value, totalling €14 billion ($19 billion). However, Franz says the “effective price” for the aircraft will be “significantly lower”.

The agreements with Airbus and Boeing comprise 59 firm orders, but options and purchase rights bring the total to 119 aircraft. In addition to the 34 firm 777-9X orders, Lufthansa took seven options plus purchase rights for another 23 of the next-generation 777 variant.

Delivery of Lufthansa's first 777-9X is scheduled for 2020. While the carrier expects to be the type’s first operator, Franz says it is feasible that early delivery slots could be given to other airlines to iron out potential teething issues.

Boeing has yet to officially launch the 777X programme. But the airframer has said this will happen by year-end.

Lufthansa's A350 deal, meanwhile, includes 25 firm and 15 optional orders, plus purchase rights for another 15 A350-900s. However, the agreement allows conversion of some orders to the larger A350-1000 variant.

The airline's first A350 is to join its fleet in 2016, while deliveries for all firmly ordered aircraft – including the 777-9X – are to be completed in 2025.

Structuring the fleet plan in the way it has allows Lufthansa to grow capacity by between 1% and 5% depending on market developments. The 59 firm orders are to replace 54 ageing A340s and 747s, says Spohr.

The A350-900s will be primarily used as an A340-300 replacement, while the 777-9X is earmarked as a 747 successor. Both new types will be configured in two- and three-class passenger cabin layout.

Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database lists within Lufthansa's fleet 22 747-400s and 48 A340s, split evenly between the A340-300 and -600 variants.

However, while the A340-300s will be replaced straight away, the larger -600s are to continue operating “for a long time” as the aircraft will have been paid for but will not have reached retirement age when the new types arrive, says Spohr.

Repair and overhaul of the A350’s Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines and the 777-9X's General Electric GE9X powerplants will be carried out by the airline’s MRO subsidiary. Each engine is the incumbent powerplant on its respective aircraft.

Lufthansa Technik will not only service the engines for the in-house fleet, but also for third-party maintenance customers, says Franz. This is a minimum requirement for any aircraft deal by the carrier, he adds.

LHT already has a 50:50 joint-venture powerplant shop with Rolls-Royce – N3 Engine Overhaul Services – where it supports Trent 500s, 700s and 900s. A partnership with GE is intended. However, the maintenance provider has no repair capability for the GE9X's predecessor, the GE90.

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