1950s: Post-war (re-)formation
Revenue Passenger-Kilometers, scheduled flights only, in millions
Source: ICAO Digest of Statistics for 1955, IATA World Air Transport Statistics 1960-2000
Lufthansa's first aircraft, a Convair 340 (type pictured)
, was delivered in August 1954.
Lufthansa traces its history to 1926 when Deutsche Luft Hansa A.G. (styled as Deutsche Lufthansa from 1933 onwards) was formed in Berlin. DLH, as it was known, was Germany's flag carrier until 1945 when all services were terminated following the defeat of Nazi Germany. In an effort to create a new national airline, a company called Aktiengesellschaft für Luftverkehrsbedarf (Luftag), was founded in Cologne on 6 January 1953, with many of its staff having worked for the pre-war Lufthansa. West Germany had not yet been granted sovereignty over its airspace, so it was not known when the new airline could become operational. Nevertheless, in 1953 Luftag placed orders for four Convair CV-340s and four Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellations and set up a maintenance base at Hamburg Airport. On 6 August 1954, Luftag acquired the name and logo of the liquidated Deutsche Lufthansa for DM 30,000 (equivalent to € 35000 today), thus continuing the tradition of a German flag carrier of that name.
Lufthansa Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation operating a transatlantic scheduled services from Hamburg to Montreal and Chicago in May 1956
On 1 April 1955 Lufthansa won approval to start scheduled domestic flights, linking Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Cologne, and Munich. International flights started on 15 May 1955, to London, Paris, and Madrid, followed by Super Constellation flights to New York City from 1 June of that year, and across the South Atlantic from August 1956. In August 1958 fifteen Lufthansa 1049Gs and 1649s left Germany each week to Canada and the United States, three 1049Gs a week flew to South America, three flew to Tehran and one to Baghdad. In parallel, the airline also initiated a marketing campaign to sell itself and West Germany. The challenges involved encouraging travelers to consider visiting the country in the wake of World War II, as well as offering services to other nations via the Frankfurt airport hub. More specifically, Lufthansa's efforts shaped and reflected the development of a modern form of consumerism and advertising through the sale of air travel. By 1963, the airline, initially limited in its public relations efforts, had become a major purveyor of West Germany's image abroad.
The special status of Berlin meant that Lufthansa was not allowed to fly to either part of Berlin until 1989. Originally thought to be only a temporary matter (and with intentions to move the airline's headquarters and main base there once the political situation changed), the Division of Germany turned out to be long, which gradually led to Frankfurt Airport becoming Lufthansa's primary hub.
East Germany tried to establish its own airline in 1955 using the Lufthansa name, but this resulted in a legal dispute with West Germany, where Lufthansa was operating. East Germany instead established Interflug as its national airline in 1963, which coincided with the East German Lufthansa being shut down.
1960s: Introduction of jetliners
In 1958 Lufthansa ordered four Boeing 707s and started jet flights from Frankfurt to New York City in March 1960. Boeing 720Bs were later bought to back up the 707 fleet. In February 1961 Far East routes were extended beyond Bangkok, Thailand, to Hong Kong and Tokyo. Lagos, Nigeria and Johannesburg, South Africa were added in 1962.
Lufthansa introduced the Boeing 727 in 1964 and that May began the Polar route from Frankfurt to Tokyo via Anchorage. In February 1965 the company ordered twenty-one Boeing 737s that went into service in 1968. Lufthansa was the first customer for the Boeing 737 and was one of four buyers of the 737-100s (the others were NASA, Malaysia-Singapore Airlines, and Avianca – while the NASA airframe was the first built, it was the last delivered and originally intended for delivery to Lufthansa). Lufthansa was the first foreign launch customer for a Boeing airliner.
1970s–1980s: The wide-body era
The wide-body era for Lufthansa started with a Boeing 747 flight on April 26, 1970. It was followed by the introduction of the DC-10-30 on November 12, 1973, and the first Airbus A300 in 1976. In 1979 Lufthansa and Swissair were launch customers for the Airbus A310 with an order for twenty-five aircraft.
The company's fleet modernisation programme for the 1990s began on June 29, 1985 with an order for fifteen Airbus A320s and seven Airbus A300-600s. Ten Boeing 737-300s were ordered a few days later. All were delivered between 1987 and 1992. Lufthansa also bought Airbus A321, Airbus A340, and Boeing 747-400 aircraft.
In 1987 Lufthansa, together with Air France, Iberia, and Scandinavian Airlines, founded Amadeus, an IT company (also known as a GDS) that would enable travel agencies to sell the founders and other airlines' products from a single system.
Lufthansa adopted a new corporate identity in 1988. The fleet was given a new livery, while cabins, city offices, and airport lounges were redesigned.
1990s–2000s: Further expansion
The Boeing 737
is the best-selling jet airliner in the history of aviation.
Lufthansa was the launch customer of the original 737-100 version. The image shows an aircraft of that type at Hannover Airport
Lufthansa operated the high-capacity Airbus A300-600
on domestic and European routes until 2009. The image shows an aircraft of that type on final approach
at Frankfurt Airport in 2003.
On October 28, 1990, 25 days after reunification, Berlin became a Lufthansa destination again. On May 18, 1997, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, Thai Airways International, and United Airlines formed Star Alliance, the world's first multilateral airline alliance.
In 2000, Air One became a Lufthansa partner airline and nearly all Air One flights were code-shared with Lufthansa until Alitalia purchased Air One. Lufthansa has a good track record for posting profits, even in 2001, after 9/11, the airline suffered a significant loss in profits but still managed to stay 'in the black'. While many other airlines announced layoffs (typically 20% of their workforce), Lufthansa retained its current workforce.
On December 6, 2001, Lufthansa announced an order for 15 Airbus A380 superjumbos with 10 more options, which was confirmed on December 20. The A380 fleet would be used for long-haul flights from Frankfurt exclusively.
In June 2003, Lufthansa opened Terminal 2 at Munich's Franz Josef Strauß Airport to relieve its main hub, Frankfurt, which was suffering from capacity constraints. It is one of the first terminals in Europe partially owned by an airline.
On May 17, 2004, Lufthansa became the launch customer for the Connexion by Boeing in-flight online connectivity service.
In autumn 2003, the implementation of a new sales strategy initiated by then-incumbent Executive Vice President Thierry Antinori to make the company fit for the digital era led to the abolition of commission payments for travel agencies and led to a revolution in the German travel business with many travel agencies disappearing from the market on the one hand, and the rise of new digital distribution platforms on the other hand.
On March 22, 2005, Swiss International Air Lines was purchased by Lufthansa's holding company. The acquisition included the provision that the majority shareholders (the Swiss government and large Swiss companies) be offered payment if Lufthansa's share price outperforms an airline index during the years following the merger. The two companies will continue to be run separately.
On December 6, 2006, Lufthansa placed an order for 20 Boeing 747-8s, becoming the launch customer of the passenger model. The airline is also the second European airline to operate the Airbus A380 (after Air France). The first A380 was delivered on May 19, 2010, while the first 747-8 entered service in 2012.
In September 2008, Lufthansa Group announced its intent to purchase a stake in Brussels Airlines (SN). In June 2009, the EU Commission granted regulatory approval and Lufthansa acquired 45% of SN. In September 2016, Lufthansa announced it would purchase the remainder of Brussels Airlines for €2.6 million euros. The transaction was completed in early January 2017. The decision was partially taken after the Brussels airport bombings of March 2016, which caused SN to lose almost €5 million euros per day until the 3rd of April.
In September 2009, Lufthansa purchased Austrian Airlines with the approval of the European Commission.
On June 11, 2010, Airbus A380 service between Frankfurt and Tokyo started.
After a loss of 381 million euros in the first quarter of 2010 and another 13 million loss in the year 2011 due to the economic recession and restructuring costs, Deutsche Lufthansa AG cut 3,500 administrative positions or around 20 percent of the clerical total of 16,800. In 2012 Lufthansa announced a restructuring program called SCORE to improve its operating profit. As a part of the restructuring plan the company started to transfer all short-haul flights outside its hubs in Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf to the company's re-branded low-cost carrier Germanwings.
In September 2013 Lufthansa Group announced its biggest order, for 59 wide-body aircraft valued more than 14 billion euros at list prices. Earlier in the same year Lufthansa placed an order for 100 next-generation narrow-body aircraft.
The group has had a long-standing dispute with the Vereinigung Cockpit union which has demanded a scheme in which pilots can retire at the age of 55 and 60% of their pay be retained, which Lufthansa insists is no longer affordable. Lufthansa pilots were joined by pilots from the group's budget carrier Germanwings to stage a nationwide strike in support of their demands in April 2014 which lasted 3 days. The pilots staged another 6 hours strike at the end of the Summer holidays in September 2014, which caused the cancellation of 200 Lufthansa flights and 100 Germanwings flights.
In November 2014, Lufthansa signed an outsourcing deal worth $1.25 billion with IBM that will see the US company take over the airline's IT infrastructure services division and staff.
In June 2015, Lufthansa announced plans to close its small long-haul base at Düsseldorf Airport for economic reasons by October 2015. At the time, the base consisted of two Airbus A340-300s rotating between Newark and Chicago. As a result, service to Chicago from Düsseldorf was first made seasonal, suspended for the winter 2015 season, and then cancelled altogether. Service to Newark, however, has been maintained. From the winter 2015 schedule through the end of the winter 2016 schedule, Düsseldorf was served by aircraft which also flew the Munich-Newark route. The Düsseldorf-Newark route ended on November 30, 2018 which was operated with an Airbus A330-300 aircraft. Their base was officially closed in March 2019.
On 22 March 2016, Lufthansa ended Boeing 737-500 operations. The airline's last Boeing 737 (a 737-300) was retired on 29 October 2016, after a flight from Milan to Frankfurt. Lufthansa operated the 737 in several variants for almost 50 years, the first aircraft having been delivered on 27 December 1967.
On 4 December 2017, Lufthansa became the first European airline to receive the prestigious Skytrax 5 star certification. This makes Lufthansa the 10th airline to be holding this award. In celebration, Lufthansa painted an Airbus A320 and a Boeing 747-8 in the "5 Starhansa" livery.
In March 2018, Lufthansa and other airlines like British Airways and American Airlines accepted a request from Beijing to list Taiwan as part of China.
In March 2019 Lufthansa ordered 20 Boeing 787-9 and additional 20 Airbus A350-900 for its own and the group's fleet replacement and expansion. Also, the airline announced it would sell six A380 aircraft back to Airbus, beginning in 2022.