German flag carrier Lufthansa took delivery of the first 747-8 Intercontinental airliner from Boeing in ceremonial fashion on May 1, then flew the so-called “Queen of the Skies” from Everett, Wash., to its base in Frankfurt after a touch-and-go landing in Hamburg. Legally, Boeing signed over the airplane to Lufthansa on April 25.
The first airline-configured 747-8I, registered D-ABYA, will begin revenue service June 1, flying between Frankfurt Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia. Lufthansa expects delivery of five Intercontinentals this year, and plans to deploy them on routes to Washington Dulles, New Delhi, Bangalore, Chicago and Los Angeles. The carrier has ordered twenty 747-8Is for five-per-year delivery through 2015.
Boeing delivered the first 747-8 Freighter variant to Cargolux Airlines on October 12 last year, and the first VIP-configured aircraft to an undisclosed customer, reportedly a Middle East head-of-state operator, on February 28. As of the latest delivery to Lufthansa, the airframer had delivered two VIP variants and 14 freighters to five customers.
Lufthansa’s first 747-8I came configured with eight first-class seats in the front section of the main deck, 92 business class seats and 258 economy seats. The new business class section, planned for installation on the carrier’s entire long-haul fleet, features a V-shaped seating arrangement in which neighboring seats face each other at an angle along a central axis.
Plans call for the five Lufthansa Intercontinentals delivered this year to begin replacing older 747-400s, which are shorter by 18 feet (5.6 meters) and carry 50 fewer passengers. During the delivery event in Everett, Nico Buchholz, Lufthansa executive vice president for group fleet management, claimed the 747-8I will fit seamlessly with the airline’s 17 planned Airbus A380s.
“The A380 for us is a 500-seat aircraft, the 747 a 400-seat aircraft and the other long-haul aircraft [we operate] are 300- or 250-seat aircraft,” Buchholz said. “So already by that definition you see that the 747 actually entered into a gap in our long-haul portfolio because we thought that going from 300 to 500 seats is a gap too far. The other element is that [the 747-8I] is a very attractive product [with] the right seat-mile costs and environmental attributes that we can fit nicely into our network, flying side by side with the A380 but not really competing.”