Nearly two years after Lufthansa brought the world's largest passenger aircraft — the Airbus 380 — to Miami International Airport, the German airline is gearing up for another milestone there.
Thursday, Lufthansa will debut its Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental aircraft on its Frankfurt to Miami flight, the same route flown by the A380 during the winter season. The inaugural flight is expected to arrive at MIA at 1:50 p.m.
Lufthansa is the first customer for the passenger version of the 747-8 — the latest model of the iconic Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
Considered the world's longest aircraft, the 747-8 is 15 percent more fuel efficient than comparable long-range airplanes, and it generates 15 percent fewer emissions than similar wide-bodied aircraft, according to Lufthansa. It also creates 30 percent less noise than the 747-400.
Lufthansa has already taken delivery of seven 747-8s. The first of the 20 it ordered was delivered in May 2012. The airline expects to add five each year through 2015. The list price for the 747-8 is $317.5 million, according to Lufthansa.
Today the airline’s 747-8 fleet serves Frankfurt, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Bangalore, Delhi and Hong Kong and now Miami.
“We're thrilled to have our first passenger 747-8 service and we appreciate Lufthansa for choosing us to be their third U.S. destination served by this new generation aircraft,” MIA spokesman Greg Chin said. Cathay Pacific Airways already uses the freighter version of the 747-8 at MIA for cargo flights, he noted.
On the eve of the 747-8's Miami unveiling, the Sun Sentinel spoke with Nils Haupt, Lufthansa's director of corporate communications for the Americas about the aircraft, passenger expectations and the Miami market.
The responses have been edited for clarity.
Q: Why is Lufthansa bringing the 747-8 to Miami?
A: We operate our "biggest bird," the 526-seat A380, on the Miami-Frankfurt route during the peak winter season, but we're deploying it to other markets this summer, such as Asia. The 747-8, which has a 362-seat configuration, will initially operate twice weekly (Thursdays and Fridays) from Miami, and we'll use 747-400 equipment the rest of the week until we receive more of these new aircraft. Both aircraft should meet the needs of the Miami market in the off-season.
Q: What can passengers departing MIA on the 747-8 expect from the experience?
A: It's the first aircraft outfitted with all three of Lufthansa's new cabin products. It boasts new economy-, first-, and business-class sections that sport upgraded amenities and more comfortable seating compared to other aircraft used on long-haul flights. The eight first-class seats are located in the nose section — the quietest area of the plane. Economy-class offers 2 to 3 inches more of legroom compared to the 747-400, and there's new lighting and improved in-flight entertainment.
Q: What other U.S. destinations are next on its itinerary?
A: We're looking to bring the 747-8 to Chicago, and we're working with airport officials there to hopefully accomplish that by the third quarter of 2013.
Q: Lufthansa entered the Miami market in 1979 with DC-10 daily non-stop service to Frankfurt. How's the market faring today?
A: Miami and the U.S. market overall continues to be pretty stable for Lufthansa. The airline serves 17 U.S. destinations, and corporate travel, in particular, remains strong. In South Florida, Lufthansa's key corporate accounts include Office Depot, VW, Audi, Roche, DHL and Amadeus.
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