Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

Lufthansa's supervisory board has cleared plans to expand the airline's long-range fleet with a launch order for the Airbus A340-600, plus additional Boeing 747-400s.

The order, worth at least DM3.6 billion ($2 billion), is for ten stretched A340-600s and five 747-400s. It means that Lufthansa's long-range fleet of 55 aircraft will grow to 80 by 2004.

Sources close to the new order confirm that it also includes an unspecified number of options, but Lufthansa declines to reveal how many. The airline already operates 16 A340-200/-300s, and 22 General Electric CF6-powered 747-400s. Lufthansa has options for 12 A340-300s, which remain on the books, while two orders and nine options were held for the 747-400 prior to the new order.

The airline says it has no plans to follow up with an order for the smaller, longer-range A340-500. "The decision to make all ten orders -600s gives an indication of what Lufthansa's priorities in seating capacity versus range are right now," says the airline.

The 330-seat Rolls-Royce Trent-powered A340-600 will be introduced into the fleet from 2003, and fills the gap between the current A340-300 and the 747. The extra 747-400s will be delivered between 2000 and 2002, expanding Lufthansa's 747-400 fleet to 37 aircraft.

Six of the new Airbuses will replace a similar number of A340-200s now in operation. The airline is toning down earlier statements that the new aircraft ordered will replace its eight ageing 747-200s, saying that no decision has yet been taken on when the aircraft will be retired from the fleet.

Source: Flight International