Lufthansa celebrated the “roll-in” of its new Airbus A350-900 aircraft, and was kind enough to invite AirInsight to its celebration. Videos of the speeches and christening ceremony, in German, will be available in separate posts on our site.
The celebration was held in Munich because the first 10 of the 25 A350s Lufthansa has on order will be based in Munich, with initial flights starting this month to Boston and Delhi. After experiencing the event, with more than 2,000 people in a Lufthansa Technik hangar that was noisy enough that you needed to speak loudly to your neighbor, the flight out of a quiet Munich airport, and how the A350 will reduce noise nearby the airport, will be striking.
In hockey games, there is typically a selection of the top three stars after the game. After this event, I would choose the new A350-900, named for the city of Nuremberg, as clearly the first star. But the second star is the Munich Airport, which has been expanding with modern new facilities in a joint venture with Lufthansa. The airport’s unique features complement the A350 perfectly. The third star is the management teams at Lufthansa and Airbus, which ordered and built an airplane that will provide a new level of economical and ecological performance.
What does the new A350 mean for Lufthansa? Lufthansa has been undergoing a recovery that has three stages – first gaining new efficiencies, second, being able to invest in new aircraft, and third, being able to further expand the services of their already well-known brand. The airline has been achieving the first goal with continuous improvements, as evidenced by improved financial performance in recent years. This has enabled Lufthansa Group to be the launch customer for the Airbus A320neo and Bombardier CSeries in the last year, and now the first in Europe to take delivery of the A350-900. By reinvesting in a modern and efficient fleet, Lufthansa is well positioned to achieve the final element of its strategy – additional growth and new markets for its flagship brand. The A350 will be an integral element of that growth strategy.
Lufthansa has configured its A350 in three classes, with 48 lie-flat business class seats, 21 premium economy seats, and 253 economy seats. The layout includes a self-service bar for business class for snacks and drinks available throughout the flight. On-board entertainment has taken another step forward, with the Lufthansa Companion App that enables passengers to configure entertainment options in advance of the flight. Passengers can even produce a playlist in advance of the flight and can also utilize their own mobile device as a second screen while on-board. WiFi is available on the flights.
The cabin pressure in the A350 is 6,000 ft. (like the Boeing 787) rather than the more typical 8,000 ft. on other aircraft, enabling a more comfortable journey. Combined with 24 scenarios for mood lighting and newly designed ergonomic seats from Zodiac in the economy cabin, passengers will enjoy a more pleasant experience on board.
But the economics of the A350 are the important factor, with a 25% improvement in fuel burn, 25% fewer emissions, and 50% less noise than comparable aircraft. The A350 is the first aircraft to get into the 2’s when it comes to fuel consumption, using only 2.9 liters per passenger per 100 kilometers. That translates to about 140 miles per gallon per passenger, which is better than a typical automobile driving 10 times slower than the aircraft, which cruises at 0.85 Mach. With a range of about 5,200nm, the A350-900 will easily connect Munich with trans-Atlantic and Far East destinations.
The efficiency of the A350-900 will enable Lufthansa to compete effectively with other carriers and provide their passengers with the latest in technology. Lufthansa is known for acquiring aircraft for specific missions — “horses for courses” — and selected the A350-900 for routes from Munich and from other cities where traffic does not warrant a larger A380 or 747-8 aircraft. Matching aircraft with demand provides Lufthansa the capability to gain competitive advantage by having the optimal aircraft for its routes.
At the same time, Lufthansa has made a major joint venture investment in Munich Airport, operating from new Terminal 2 facilities that were designed to be quite different than most airports. The major difference is quite noticeable as you pass the check-in area. Departing Munich during the peak morning rush, the check-in area as exceptionally quiet – in fact so quiet one would wonder if you were at an airport. Security check was less than 5 minutes, with staffing flexed to traffic even at rush hour, and the design of the terminal a pleasant mix of shops and gates. From a coffee at Dallmayr’s (which has operated in downtown Munich since 1700) to duty free shopping, to a series of restaurants on the second floor of the quiet check-in area, the airport experience is unusually pleasant, and more akin to a shopping mall than an airport. Even flight announcements at Munich are low key, and are restricted to areas near the gates so as not to disturb the entire airport, and gate positions are easy to find. It is clear why Munich has been voted Europe’s Best Airport by SkyTrax for several years. A new satellite terminal, connected by an underground train, opened last year, providing additional gates.
Adding the A350, which has a noise footprint 50% lower than comparable aircraft, and the quiet operations expand beyond the terminal to the residents of Freising and other towns nearby the Munich Airport. Quiet on the inside and the outside, as a greener aircraft is added to one of the greenest and carbon neutral airports in Europe.
The Bottom Line:
The A350, with its efficiency, will enable Lufthansa to execute on its strategy and expand the brand to new markets. It will be an excellent aircraft and increase the efficiency of Lufthansa operations, enabling it to improve cash flow and implement an expansion strategy. With the first ten aircraft from Munich, this introduction will match the quietest wide-body with the “quiet” airport, a perfect march.