Lufthansa gives First Class an upgrade

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 November, 2011, 12:00am


Flying first class is becoming an increasingly rare experience as major airlines scale down or eliminate luxury cabins from their long-haul flights.

Some - such as Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Air New Zealand, and Air Canada - have dropped their first-class offerings for expanded business class cabins.

Others - such as Qantas, Air France, and British Airways - have chosen to remove first-class seating from some, but not all, of their planes, while increasing the space available for business class seats.

But for Lufthansa, the industry-wide trend has provided an opportunity to retrofit its fleet of Boeing 747-400 planes with just eight first-class seats, instead of 16 previously, and use the extra space to make the first class cabin even more luxurious in the hope of attracting wealthy Chinese passengers.

Lufthansa introduced its first retrofitted 747-400 on the Hong Kong to Frankfurt flight last week.

'The load factor in first class is always high,' said Andrew Bunn, Lufthansa's general manager for Hong Kong, South China, Taiwan and Macau. But this is achieved by offering some passengers free upgrades, while others use their air miles to obtain an upgrade, Bunn said. 'And to attract more passengers to pay a full fare we needed to offer an even greater product,' he said.

Senior executives of German companies, who frequently travel to Hong Kong and South China, typically comprise Lufthansa's first-class passengers on the Hong Kong to Frankfurt flight. But given Europe's debt crisis, the carrier plans to attract wealthy South China residents to fly first class.

The reconfigured premium cabins now feature eight recliners side-by-side, with eight permanent beds made up with bed linen and duvets. The 'twin-sets', on either side of a single central aisle on the upper deck, afford a higher degree of privacy than the original configuration, which had two recliners on each side in the past. Matt-brushed metal, grained leather, and new wool fabrics in dark brown - Lufthansa's corporate colour - distinguish the cabin from the brighter styling chosen by its rivals.

The retrofitting programme included a refurbishment of the economy class seats, which now feature a thinner backing to add three centimetres to passengers' legroom. The business-class seats were left unchanged. 'We could not do all the fixes in one go,' said Bunn. But the airline will have its first full flatbed in business class in its B747-8 aircraft, which is scheduled to be introduced as early as next year.