Paris: Europe’s biggest airline is resurrecting a dinosaur of the skies to tackle a dearth of premium seats on lucrative intercontinental routes.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG will return five aging Airbus A340 jets in order to boost the availability of first-class seats as travel demand continues to rebound from the coronavirus crisis. The widebodies will be brought out of storage and commence flying in time for next summer, according to the company.
The step means Lufthansa will remain the biggest operator of the A340 and the only major airline still flying the jet. Aside from the German company and its Swiss subsidiary, which has four in traffic, other operators are minor carriers like Iran’s Mahan Air and VIP airline Qatar Amiri Flight. Other airlines, from SAS to Virgin Atlantic Airways, have long consigned the once longest commercial airliner to the scrap heap.
Bringing back the biggest planes
The decision to bring back the A340s alongside five revived last summer follows a move to resume flights with some A380 superjumbos, the biggest planes in the Lufthansa fleet. The plans mark a shift in thinking on the high fuel-burn models, which at the height of the pandemic had seemed likely to be permanently retired.
Airbus delivered 377 units and ceased A340 production in 2011 after less than two decades. The aircraft struggled to compete with more fuel efficient twin-engine models like the A330 sibling from the same era, which had gained authorization to fly increasingly long oceanic routes, something that had previously been the province of four-engined jets.
Lufthansa aims to deploy the A340-600s at its main Frankfurt hub in order to broaden its offering of premium berths, German aviation website Aero Telegraph reported earlier. Those returned to service last year were deployed in Munich.
The plane’s 297 seats include eight in first class, 44 in business and 32 in premium economy. While the A380s also offer first, only three of the double-deckers may be brought back, according to Lufthansa’s latest thinking. The carrier’s Boeing Co. 747-8s also feature the class, as will a new batch of Airbus A350-900s, though deliveries aren’t due until later this year.
Boeing 777Xs ordered by Lufthansa are also likely to feature a first-class cabin but the model has slipped five years behind schedule with deliveries postponed to 2025.
The Frankfurtflyer newsletter, which reported on Lufthansa’s A340 plans last week, said likely destinations to be served by the aircraft include New York, Hong Kong and Bogota. Still, the move may prove controversial with environmental lobbies, given the relative inefficiency of the A340s, which range from 14 to 19 years old.