March 2011 | When Lufthansa introduced its first A380 to its fleet in May 2010, the airline’s new superjumbo also featured a new First Class cabin (as well as new seats in Economy). At the same time, Lufthansa also started an EUR400 million revamp of all classes across its entire fleet. For example, in December 2010, Lufthansa unveiled a ‘new European cabin’, adding slimmer, lighter seats on its short-haul aircraft.
First Class on 747-400s
Lufthansa has just announced it will also upgrade its First Class on its B747-400 aircraft. However, instead of installing the new First Class cabin introduced on its A380 last year, Lufthansa has opted for a radically different design for the new First Class on its B747-400s.
The airline is converting every window seat in its existing First Class cabin – which currently fits 16 passengers – into a permanently flat bed, reducing the total number of seats to just eight. The full-flat beds have a sleeping surface measuring over two metres in length and a top-quality mattress. Essentially the new First Class seat on Lufthansa’s B747-400 now will consist of two seats, with the upright seat appearing similar to an older version of Lufthansa’s First Class seat on the pictures. Cabin seating is configured just 1-1 with the upright seat adjoining the aisle to allow for easier meal service and socializing, while the bed is positioned alongside the window for more privacy.
First class passengers will also get 17″ monitors for inflight entertainment, temperature-regulating blankets and pillows and an amenity kit from Porsche Design. Furthermore, just like the First Class on Lufthansa’s A380s, sound-absorbing curtains and sound-deadening insulation beneath the carpet will make the cabin more quiet.
Sign of the economic times
Lufthansa says the reason to come up with a different design for the B747 First Class is that it aims to standardize the number of First Class seat at eight across its fleet. This will reduce the overall number of First Class seats by 12 percent, a sign that the demand for First Class seats will not return to pre-crisis levels. A Lufthansa spokesperson declined to comment whether other reasons behind the ‘double-seat’ design may be the new A380 First Class seats being too heavy to be installed on the upper deck of the 747-400, or that Lufthansa’s 747-400s may not stay long enough in the fleet anymore to make completely new seats a viable investment.
Nevertheless, the idea of separating bed from seat makes sense, since if a seat also has to be converted into a bed there are always compromises to be made, for example having to choose for a thinner and more flexible mattress. It is not clear whether Lufthansa’s First Class fares will rise to pay for the upgrade.
Between April and November 2011, Lufthansa will reconfigure 10 of its 30 B747-400s with the new First Class concept. Of the remaining 20 747s, 10 are expected to be turned into a 2-class configuration for routes with high passenger numbers, while 10 aircraft remain unchanged and will be replaced by Lufthansa’s new B747-800i, the first of which will be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Update 30 May 2011: Lufthansa has just put the first of an initial 19 Boeing 747-400s into scheduled service after having received the new First Class seats (image here). In the aircraft that are not converted yet, Lufthansa is only selling half of the seats, so passengers can use the window seat as a bed after take-off and sit on the aisle seat.
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