Lufthansa is prematurely phasing out six Airbus A380s as part of fleet cuts across the airline group in preparation for an operational restart with reduced capacity when the coronavirus crisis recedes.

Under a previous plan, Lufthansa intended to return six of its 14 A380s to Airbus in 2022 as part of an order for more A350s disclosed in 2019. But now the group says that the aircraft will be “permanently decommissioned” alongside seven A340-600s, five 747-400s and 11 Lufthansa-operated A320s because of the coronavirus crisis.

The phase-out plan is part of a “first” permanent capacity reduction, the group says.

It foresees a “significant decline” in air travel once flights are resumed. Lufthansa says: “It will take months until the global travel restrictions are completely lifted and years until the worldwide demand for air travel returns to pre-crisis levels.”

The airline cites “environmental as well as economic disadvantages” for the phase-out of the A340-600s and 747-400s versus other aircraft.

Cirium fleets data shows that Lufthansa’s fleet includes 20 A340-600s, 17 A340-300s, 13 747-400s and 19 747-8s. All of the A340-600s, 12 A340-300s, nine 747-400s and 14 747-8s are listed as being in storage.

Lufthansa’s regional CityLine unit, which has operated since 2015 some A340-300s for the mainline on touristic routes, will phase out three of the long-haul jets, the group says.

In addition to the 11 Lufthansa-operated A320s, low-cost unit Eurowings will decommission another 10 A320s from its fleet and reduce its long-haul operation.

Germanwings – another budget unit operating as part of Eurowings’s network – will be altogether discontinued, Lufthansa confirms. Cirium fleets data shows Germanwings has four A319s and five A320s.

Lufthansa says that a previous plan to bundle Eurowings’ multiple operations into a single unit will be “accelerated”.

Meanwhile, restructuring programmes for group subsidiaries Austrian Airlines and Brussels Airlines will be “further intensified”. As part of the efforts, the two carriers are evaluating fleet reductions, Lufthansa notes.

Austrian foresees that once regular flights resume, travel demand will be 50-75% lower than during the 2019 summer season. Earlier this month, Austrian extended its operational shutdown until at least 1 May.

The Vienna-based carrier says it “anticipates a significant reduction in demand [also] for 2021 and the ‘pre-corona level’ will probably not be reached until 2023 at the earliest”.

Austrian notes it is holding talks with the country’s government, Lufthansa and social partners to prepare the company for “a reorientation and adaption… to the changed travel behaviour”.

Chief executive Alexis von Hoensbroech states: “The extent to which this will take place has not yet been finally defined and also depends on the further development of the crisis.”

Sister carrier Swiss, meanwhile, will “adjust” its fleet size by delaying deliveries of short-haul aircraft and potential early retirement of older aircraft.

Lufthansa says it wants to “quickly” begin discussion with unions and staff representatives to “keep as many jobs as possible” within the group. Talks will cover “new employment models… among other things”, the carrier adds.