The Lufthansa order confirmed Wednesday enlists a blue-ribbon customer for the latest version of Boeing's iconic but aging jumbo jet, giving it a new lease on life as a revamped, re-engined, quieter and more fuel-efficient large passenger aircraft.
The firm order for 20 747-8s is worth about $5.5 billion at list prices, although with standard discounts the actual price is closer to $3.2 billion, according to estimates by aircraft-valuation firm Avitas.
As the first announced customer for the passenger version of the new jumbo-jet derivative, the German flag carrier may have got an even bigger discount.
"Lufthansa got a very good deal," said Boeing sales chief Larry Dickenson at a news conference in downtown Seattle on Wednesday.
Lufthansa also took options to purchase 20 more 747-8s later.
Nico Buchholz, Lufthansa's senior vice president in charge of fleet management, said the airline has worked with Boeing on revamping the 747 over the past five years.
In the end, the airline was sold on the environmental and economic benefits of the aircraft, which will have the same engines as the 787.
The environmental impact of aircraft in terms of both noise and atmospheric emissions is a growing concern, particularly in Europe.
"Economically and ecologically, [the 747-8] has much less fuel burn," Buchholz said.
"The engines were a breakthrough."
The new model also has an aerodynamically much more efficient wing than current 747s.
And the airplane will also feature a new 787-like passenger-cabin design, including mood-lighting technology, new lavatories and a spacious new entryway for boarding.
Lufthansa will configure the jet to seat just over 400 passengers. The first airplane is scheduled to enter service in 2010.
Buchholz said the 747 order won't have any impact on the airline's order for 15 Airbus A380 superjumbos.
Lufthansa also announced an order Wednesday for seven Airbus A340-600s.
For the past two years, most airlines have favored Boeing's more efficient twin-engine 777-300ER over the four-engine A340.
However, Lufthansa is the only major carrier in the world that doesn't have any 777s. It has been betting on the A340 and already has a dozen of the large 300-seater A340-600s.
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