Lufthansa Cargo’s first Boeing 777 freighter will take off from Frankfurt, Germany, tonight, bound for New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, on its first scheduled flight.
The aircraft, which will fly on to Atlanta and then Chicago, will be joined by a second 777 at the end of November, followed by two more in the first half of 2014 and a fifth in 2015.
The new aircraft, which have a list price of $270 million each, could boost Lufthansa Cargo’s capacity by 5 percent in 2014 if the market picks up, CEO Karl Ulrich Garnadt said.
If the market fails to improve next year, the new aircraft will replace some of the 18 MD-11 freighters in Lufthansa’s fleet. The German carrier currently plans to withdraw two of the oldest MD-11s during 2014.
The five 777 freighters are part of a €2 billion (about US$2.7 billion) modernization program, which includes a €100 million investment in new IT systems and a new logistics center at Lufthansa’s Frankfurt hub.
Garnadt said the addition of the twin-engine freighters, which have a payload of 103 metric tons and a range of 5,625 miles, was an important milestone “on our path to shaping our company for the next generation.”
Lufthansa Cargo has an option for five more 777 freighters, which it will decide whether to exercise in September 2014 at the earliest, depending on the state of the global air cargo market. Garnadt said there is only a “hint” of growth in 2014.