I found the ideal candidate to try out the prototype seat in Lufthansa’s new premium economy class – tall, overweight and a senior citizen to boot. Namely myself.
I usually suffer from severe leg-room problems in economy-class flights and try to offset the anguish by trying fall asleep as soon as possible, but do not always succeed in finding a comfortable position. The moment I eased myself onto the prototype seat at Lufthansa’s display at the International Travel Bourse in Berlin earlier this month, I knew that this was the seat for me.
It seemed just as comfortable as business class, which I have been lucky to enjoy from time to time. And, according to Jens Bischof, Lufthansa’s chief commercial officer, premium economy prices will be closer to economy class than business class. A return flight from Germany across the North Atlantic or to Asia will cost an additional 600 euros on average compared to the additional 2,000-euro cost of a business ticket versus economy, said Bischof during the launch of the new class at the Bourse.
“Our premium economy class will create a completely new travel experience that combines affordability with greater comfort.
The seats offer up to 50 percent more room than economy class,” said Bischof.
The new travel class can be booked from May onwards and will be available from November 2014, initially on the Boeing 747-8. The new seats will gradually be fitted on the entire long-haul fleet within 12 months. “We expect to see more than 1.5 million passengers per year in our new class,” added Bischoff.
The Lufthansa group flew close to a million passengers on the Israel route in 2013 and a fair amount of them might choose the new class. “The majority of our passengers fly on long-haul routes to North America, the Far East and Africa and will be able to take advantage of premium economy,” Rolf Koller, Lufthansa’s general manager in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post.
The implementation of the new “open skies” policy between Israel and Europe will boost Lufthansa’s market share, Carsten Schaeffer, the airline’s vice president for the Middle East, Southeast Europe and Africa, told the Post. The new agreement allocates Lufthansa three additional weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Frankfurt and another three between Tel Aviv and Munich.
According to Schaeffer, the expanded service and the relatively short flying time between Israel and Germany opens up a vast range of long-range destinations for Israeli passengers.
“The design and features of the new seat are based on extensive passenger surveys and workshops with sales partners. Following the upgrade of our first and business classes, the installation of 3,600 seats on all 106 of our long-haul aircraft in just one year will mean another step toward becoming a five-star airline,” asserted Bischof at the launch.
Depending on the aircraft type, the new seats are up to three centimeters wider and provide greater privacy as well as approximately 10 centimeters more room at the side as each seat has its own wide armrest and a center console between the seats. The back rest can be reclined further and the seat pitch is a significantly more spacious 38 inches, or 97 centimeters. As a result, passengers have around one-and-a-half times as much room as in economy class.
The head rests can be set to the exact height desired. Practical features such as a bottle holder, electrical socket and lots of storage space for passengers’ belongings also help to ensure a relaxed journey.
With a baggage allowance of two items weighing up to 23 kg. each, passengers can take twice as much free luggage with them compared to economy. For an extra 25 euros, passengers can use Lufthansa business lounges before their departure. Meals will be commensurate with the new travel class, and served on porcelain tableware.
Passengers can navigate the extensive in-flight entertainment program using their own touchscreen monitor on the seat in front of them. This can also be accomplished using a remote control, which also serves as a controller for video games. The screens are 11 to 12 inches (28 to 30 cm.) wide, which makes them at least two inches bigger than the screens in economy, depending on the aircraft type.
A wide selection of magazines and newspapers completes the range of entertainment on offer.
The premium economy class will be located within the cabin as a clearly identifiable separate compartment between business and economy class. It will contain between 21 and 52 seats, depending on the aircraft type. Installation of the new travel class, which is to be carried out on a gradual basis, sub-fleet by sub-fleet, is to start this autumn and finish in summer 2015. The first sub-fleet to be fitted with the new seats will be the Boeing 747-8.
From the first of April, Lufthansa will offer passengers in every travel class a much greater choice of entertainment.
There will be twice as many films to choose from. As well as offering even more of the latest blockbusters and popular classics, there will be a wider range of modern classics – the cinema hits of recent years. A new in-flight entertainment system will offer over 100 films in eight languages (not Hebrew).
As far as television content goes, Lufthansa now has a range of over 200 programs, offering cinema documentaries and international television box-set series. The expanded music collection consists of over 300 CDs and focuses on the most popular categories of rock/pop, greatest hits and classical, as requested by passengers.
Lufthansa will also be offering passengers on medium-haul flights a wide range of films, TV series, music, games and information.
To use the services, passengers simply connect to the in-flight infotainment server via Wi-Fi using their own laptop, tablet or smartphone (Lufthansa is looking into providing Hebrew content for this service).
“We have set ourselves a number of objectives for 2014 – it will be Lufthansa’s biggest service initiative in recent years. As well as installing the latest cabins in all classes of our aircraft, which is already proceeding apace, we will also be demonstrating to an even greater degree our qualities as a dedicated host with a keen understanding of service and hospitality,” concluded Bischof.
The writer was the guest of Lufthansa.