Lufthansa. Europe's first fleet cut; will go deeper, others to follow

Premium Analysis

Lufthansa's plans to reduce the fleet under its mainline brand and Eurowings are the first such restructuring announced by a major European airline group in response to the expected significant decline in air travel post covid-19 travel restrictions.

The permanent retirement of 21 widebodies and 11 narrowbodies represents 9% of the Lufthansa branded fleet and 13% of its seats. In addition, the axing of 11 Eurowings narrowbodies represents 6% of the low cost brand's fleet. Fleet restructuring programmes at Lufthansa subsidiaries Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and SWISS are also in the pipeline.

Among Europe's big three legacy groups, Lufthansa Group's fleet is bigger than both IAG's and Air France-KLM's and it also has more aircraft orders. With Lufthansa predicting that it will take years for global demand for air travel to return to pre-crisis levels and IATA forecasting a 46% fall in RPKs for Europe in 2020, further fleet cuts seem likely. The widebody cuts are 22% of Lufthansa's long haul seats, perhaps suggesting a minimum reduction. Other European airlines will soon follow.

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