Lufthansa Reactivates World’s Largest Airliner

German airline Lufthansa has reversed course, deciding to bring back the world’s largest passenger airliner, the double-decker Airbus A380.

Lufthansa Airbus A380 in flight

Lufthansa said it’s assessing how many Airbus A380s to bring out of storage and which routes they will fly, beginning in the summer of 2023. [Courtesy: Lufthansa]

German airline Lufthansa has reversed course, deciding to bring back the world’s largest passenger airliner, the double-decker Airbus A380. 

Increasing passenger airline travel and delays in new aircraft deliveries are the key reasons behind the move, Lufthansa announced Monday. Measuring 73 meters (240 feet) long and 24 meters (79 feet) high, Lufthansa’s seating configuration for the A380 “superjumbo” seats up to 509 passengers.

Lufthansa’s decision follows an upward trend for operation of the four-engined airplane, which had lost favor in the airline industry over the past several years owing to its high fuel costs and the rapid drop in international air passenger traffic during the pandemic. 

Throughout the airline industry, more than 100 A380s reportedly have returned to service in recent months, rebounding from only four flying in April 2020, as the pandemic began to spread around the globe. Bloomberg reports by the end of this year, A380 flights will have bounced back to nearly 60 percent of pre-Covid levels. Airlines currently flying the type include British Airways, China Southern, Korean Air, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and Emirates.

Airlines have been finding it more economical on most routes to use more fuel efficient twin-engined widebodies such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing’s 787. The final passenger variant of Boeing’s iconic four-engined 747 was delivered last year. Boeing’s enormous twin-engine 777-9 widebody, currently undergoing flight testing, will seat 426 in a two-class configuration, but it isn’t expected to enter service until 2025 at the earliest.

Production of the superjumbo ceased at the end of last year, after delivery of 251 during its 15 year run. Declining sales based on Airbus’s initial expectations drove the decision. 

Many operators sold off their A380s or chose to move them to long-term storage facilities. 

Lufthansa said it had parked 14 A380s in deep storage in France and Spain. Although six of these have been sold, eight remain owned by the airline. Lufthansa said it is currently “assessing” how many of these will be reactivated and their specific routes. 

Lufthansa said it expects to begin new A380 service in the summer of 2023.

Thom is a former senior editor for FLYING. Previously, his freelance reporting appeared in aviation industry magazines. Thom also spent three decades as a TV and digital journalist at CNN’s bureaus in Washington and Atlanta, eventually specializing in aviation. He has reported from air shows in Oshkosh, Farnborough and Paris. Follow Thom on Twitter @thompatterson.

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