Lufthansa will bring back the Airbus A380 into service for the 2023 summer schedule, it announced on June 27. The news comes a week after CEO Carsten Spohr told reporters in Doha that a decision would be made before the end of July, in order to have sufficient time to prepare for the re-entry of the doubledecker. Lufthansa needs the A380s because it expects to be short on capacity, given that deliveries of the Boeing 787s and 777-9s are behind schedule. Lufthansa brings back the A380 for the summer 2023.
The Executive Board of Directors approved the return of the A380 in a meeting on Monday. The exact number of aircraft that are needed is still being assessed, just as the destinations to which the type will operate again. Lufthansa placed its fourteen A380s in deep storage in the months following the start of the pandemic in 2020 until September 14, 2021, when the last one (D-AIMH) departed Frankfurt. They have been in storage in Tarbes (France) and Teruel (Spain). Six aircraft have been sold to Airbus as part of an earlier agreement that included an order for A350s. The first A380 entered service with Lufthansa in May 2010 and before the pandemic operated them out of Frankfurt and Munich.
A380 enjoying great popularity
In a media statement, Lufthansa says today: “In the summer of 2023, we not only expect to have a much more reliable air transport system worldwide. We will be welcoming you back on board our Airbus A380s, too. We decided today to put the A380, which continues to enjoy great popularity, back into service at Lufthansa in summer 2023. In addition to this, we are further strengthening and modernizing our fleets with some 50 new Airbus A350, Boeing 787, and Boeing 777-9 long-haul aircraft and more than 60 new Airbus A320/321s in the next three years alone.”
On the sidelines of the IATA Annual General Meeting in Doha, Spohr told reporters in a media roundtable: “We need about nine months lead time to prepare for the summer 2023 schedule, so we will have to decide to bring back the A380 before the summer break, so before I go on vacation.”
The question of whether to bring back the double-decker into service was related to the delayed deliveries of the first Boeing 777-9 until 2024 or maybe even 2025. Lufthansa said in April that it had various options, including sourcing more new or second-hand Airbus A350s or Boeing 787s. In the end, the carrier bought seven 787-9s that were canceled by other customers.
But with pent-up demand, especially to North America following further relaxation of Covid restrictions, Lufthansa still needs extra capacity for summer 2023. It already brings back five more A340-600s in addition to the five that were brought back to service. “Combined with the delay of the 777X and the stronger than expected demand, might require us to bring the A380 back or find another solution, liking finding more 777-300ERs that we operate at SWISS.”
“If we do more 777s, it is something we discuss with Boeing and lessors. And the A380 decision will be an either-or decision because there are no brand-new aircraft available for 2023. If you order an aircraft now, you might have one available at the earliest in 2025″, Spohr said last week. But the 777-option now seems off the table.
Although the A380s have been grounded, Lufthansa still keeps a few pilots available. “We only keep fourteen A380 pilots current. If we would bring back the A380, we would need A350 pilots to be double qualified. We have a rule that A350 pilots can also fly the A380.”
Some 2.200 flights to be canceled in July and August
Spohr confirmed that Lufthansa will have to cancel 900 flights in July and another 1.300 in August because of staff shortages. These flights with the parent airline were already booked, so it leaves the airline with the inconvenient task to tell passengers that their flight is off or will be rescheduled.
Lufthansa has no shortage of pilots. On the contrary, it has a surplus of some pilots, for example with Germanwings. The problem is with what he called “blue-collar” workers at the airports. “This problem is the tip of an iceberg in Europe of the staff shortages we will face in the next years because of the shrinking population”, said Spohr.
The Lufthansa boss also said that the airline still has not started plans for replacing the regional jet fleet of Embraer E1s and Mitsubishi CRJs. Just before the pandemic, Spohr said that Lufthansa had a look at the Embraer E2, but the project has been postponed. “We even haven’t issued a request for proposal yet.”
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.