Boeing has officially handed over the first commercial version of its new model 747 jumbo jet – the 747-8 Intercontinental – to German carrier Lufthansa. The new plane’s nearest rival, the Airbus A380, will hardly be trembling though.
Despite the heritage the Boeing 747 line of planes, its new 747-8 Intercontinental is years behind the release of its rival, Airbus’ A380 and is yet to extend the upper deck the full length of the plane. Rather than being a revolution, the plane is an evolution of a model that has been long due for a refresh.
Even though the handover to Lufthansa was a momentous occasion for the American plane manufacturer, it has been overshadowed by the weight of the plane being several tonnes more than planned. This will result in a plane that is more costly to refuel.
Lufthansa is keeping a brave face though and has told reporters it is happy. “Yes, we are satisfied, otherwise we wouldn’t have signed the acceptance of the aircraft,” said Nico Buchholz, executive vice president of group fleet management, Lufthansa.
The German carrier will initially deploy the plane on the Frankfurt to Washington DC route before rolling it out on other services and taking more of its 20 747-8 orders.
It’s not the first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental to be delivered. Private buyers have already taken delivery of a few. Worryingly for Boeing, only 36 orders have been placed for the 747-8. Big customers of previous models, such as Qantas and British Airways, are migrating to the A380.
“The only reason airlines have to order the 747-8I is speed of delivery,” said John Walton of Australian Business Traveller. “With around 200 backorders for its nearest competitor, the Airbus A380, you can have a 747-8I flying in significantly less time than an A380. It has proven moderately popular as a freighter, however, with many more airlines picking the 747-8F cargo version. Interestingly enough, the original 747 was designed in the 60s to have only a very short passenger life. Everyone expected supersonic planes like Concorde and the never-built Boeing 2707 to be the future, so the early jumbos were supposed to be converted to cargo haulers very early on in their lives.”