Lufthansa unveils first 777 freighter

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Lufthansa Cargo has unveiled its first Boeing 777 freighter, a key part of a programme to streamline and modernise the carrier.

The first aircraft, which is registration number D-ALFA (MSN 41674), will be delivered by the airframer on 31 October and enter service in November, said Karl Ulrich Garnadt, chairman and chief executive of Lufthansa Cargo, at a media event in Seattle on 10 October.

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Edward Russell

The Frankfurt-based carrier has five 777 freighters on order with two due this year, two in 2014 and one in 2015. It has five options for the aircraft, which it has until September 2014 before it must make a decision on the first optioned aircraft, says Garnadt.

He adds that Lufthansa Cargo can exercise a 777 freighter option every year after September 2014.

D-ALFA and the second aircraft, D-ALFB, will be used to replace two Boeing MD-11s in Lufthansa Cargo’s fleet, says Nico Buchholz, executive vice-president in charge of fleet management at the Lufthansa Group. The MD-11s are former Alitalia and Varig aircraft, he adds.

Lufthansa Cargo has two former Varig MD-11s that are registered D-ALCO and D-ALCP and manufactured in 1992, Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database shows. It has two former Alitalia aircraft that are registered D-ALCR and D-ALCS and manufactured in 1994.

Buchholz says that the carrier has a buyer for one of the MD-11s and a potential buyer for the second aircraft.

“The MD-11 will continue to be the backbone of the Lufthansa Cargo fleet,” says Garnadt. The carrier has no plans to remove the remaining 16 of the type in its fleet, he says.

However, Garnadt cautions that the airline initially planned to use the first two 777 freighters for growth but revised those plans as the cargo market weakened. The same could occur for future 777 deliveries.

“The consensus is that air cargo will come back,” he says. “However, [now] we are in a very difficult environment.”

Lufthansa Cargo will deploy its first 777 freighter on flights between Frankfurt and Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare and New York’s John F. Kennedy International airports in November.

The 777 freighters are just one part of a €2 billion ($2.7 billion) investment programme being made in Lufthansa Cargo. Other aspects include new cargo sorting facilities at its Frankfurt hub and an “ambitious” target to be 80% paperless by 2015 and fully digital by 2020, says Garnadt.