Lufthansa: Large-capacity fleet will give seasonal flexibility

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As Lufthansa looks to expanding the highest-capcity end of its fleet over the next five years, it sees a grouping of its Airbus A380s, A340-600s and Boeing 747-8s as the centerpiece of its seasonal strategy.

Speaking to ATI at a joint event in Hamburg, marking 50 years since the airline took its first Boeing 707 in 1960, Lufthansa fleet-management senior vice-president Nico Bucholz said the largest members of the fleet will be driven by the calendar.

"When you look at seasonal traffic patterns, you can play with that fleet combination of A380s, 20 747-8s and 24 A340-600 - so we can do it properly," he says.

The German flag-carrier is set to take delivery of the first of 15 A380s on 19 May, with an entry into service in June between Frankfurt and Tokyo.

Bucholz says that Lufthansa will take delivery of four A380s in 2010, with the second and third arriving in June and July, respectively, and a fourth in September.

Despite enduring years of A380 delays, Lufthansa is striking a cautious balance between the rapid growth of its fleet and operational reliability of the new aircraft.

"We want those aircraft reliable from the outset. That's why we do not like to have a single-aircraft operation for too long," says Bucholz. "So we're getting four aircraft this year, so we have a decent fleet to start flying.

"That is all capacity that comes into the fleet, I do not want them faster, because it is all incremental capacity."

The carrier will also take delivery of its first 747-8 at the end of 2011, with an operational launch in early 2012. Lufthansa will take delivery its 20 747-8s on order at a rate of five aircraft per year between 2012 and 2015.

While the final capacity of the 747-8 has yet to be finalized, Bucholz says it will operate in a three-class configuration with the new first-class product that will be introduced on the A380 later this month.