12 years ago today, in 2009, the world got its first glimpse of Lufthansa’s first-ever A380. The aircraft, unpainted and not ready for passengers, was glimpsed leaving Airbus’s assembly facility in Toulouse before officially joining the Lufthansa fleet in early 2010. We’ve taken a look back at how the history of Lufthansa’s A380s.
Lufthansa’s first A380 was actually around three years late, thanks to Airbus’ production schedules. The aircraft was the first of an order for 15 A380s. The airline took delivery of the aircraft, registered initially as F-WWSH and finally registered as D-AIMA, on 19th May in Frankfurt. The A380-800 was named Frankfurt am Main in honor of its German hub.
Despite the three-year delay, several more A380s joined the Lufthansa fleet very quickly. After launching routes to Tokyo, Beijing, New York, and Johannesburg, then CEO Christoph Franz commented,
“The A380 is efficient, environmentally-friendly and, with its low noise level, not only pleasant for the passengers, but also contributes to reducing noise pollution at heavily-used airports like Tokyo-Narita and Frankfurt. Quality, economic efficiency and also the environmental performance of the aircraft are trend-setting”.
Oh, how things have changed since 2010!
On this day in 2009 the first Lufthansa A380 aircraft rolled out the final assembly hangar in Toulouse. A380-841 Manufacturer Serial Number MSN038 which is currently registered as F-WWSH will eventually be registered as D-AIMA
Photo: H. Goussé / Airbus
Date: Sep.7.2009#Lufthansa pic.twitter.com/RQ7R3Mc3KM
— Lufthansa Vintage (@lufthansavintag) September 7, 2021
The Lufthansa A380 fleet
Nowadays, the A380 is seen as an outdated, inefficient relic and is being replaced by a more fuel-efficient generation of aircraft. However, back in the day, the excitement surrounding the double-decker was tremendous. The aircraft provided a sense of luxury for those traveling in first class and made carrying vast numbers of passengers easier and cheaper.
Like many airlines, Lufthansa made the A380 the backbone of its widebody fleet. When the airline announced it would use its A380 to fly to New York, even Airbus was hoping the airline could show the benefits of carrying over 500 passengers in one flight. Several Airbus employees and journalists were onboard the New York flight, hoping to show US airlines how impressive the A380 could be.
The giant aircraft became a key driver of the traditional hub and spoke model able to transport a large number of people to major airports. Yet despite Lufthansa’s enthusiasm to use the aircraft on flights to North America and to build up its network in Asia, only 14 aircraft ever joined the fleet. Just over a decade later, the A380 is fast becoming obsolete.
Leaving the A380 behind
The initial enthusiasm for the A380 died out reasonably fast. For many airlines, it was just too big. The production delays and costs meant that even for Airbus, the A380 program never really took off. Production ceased after only 12 years. The BBC reports that Airbus initially planned to sell 700 A380s. Just 254 were built.
Most airlines were happy to fade out the A380 over the coming decade. However, the global pandemic and sudden drop in passenger numbers have led airlines to retire A380s early. Lufthansa is just one of several airlines that have taken the step to remove the A380. The airline confirmed the giant would “obviously” not come back earlier this year.
All of the airline’s remaining A380s are currently stored. As for the original D-AIMA? It flew to Spain for storage in May 2020, almost 11 years to the day that it joined the Lufthansa fleet.
Did you fly on the Lufthansa A380s? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments.