Lufthansa Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Service to North America

First international flight flown to Idlewild (today, JFK)

EAST MEADOW, N.Y., June 8 /PRNewswire/ — “Welcome on board our first Lufthansa flight to New York. We’ll have a smooth and cloudless flight,” was the greeting of Captain Eddie Wells to passengers on board Lufthansa’s first scheduled North Atlantic flight. 20 First Class Passengers and 44 “Leisure Travelers” were able to take part in this historic moment in aviation history. Captain Wells and a crew of 12 took off in Lockheed’s 1049 “Super G” Constellation aircraft from Hamburg, Germany, at 7:00 p.m. on June 7, 1955. Following two short stops in Dusseldorf, Germany, and Shannon, Ireland, the aircraft touched down at 9:50 a.m. local time on June 8, 1955, at Idlewild Airport, today’s John F. Kennedy International.

Just one month after beginning its first scheduled service to New York, Lufthansa expanded with three flights weekly between New York and Dusseldorf. That same month, another three weekly flights to Frankfurt were added. At the time, Lufthansa offered connections to Munich, Cologne, Bonn, Hamburg and within Europe to London, Paris and Madrid.

Captain Wells, an American, came from Trans World Airlines (TWA). In 1955, German pilots were not trained to fly modern aircraft like the Super G Constellation. Lufthansa therefore employed American pilots to train the German pilots on the American-made aircraft, including the Lockheed 1049G, which was used for the first flight to North America. The Super Connie used in 1955 had a takeoff weight of almost 69 tons. For comparison, the newest airliner in the skies — the Airbus A380 — will have a takeoff weight of about 560 tons.

In fifty years, the number of Lufthansa gateways has risen from 12 to 177 national and international destinations. The airline in 1955 carried just 74,000 passengers with a fleet of 11 aircraft, and in 2004 carried 50 million passengers with a fleet of 377 aircraft. Today Lufthansa is Europe’s second- largest airline and the largest carrier of international passengers worldwide. “Looking back into our history, we are proud to see how far — both literally and figuratively — we have come. We are celebrating this success with our employees all over the world, because they are the ones who make the company what it is today,” said Thomas Winkelmann, Vice President, The Americas.

Today, Lufthansa’s North American gateways include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington, DC. Lufthansa’s three key Star Alliance Partners in North America are Air Canada, United Airlines and US Airways.

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