Lufthansa finds a new home for the A380 in Munich, as Frankfurt loses five SuperJumbos

14 June, 2017

After selecting its Bavarian hub for the deployment of its initial batch of Airbus A350s at the start of this year, German flag carrier Lufthansa has now revealed that it will transfer more than a third of its Airbus A380 fleet to Munich Airport from summer 2018. The move suggests a recent disagreement with Fraport, the operator of its Frankfurt Airport hub, over changes to its development strategy and costing structure, may be influencing its own network strategy.

In a clear sign for continued growth in Bavaria, over the next two years, the Lufthansa long-haul operation in Munich will receive two more aircraft. The arrival of five of its 14 A380s from Frankfurt next summer will see capacity boosted on its routes to Beijing, Hong Kong and Los Angeles through the deployment of the SuperJumbo equipment, while it will reintroduce flights to Singapore on a five times weekly basis and boost frequencies to Chicago from a daily to ten times weekly schedule.

"With the A380 we can offer our Munich customers a premium aircraft at a 5-Star Hub," said Harry Hohmeister, member of the executive board of Deutsche Lufthansa AG and responsible for hub management at the airline group. "In recent years, we have made great progress in steering our hubs. We harmonized and integrated processes and are now more flexible in utilising our aircraft at different locations. Quality, efficiency and growth will always remain our top priority."

While Frankfurt may be losing the five A380s, Lufthansa will introduce a five times weekly link from the city to San Diego in the United States of America (USA), a growing leisure market and a hotspot for the biotech and telecommunications industry. The Frankfurt - San Diego market is currently served on a seasonal basis by leisure carrier Condor, part of the Thomas Cook Airlines Group, while other transatlantic connections comprise British Airways to London Heathrow and Edelweiss Air with a seasonal service to Zurich.

The big question now is which of Lufthansa's A380 routes from Frankfurt will be downgauged to facilitate the switch of the five A380s. The German carrier is this summer utilising the type in 12 international markets - Bangkok, Beijing, Delhi, Hong Kong, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Seoul, San Francisco, Shanghai and Singapore. There are already indications that the Hong Kong route will be switched to the Boeing 747-8I, while Singapore could also see a capacity cut due to the Munich operation reducing transfer feed via Frankfurt.

Lufthansa has been modifying its long-haul strategy out of Munich over recent years. Its based fleet consists of over 25 aircraft, including a mix of A330-300s, A340-600s and more recently the A350-900, which is currently deployed on flights to Delhi, Boston and Mumbai

The main growth area for Lufthansa's long-haul network from Munich this decade has been in North America - flights have been resumed to both Denver and Miami, while new links have been established to the Canadian cities of Toronto and Vancouver.

Analysis of schedules data from intelligence provider OAG shows overall capacity to North America is forecasted to rise 11.7% this year, based on published schedules, with growth in 12 of the 13 markets it serves. Only Vancouver will see a capacity reduction in 2017 from Munich, albeit this market grew by more than a third in 2016 and the 2017 operation is thought to be at a more sustainable level.

The expansion planned for 2017 follows a 12.2% capacity rise in 2016 and includes double-digit year-on-year growth in the Miami (+39.9%), Montreal (+23.8%), Charlotte (+13.2%), Washington (+10.6%) markets for this year (versus 2016). Capacity into Denver will also be up +123.6% in 2017 due to a first full year of operation. This year's North American programme is Lufthansa largest from Munich with more than one million departure seats for the first time.

Elsewhere this decade, in Latin America, Mexico City joined Sao Paulo in the carrier's Munich long-haul network from 2014, while in the Middle East, Tehran, Iran joined Lufthansa's network this year, as well as Cape Town in Africa from 2012. Tokyo Haneda has been Lufthansa's only new long-haul Asian destination from Munich, albeit this was simply a result of the switch of its existing Tokyo service to Narita International Airport.

However, this growth has been offset by cuts to the airline's Asian network from Munich. In the last ten years flights to Bangkok, Singapore and Tashkent have all been suspended. Last year the airline also closed two further long-haul routes as it ended flights to Dubai in the spring of 2016 and suspending its daily link to Sao Paulo last autumn.

NOTE: Although the summer 2018 schedule will represent the first time Lufthansa has deployed the A380 on its scheduled programme from Munich, the aircraft has previously been used by the carrier on scheduled flights from the Bavarian hub, operating for a week on a daily return rotation to New York between December 6, 2011 and December 11, 2011.