Lufthansa yesterday revealed that their supervisory board approved the purchase of 25 A320NEO and 5 A321NEO (along with 5 B777F, which is also significant, but another topic).
Why is Lufthansa significant? Firstly, because they have one of the best technical departments of all airlines. If they order an aircraft, often this is a sign for other airlines with less capable aircraft evaluation departments. Secondly, Lufthansa is the first european full service carrier (or "legacy airline" or "flag carrier", what ever one might call it) to commit to the NEO. Before we had two low cost airlines (Indigo, Virgin America), a south american airline (TAM) and ILFC as the first lessor. So the customer base not only gets larger, it gets more diversed, showing the attractiveness of the NEO for different kinds of business models. Well, not really surprisingly, as money savings (through fuel savings) works in every business model. But Nico Buchholz, fleet manager of the Lufthansa Group was to be convinced that the fuel savings are not eaten up by higher maintenance costs for the engines. The engine manufacturers always claimed lower (PW) or same (CFM)maintenance costs for their new engines when compared to their current offerings. But as the engines are running considerably hotter, I can understand why many are a little bit skeptical. We don't know yet which engine LH will have on their NEO's - but at least one of the two engine makers must have convinced them - or both: remember that LH is currently using CFM56 on their A319/A320 fleet and the V2500 on their A321's.
A few weeks ago Buchholz gave a interview to AirInsight where he talked about the CSeries, the NEO, the GTF and LEAP-X. He sounded very optimistic about the GTF and saw no risk in the gear anymore. Well, he (LH) is already a customer for the GTF via the CSeries...
The NEO order does not include any A319NEO. This might be a sign of more orders for the CSeries from Lufthansa, especially for the CS300, in the future - they still have 30 options along the 30 firm ordered aircraft.
This morning I read an article about the ISTAT meeting early this week which was very interesting: apparently the lessors reversed their opinion about the NEO from what they thought prior to the launch last October. They now think that residual values for the "Classic A320" would not immediately fall. I argued in October 2010 after the ISTAT meeting why I think that would not happen.
Even Steve Udvar-Hazy, who had no good word for the NEO last year, said that it was the "most sensible thing" for Airbus to do.