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A380 taking off from Munich Airport: a symbol of technical capability

Photo: Sven Hoppe / dpa

Even before Corona, the giant A380 aircraft were considered too large for efficient continuous use in scheduled operations. But after a three-year break, Lufthansa has resumed operations with the world's largest passenger aircraft.

The first aircraft took off from Munich to Boston at 15:35 p.m. The passengers were bid farewell with brass band music and gingerbread hearts. The flight was almost fully booked, said company spokeswoman Bettina Rittberger.

Lufthansa plans to station four A380s in Munich this year, with two more to be added as a reserve in winter. In June, Boston is the only destination, and New York will be added from July 4th. With the change to the winter flight schedule in October, the 509-seat aircraft will fly to Los Angeles and Bangkok instead.

The A380 is the largest passenger aircraft in the world and for a number of years was regarded as a symbol of the technical capability, if not superiority, of the European Airbus group. However, it quickly became clear that cost-effective and environmentally friendly operation of the four-engine aircraft was only possible if almost all seats were sold. This was only possible on a few routes globally and ultimately led to the fact that only 251 of the giant aircraft were built. For comparison: 747 copies of the Boeing jumbo 1574 were delivered, but also in a much longer range.

Extensive training program over Pentecost

The first A380s have already been scrapped. The last aircraft went to the largest customer Emirates in December 2021, which has taken delivery of 123 aircraft alone for its ambitious growth programme at the Dubai hub. Lufthansa had already taken the four-engine A380 out of its fleet and parked it in Spain for efficiency reasons before the Corona doldrums.

At the moment, however, demand in aviation is very good again – and ticket prices are currently rising sharply, as are leasing rates for jets. In addition to taking advantage of cheap second-hand opportunities, it is important to get your own material into the air as quickly as possible. Even if it's just for a few years.

The capacity of the A380 with 509 seats each is urgently needed, argues Lufthansa's airline boss Jens Ritter. This summer alone, around 50,000 additional passengers could be transported, and next year there will even be around one million passengers for whom there would have been no seats and tickets without the A380.

The company has not yet provided any information on the costs of the repatriation operation for six of its own A380s. For each mothballed aircraft, millions of dollars have to be planned, because in addition to the prescribed maintenance with thousands of hours of fitters, hail damage to the outer skin also had to be repaired, which the parked aircraft suffered in Aragon, which is actually so low in precipitation. Even during operation, there are still additional costs for transfer flights to Frankfurt, because certain maintenance work on the tail unit can only be carried out in the A380 hangar there. In the case of the last two available machines, the board is hesitant because even more complex and expensive maintenance events are imminent.

Over Pentecost, the future pilots completed an extensive training programme with take-offs and landings at Leipzig, Prague and Vienna airports. Munich was also chosen as the location because many pilots with a license for the smaller A350 are already stationed at the hub. The licence can be extended to the A380 in a short time. Lufthansa needs around 380 pilots and around 20 flight attendants with valid licences for each individual A400.

With 14 aircraft, Lufthansa was the world's third-largest A380 customer after Emirates and Singapore Airlines. In the course of new orders for other types, manufacturer Airbus has contractually agreed to take back six aircraft before the end of 2023, so that Lufthansa still has eight A380s.