Bye bye, Bobby!

Boeing 737-300

Lufthansa has now been using versions of the 737 series for over half a century. They have long been the workhorses of its short-haul network. But their era is coming to an end. The 737, affectionately known as Bobby, is being phased out

Boeing 737-300
© Deutsche Lufthansa AG

Lufthansa was one of the airlines that helped make the 737 the world’s highest-selling passenger aircraft. As of 2013, Boeing has delivered more than 7500 aircraft of this type. First introduced in the 1960s and regularly updated over subsequent years, the 737 series quickly became one of the most popular short-haul aircraft among airlines the world over. With the advent of the Airbus A320 family in the late 1980s, these two series more or less dominated the short-haul market segment until quite recently, and Lufthansa has been flying short-haul jets from both these manufacturers on its regional network.

The short-haul Boeing types now flying for Lufthansa are the 737-300 and the 737-500. But these and the Airbus types in the Lufthansa fleet have been joined by more modern short-haul planes from manufacturers Bombardier and Embraer, whose job is to serve the lower-volume sub-section of the short-haul segment, for which the 737 and the A320 are less suitable. These smaller short-haul planes are now replacing Bobby Boeing because they burn significantly less kerosene and are much quieter than the aging 737. The largest version of Embraer’s E-jet family, the Embraer E195, has accommodation for 120 passengers, the same number as the smallest 737, the 737-500. And on routes with higher passenger density the larger Boeing 737-300, seating 140 passengers, can be replaced by the newly-developed Airbus A320neo.

The Boeing 737 series will be gradually phased out between now and 2016. This is a logical decision, because Lufthansa can only operate successfully on routes with varying passenger densities if it has modern planes with optimal passenger capacity. On the other hand, it is impossible to manage a modern airline efficiently if its fleet is using too many different types of aircraft. But it’s not yet the final farewell to Bobby. Lufthansa Technical Training has taken over one 737-500 that is now based at Frankfurt Airport as a training plane for upcoming mechanics and electronics technicians.