Lufthansa grounds Airbus A380 fleet through at least 2021
While I've had the opportunity to experience Lufthansa first class on several of the carrier's long-haul planes — as recently as earlier this year, on the Airbus A340-600 — I have yet to try the carrier's top cabin on the superjumbo A380. And, as reported by Bloomberg, I may never get the chance.
Lufthansa initially made the decision to ground its fleet of 14 Airbus A380s as coronavirus began its global spread in early March, and now, according to an airline spokesperson, the double-decker planes will remain on the ground through all of 2021, as well. Previously, Lufthansa regularly flew its A380s to a number of U.S. gateways, such as Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK) and San Francisco (SFO), along with several destinations in Asia.
As for what's in store for 2022 and beyond, the fleet will operate exclusively out of Munich Airport (MUC), rather than the carrier's main Frankfurt (FRA) hub, and even then, only "if demand picks up."
With eight first-class seats on each plane, the grounding will potentially have a big impact on Lufthansa first-class award availability, a popular pick among Star Alliance loyalists, including flyers redeeming from Air Canada's Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles and United MileagePlus.
If Lufthansa chooses to replace its A380s with select Airbus A330s, A340s or Boeing 747-8s, passengers will still have a first-class option, though the carrier's top cabin is not available on the Airbus A350, the most fuel-efficient pick.
While disappointing, the decision to keep the A380 grounded certainly makes sense given the mid-pandemic travel environment. Borders remain closed between many regions all around the world, and even once they begin to reopen, it could take years for demand to return.
Until then, Lufthansa's more efficient Airbus A350s, which seats a grand total of 293 passengers, would be better suited to carrying smaller groups of flyers than a double-decker superjumbo, with space for over 500.