Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

LUFTHANSA IS TO SELL its fleet of six Boeing 737-400s as part of a major cost-cutting programme under way at the German national airline.

According to Lufthansa, cost-cutting probes have exposed unnecessary capacities and unprofitable routes. "We have pinpointed the 737-400 as an aircraft which can be taken out of the fleet," it says.

The aircraft are available from the second quarter of 1997. Lufthansa says that it gains more from eliminating the 141-seat aircraft from the fleet than from reducing the number of its Airbus A320s, which have a similar passenger capacity. In this way, the company saves by cutting the number of types it operates. The 737-400s were ordered by Lufthansa in 1991, and delivered in 1992.

The airline intends to keep its current fleet of smaller 737-300/500s. Its remaining fleet of 20 aging 737-200s has been sold, and is being replaced by new Airbus A319s. Lufthansa has already sold ten aircraft from its original fleet of 30 737-200s to airlines in Indonesia. The remaining 20 have been bought by, US leasing company Jetz Ventures.

The restructuring scheme, known as "Programme 15", aims to cut unit costs from DM0.17 (8¢) to less than DM0.15 per available seat-kilometre by 2001. The programme got under way with the airline's decision in July to sack 100 new ground staff. Further dismissals are under consideration.

The plan comes in response to a 4.4% drop in traffic and a 2% drop in seat load factors to 67% earlier this year, raising fears of a first-half loss. The airline blames aggressive price policies from competitors and a serious fire at Dusseldorf Airport in April.

Lufthansa declines to comment on what further measures are being undertaken in the programme.

The airline is to release its first-half results before the end of August. Company chairman Jurgen Weber predicts that first-half profits on ordinary activities will be roughly halved, compared with 1995's figures, totalling about DM100 million.

Source: Flight International