Lufthansa is the proud owner of the very first Airbus A320neo aircraft to be delivered to an airline. The plane was formally handed over today during a small ceremony in Hamburg. While both the airline and the airframer are bullish on the plane and the new generation of aircraft it represents the small event suggests that there are reasons to mute the celebrations a bit.
For one thing, the delivery is late. That doesn’t always slow down celebrations but in this case it also remains unclear if the delayed delivery is because the technical issue with the engines has been resolved or just that they’re ready to finally deliver, even with the bugs.
Secondly, while the aircraft is impressively 15% more fuel efficient than the prior generation fuel costs have dropped precipitously in the past several months. Yes, reducing emissions is also important but much of the value to airlines is in lower costs. And, for the time being, flying a less efficient plane they own outright or bought second hand is likely to be a lower total cost of ownership than focusing on getting the absolute best efficiency.
And then there’s the part where Lufthansa wasn’t even supposed to be the launch customer. Qatar Airways was the launch customer when the first order was signed but, because of the technical issues with the engines, refused delivery until the planes were running 100%. Lufthansa stepped in to take the first of the type but even that was delayed from the expected 2015 delivery timing.
Lufthansa is committed to putting the plane in service on Sunday, January 24th with the Frankfurt-Hamburg route serving as the inaugural flight. Alas, the company does not yet know which of the 10 daily flights between the cities will be operated by the new aircraft. That makes it hard to get on the inaugural (as with the snow in NYC on Saturday), but I’m still trying.