World Cup tradition dictates the winning team travel back to its home nation -- when it’s not the local squad that takes the trophy -- in style, with a private jet that usually lands in the capital, to a hero’s welcome. That’s exactly what’s happened Monday with the German soccer team, which is traveling back to Berlin on a special Lufthansa flight for the 2014 World Cup winners.
Flight LH2014 -- an obvious reference to the Cup -- took off late Monday afternoon from Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão airport, headed to Berlin with the German squad led by coach Joachim Löw and captain Philipp Lahm. Usually flight 2014 is a short domestic hop from Munich to Düsseldorf flown in a small Airbus, but Monday Lufthansa assigned that number to a VIP flight for the Mannschaft.
The German flag carrier sent to Rio a Boeing 747 sporting a sticker that said “Siegerflieger,” or “the victors’ airplane.” The plane, a 362-seat 747-8 model delivered just last year, is one of a handful that Lufthansa decorated with special “Fanhansa” soccer-themed titles ahead of the World Cup.
According to flight tracking site Flightaware, the plane arrived on Friday from Frankfurt on a regular commercial flight, and then waited at the airport to take the team, whether champions or defeated, back home after the final.
A Brazilian aviation news site shows the plane landing Friday in Rio without the “Siegerflieger” titles, which were then applied using a removable sticker, Lufthansa communications director for the Americas Nils Haupt said.
Members of the flight crew had their picture taken Friday with the national flag before leaving Frankfurt. Capt. Uwe Strohdeicher, his two first officers and the flight attendants then spent their crew rest period in Rio before flying back Monday.
Before departure from Rio, German striker Lukas Podolski tweeted a photo of himself in the cockpit wearing the captain's hat and his World Cup credentials, as well as the jersey of Flamengo, one of the most popular Brazilian soccer clubs. "Welcome on board! On the way to Berlin! See you tomorrow, fans! Greetings from the Siegerflieger. Your Poldi," said the text, using the player's nickname.
— Lukas-Podolski.com (@Podolski10) July 14, 2014
On Monday, flight tracking site Flightradar24 showed LH2014 with the caption “World Champions onboard” headed north over Brazil, with an expected arrival time in Berlin at 10:15 a.m., local time, on Tuesday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was in attendance at the final Sunday, traveled separately, using one of the Airbus 340 VIP transports belonging to the German air force. She arrived in Berlin on Monday.