While many airlines ditched their remaining quad-jets during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lufthansa remains an outlier. While the airline’s A380s seem to be written off, every other quadjet type flown by the carrier at the start of the crisis has returned to the skies, even if just to plug a gap. Using schedule data from Cirium and fleet data from ch-aviation.com, Simple Flying decided to look at Lufthansa’s quadjet operations in 2022 compared to the last typical year of operations, 2019.
60% of the pre-pandemic schedule
According to monthly schedule data, Lufthansa’s quadjet operations currently sit at around 56% of 2019 levels, though this will sit around the 60% mark for the remainder of the year. For one simple reason, the Lufthansa quadjet schedule will never return to pre-pandemic levels. Many aircraft, both old and new, were retired during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is the shrinkage of the active fleet based on data from January 1st, 2019, and today.
This data is interesting, as the decrease in quadjet fleet size isn’t too dissimilar from the number of quadjet flights scheduled for the latter part of the year. This suggests that while the quadjet fleet is smaller than in previous years, the remaining aircraft are being used in a similar manner to 2019. Of course, as you can see from the table, the change in fleet sizes per type hasn’t been equal but also isn’t totally weighted towards older aircraft.
The Airbus A340-300’s 2022 schedule is interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Lufthansa was operating 17 of the jets in 2019 and continues to use 17 of the jets this year. You can see that the number of Airbus A340-300 flights scheduled this year closely matches the 2019 figures across the year. From July to September, the aircraft type will even exceed 2019 usage during any single month, with around 800 flights planned for September 2022, compared to a month high of about 750 in October 2019.
So far, the return of the Airbus A340-600 has been the biggest surprise thrown by Lufthansa regarding its quadjet fleet. The German flag carrier sent all 17 aircraft to desert storage in Teruel, Spain, towards the pandemic’s start. At the time, Lufthansa did reveal that the Airbus A340-600 could return in 2022, but most thought this was unlikely. In the end, Lufthansa did retrieve five Airbus A340-600s from the desert to provide some short-term premium capacity this summer.
The A340-600 returned to the skies earlier this year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying
The A340-600’s return has been slow but steady in previous months. The type’s usage is set to peak in the summer, but with 70% of the pre-pandemic fleet now gone, there is no way the type can get close to its pre-pandemic operations. The type’s usage will max out at 27.7% of pre-pandemic levels in August, though it is yet to be scheduled on flights in the IATA winter timetable.
The Airbus A380 is the biggest loser when it comes to Lufthansa’s quadjet operations, both in terms of aircraft size and its 2022 operations. Lufthansa has sent every A380 to storage with Tarmac Aerosave in France and Spain. While the airline group’s CEO, Carsten Spohr, has said that nothing would make him happier than being in a position to bring the A380 back, it seems incredibly unlikely that this will now happen, though it would feasibly be possible.
The Airbus A380 is the only quadjet that Lufthansa doesn’t plan to bring back. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying
We can’t compare the A380’s 2022 operations to its 2019 operations other than saying the jet is not down to fly at all this year. Instead, it made sense to look at the type’s proportion of monthly flights in 2019 to see what gap needed to be filled in 2022. Depending on the month of the year, Lufthansa’s A380s accounted for between 13.8% and 19.1% of all quadjet flights during 2019.
The Boeing 747-400 was one of the winners of the Lufthansa quadjet fleet, despite seeing its fleet size decrease slightly. These eight aircraft have an average of 22.1 years, double the 10.6 years of the Airbus A380 fleet. Despite this, they were deemed preferable, with eight of 13 returning to the skies. The return was reasonably subdued until the summer 2022 timetable kicked off. The aircraft is now operating at around 60% of its pre-pandemic schedule, roughly in line with the 38% decrease in aircraft.
Most airlines scrapped their Boeing 747-400s during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Getty Images
While the aircraft’s use can be seen to drop with the arrival of the winter timetable, this may not be the case. Lufthansa had previously said that the Boeing 747-400 would continue to fly until the arrival of the Boeing 777X, an aircraft that is now not expected to join the fleet until 2025. the airline had planned a one-in-one-out policy with the 777X deliveries replacing Boeing 747-400s.
Last but not least, we’re left with Lufthansa’s youngest quadjet family, the Boeing 747-8, with an average age of 8.6 years. Lufthansa was one of just three airlines to take delivery of the passenger version of the jet and remains committed to the type despite rising fuel costs. The Boeing 747-8 is the real winner when it comes to Lufthansa’s quadjet operations. The airline is currently flying around 90% of the pre-pandemic schedule.
Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-8 fleet has an average age of just 8.6 years. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying
This is due to exceed 2019 levels in October. Additionally, the Boeing 747-8 is down for 1.5 times the number of pre-pandemic flights from the start of the winter timetable. One would imagine that the aircraft was already being used near capacity in 2019, so it may be the case that some of these aircraft are rescheduled on the Boeing 747-400 nearer the time. With November and December still half a year away, there is plenty of time for changes to be enacted.
Which Lufthansa quadjet is your favorite? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!
Which is your favourite Lufthansa quadjet?
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