Lufthansa’s first 747-8 Intercontinental took off from Washington state on May 1 on its way to Frankfurt, a milestone which Boeing hopes will spark demand for the newest generation of its iconic jumbo jet.
Lufthansa said 747-8 commercial services would begin June 1 with flights between its Frankfurt base and Washington, DC. Flights to Los Angeles, Chicago and destinations in India are to follow as the carrier begins to phase out its 747-400s in favour of the newer model.
With orders for 20 of the 747-8 passenger jets, Lufthansa is by far the largest customer for the new jetliner, but Boeing has struggled to generate demand from other airlines since the German carrier placed its order in 2006. So far, only Korean Air and Nigeria’s Arik Air have committed to the aircraft, with orders for five and two respectively. Orders for five 747-8s from Air China and 15 from an unidentified customer have also been announced but not booked.
A further nine passenger versions of the aircraft have been ordered by VIP customers while the cargo version – the 747-8F – has won 70 orders and began deliveries late last year.
Long the world’s dominant jumbo jet, the 467-seat 747-8 now finds itself placed somewhat uncomfortably between more economical single-deck widebodies like Boeing’s 777 and Airbus’s larger A380, a full-length double decker with about 60 more seats than the 747-8.
Featuring upgraded wings, a stretched fuselage and new General Electric GEnx-2B engines, Boeing says the 747-8 cuts costs-per-passenger by 13 per cent and is 30 per cent quieter than the 747-400. The jet also features an updated interior borrowed from the 787 Dreamliner.
Lufthansa is scheduled to get five 747-8s this year and a further five in each of the next three years. The first 747-8I was formally handed over to Lufthansa last week.