Lufthansa is (finally) introducing a new business class product onboard its incoming Boeing 777X jets. But first class remains an open question and Lufthansa appears to be considering eliminating it altogether in favor of a “premium” business class product.
Aero Telegraph, a German aviation blog, reports that Lufthansa is considering skipping first class altogether on its 777 jets in favor of a premium business class cabin within the new business class cabin. These seats would not only be roomier, but also featured enhanced levels of service and other amenities.
A Lufthansa spokesperson confirmed the consideration of a premium business class, but stressed, “No final decisions have yet been made.”
This isn’t exactly breaking news. Last June, I reported that Harry Hohmeister Chief Commercial Officer of the Lufthansa Group, said:
“It’s not just one business class anymore. Within the [Boeing 777X] business class cabin, you can upgrade yourself to an even better product than just standard business class… it’s a real jump forward in terms of convenience, and in terms of product selection.”
Note in the picture above that the center throne seat is indeed more private than the other seats in the cabin. It will also feature a longer bed. In a sense, it absolutely a premium business class seat.
“The challenge for us, is how do we present this to the customer? This is what we are working on, because we do not want to sell just a standard business class. For example, having a 220cm bed (as an upsell) is of course a selling argument, especially for (taller) guys like me.”
We have to make clear in the market that we are not disrupting the (existing business class) product, but developing it to a better quality standard … to give the customer the best selection for themselves in terms of individualization.”
And at the time, I argued that makes sense considering it is an objectively better seat.
But I’m not sure how practical it will be to serve caviar to seat 5D while serving nuts to 5A and 5L. In fact, I’m quite skeptical that could be pulled off in a cabin in which the “premium” seats are mixed in with the “normal” business class seats.
Lufthansa (Likely) Won’t Ditch First Class
Of course plans can change, but I simply don’t think Lufthansa is going to abandon first class–on the 777x or in general.
Lufthansa has already announced its first batch of 777x will not have a first class cabin: this is not a surprise. But we also know that a new first class suite is under development.
Last fall, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said:
“First class is developing better than we’d imagined three or four years back. We’re looking at routes where it makes sense, where we have the customers who want it…
“In general, we want to keep the share of first class-equipped aircraft in Lufthansa’s long-haul fleet at the current 50 percent.”
Even more direct, Hohmesiter said:
“When we talk to our really top premium customers, our HON Circle members, most of them really prefer to travel in first class on long-haul flights. So, for us as an airline, it’s simply not an option to have no first class.”
Thus, I think we can say that whatever sort of “premium” business class will be introduced, it will not replace first class.
Perhaps we will see a premium business class offered on routes between the U.S. East Coast and Germany, for example, that are relatively short. Hohmesiter again offered a dual path forward.
“You don’t need all the tool set like having a bed and a separate seat on all the routes: if you have a quick flight from Europe to Boston you might not need that, but if you have a long flight to the Far East, then of course there’s a purpose to present something like that. This is exactly what we have to work on.”
I’m not betting that Lufthansa will replace first class with “premium” business class. But I do think Lufthansa will charge a premium for those larger throne seats on its 777x.
But as long as Hohmesiter and Lufthansa still see first class as a powerful brand marker, I do not expect it to go anywhere:
“First class is also more than just selling a seat, it’s about brand positioning, about product positioning, and it also has a pull effect in terms of customers and reputation. We are presenting ourselves as a flight carrier on the premium side, and I think in the premium segment, you have to either do it right or you don’t do it at all!”
> Read More: The Future Of First Class On Lufthansa
> Read More: Lufthansa Affirms Commitment To First Class, Hints At Private Suite