FRANKFURT, GERMANY — In a blow to Airbus, German airline Lufthansa said Wednesday that it would order 20 Boeing 747-8s, becoming the first airline to order the new long-haul jet for passenger service.
The Cologne-based airline said it would start taking delivery of the jumbo jets in 2010 as it expands into North America and Asia. The airline also approved an order for seven Airbus A340-600 long-haul jets, due for delivery by 2008. The airline, whose 333-plane fleet is dominated by Airbus aircraft, already operates 13 of those planes.
Lufthansa said the order for all the planes had a list value of $6.9 billion; Boeing said its 20 firm orders had a $5.5-billion value at list prices, although customers typically negotiate discounts. Lufthansa also has options for 20 more of the jetliners.
The move was even more striking considering that the parent company of Airbus, European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co., is a joint Franco-German operation.
"Lufthansa is noted for its careful aircraft selection. It must have been somewhat difficult to have made the decision that they did, given Germany's interest in Airbus," said Paul Nisbet, an analyst for Rhode Island-based JSA Research. "But they did it and I think all the major airlines will take notice. And all those that have 747 fleets will take a second look at this."
Lufthansa Chief Executive Wolfgang Mayrhuber said the new order would help it take some older aircraft out of service, making its fleet more efficient by reducing fuel and operating costs. The new aircraft also would produce less emissions.
"Both aircraft types are sustainable investments in ecological efficiency," he said.
However, Mayrhuber singled out the Boeing model for extra praise: "With the orders for the highly modern B747-8, Lufthansa is setting standards. The Boeing B747-8 is more than just a derivative of the successful Boeing B747 series."
Shares of Boeing rose a dime Wednesday to $90.83.
For Toulouse, France-based Airbus, the order was the latest in a series of blows and strategic missteps. After concentrating massive resources on its flagship A380 super-jumbo, Airbus has been outmaneuvered by Chicago-based Boeing Co.'s two-engine 787, which delivers better fuel economy than older four-engine Airbus jets of similar size.
The 555-seat A380's overall two-year delay wiped out more than $6 billion from profit forecasts over four years and has forced Airbus to consider basing assembly work on new models at a single site, rather than dividing it among several countries.