Lufthansa unveils huge Airbus, Boeing jet order

Thu Sep 19, 2013 12:34pm EDT
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By Marilyn Gerlach and Peter Maushagen

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Lufthansa (LHAG.DE: Quote) unveiled a $19 billion order for new jets on Thursday as its outgoing chief executive warned the historic investment must not dilute the resolve of Europe's largest airline to stay in the black.

The deal for 59 new jets, split between Boeing (BA.N: Quote) and Airbus EAD.PA, will see the German flag carrier launch a new and larger version of Boeing's 777 long-range jet.

Lufthansa is in the middle of a dramatic revamp that includes 3,500 job cuts, at the same time as investing in modern jets to cut its fuel bill and catch up with deep-pocketed Gulf rivals, particularly on hotly contested routes to Asia.

Europe's largest airline in terms of revenues had already signed up for 100 Airbus short-haul planes in March.

The order for 34 Boeing 777-9X and 25 Airbus A350-900 jets will reduce Lufthansa's fuel consumption by 25 percent and shrink unit costs by about 20 percent compared with old models.

"This investment will safeguard about 13,000 jobs at Lufthansa alone as well as thousands of jobs at our partners in aviation and other suppliers," Chief Executive Christoph Franz told a news conference.

Franz's "SCORE" restructuring program has come under fire from labor leaders, who say Lufthansa is profitable enough and does not need cost cuts to help pay for fleet renewal.

But Franz, who is stepping down next May to join Swiss drugmaker Roche ROG.VX, warned against any let-up in the restructuring and said his successors would keep to the plan.   Continued...

File photo of a Lufthansa Boeing 737-300 driving across the tarmac of Frankfurt airport July 12, 2013. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/Files