Lufthansa Group plans to introduce with its first Boeing 777-9s in 2020 new business class and premium economy cabin fittings and seats that over time it will adopt for the rest of the long-haul aircraft of group member carriers Lufthansa, Swiss International, and Austrian Airlines.
Discussing the group’s cabin standardization move with reporters in New York on May 10, Heike Birlenbach, Lufthansa’s senior vice president of global sales and chief commercial officer of its Frankfurt hub, said the company would fit the new business class on virtually all the group’s jets other than those leaving the fleet in the short term, among them six A380s Airbus has agreed to take back from Lufthansa.
Birlenbach told AIN that the initiative will allow Lufthansa Group to distribute new long-haul aircraft on order flexibly among its various carriers. The group intends to use the move to enhance its overall fleet flexibility both in allocating aircraft for initial delivery and on a continuing basis, allowing Lufthansa Group to better respond to any evolving commercial circumstances at group hubs Frankfurt, Zurich, Vienna, and Munich, according to Birlenbach.
In line with its higher-yield cabin-standardization strategy, Lufthansa Group hasn’t yet decided about the initial distribution among its member carriers of the 20 Boeing 787-9s and 20 A350-900s it ordered in March, Birlenbach said. “We haven’t yet decided for these new aircraft,” she said, further noting that “an important strength” for the group will center on its ability to distribute aircraft flexibly among its carriers according to evolving needs. “Also, if after five years the technology changes on cabin interiors, the basics are all aligned,” she added.
In announcing orders for the 787-9 and A350-900 on March 13, Lufthansa Group said the new twinjets would mainly replace four-engine aircraft, namely the 15 A340-300s and 17 A340-600s operated by Lufthansa and the five A340-300s flown by Swiss International.
However, Birlenbach said that before allocating the 40 aircraft, the carriers will discuss traffic streams and opportunities to help Lufthansa Group’s executives best decide fleet allocation. Meanwhile, the airlines will take into account evolving “capabilities at the airport” as the group’s hub airports continue to develop their facilities and route networks.
Birlenbach later confirmed to AIN that the group will likely decide to allocate most 787-9s initially to Lufthansa or Zurich than to Austrian. “For Austrian now it is a question of intercontinental growth scenarios,” she said. Management must evaluate such conditions before Lufthansa Group can effect a long-term, long-haul hub growth strategy at Vienna. However, with its carriers’ cabin seating and fittings standardized, “the power of the group” centers on its ability to re-allocate aircraft at any time, she stressed. “Nobody is outside the discussion,” she concluded, in reference to the possible extension of the initiative to Eurowings and Brussels Airlines.