Lufthansa Prepares Wide-Body Purchase That Will Favor One Vendor

Deutsche Lufthansa AG said it plans to buy about 50 long-haul planes by the end of the year and will favor either Airbus SAS or Boeing Co. in its purchase.

The airline group has about 100 planes seating 200 to 300 passengers that will need replacing at its Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian passenger airlines, said Nico Buchholz, senior vice president for corporate fleet. Planes set to leave the stable include Boeing 777-200s and 767s, as well as Airbus A340s and A330s. Only about half the requirement will be filled in 2013, and the exact number isn’t yet fixed, he said.

Lufthansa is considering the Airbus A350, set for first delivery by the end of 2014, as well as Boeing’s 787 and 777X, Buchholz said. While the U.S. manufacturer still needs board clearance to offer that plane, Buchholz said he has been given enough information by Boeing to understand the offering.

“We have a fair idea of what the aircraft will look like, so we can actually compare what it does in terms of size compared with the 787 and in terms of size and other performance characteristics and cost attributes compared with an Airbus solution,” he said in an interview in Barcelona at the AFCA aircraft finance conference.

The German airline will take into consideration plane size, operating economics and performance, including fuel burn, and how well each aircraft fits into the route networks served by the group airlines, he said. Sticking with just one manufacturer will help limit costs for pilot training on unrelated models, Buchholz said.

The Airbus A330 will be the last of the long-haul planes to exit the fleet, Buchholz said. The airline group has 36 A330s and 63 A340s, according to its website. Lufthansa is also continuing to sell some of its 70-seat jets, Buchholz said. It has 20 in the Cityline unit and several others in other units.

Lufthansa already agreed last month to renew its short-haul fleet with 100 mostly fuel-efficient jets from Airbus, as the airline seeks to cut kerosene costs that constitute its single biggest expense. The order will make Lufthansa the biggest airline operator worldwide of Airbus aircraft.

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