Lufthansa flies first passenger 747-8 jet

The first Boeing Co. 747-8 jumbo jet to carry paying passengers completed its maiden commercial flight Friday.

Lufthansa Flight 416, a 747-8 Intercontinental, arrived from Frankfurt at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., at 9:12 a.m. Pacific time, A few hours later, the plane departed for Frankfurt as Flight 419.

The German carrier last month celebrated the delivery of Boeing’s new 747-8 at a ceremony at Paine Field in Everett, where Boeing has assembled 747s for more than 45 years.

This latest version is the jet maker’s largest. The Intercontinental was stretched 18.3 feet over its predecessor, the 747-400, to allow for another 51 passengers, or a total of 362 in Lufthansa’s three-class configuration. With new engines and updated technology, the 747-8 saves operators roughly 13 percent in fuel costs over the 747-400, Boeing says.

As the launch customer on the Intercontinental, Lufthansa had a hand in shaping Boeing’s 747-8 passenger plane. The carrier has another 19 Intercontinentals on order with Boeing.

“After working together for many years, we are very pleased to have the newest generation of four-engine aircraft join our fleet,” Christoph Franz, chief executive officer of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, said when the Intercontinental was delivered.

The airline held a contest in May to give away seats to fly on the 747-8. Lufthansa also has a dedicated webpage for its new Intercontinental.

Boeing officials hope Lufthansa’s enthusiasm for the refreshed jumbo jet will lead to orders from other carriers. Boeing has booked just 36 orders for the Intercontinental since the aircraft was launched in 2005. The freighter version of the 747-8 has logged 70 orders.

Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told investors last month that the company has order campaigns with various airlines to increase the 747-8 passenger plane’s order log.

“We need some orders on this airplane,” Albaugh said.

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