Lufthansa Goes Back in Time, Gives First Class Travelers a Seat and a Bed

Airlines have spent a lot of time and effort trying to figure out a way to squeeze a seat and a bed into a very small space on an airplane, and they’ve done an admirable job. But any time you try to create multiple uses in one place, it’s not perfect. Lufthansa has decided to go a different way. Back to 1950. First Class fliers on some 747s will now get a seat and a bed. And as far as I’m concerned, this might be the best First Class product in the air. (Not that I’ve tried them all . . .)

Lufthansa New First Class

Tell me that doesn’t look sweet. It’s made even more awesome by the fact that it’s on the upper deck of the 747. Eight of these babies upstairs and that’s it. Amazing.

As I’ve said, airlines have put some serious research and development into creating the perfect experience in a very small space. The problem, however, is that no seat can also be a perfect bed. Except for the Craftmatic adjustable, beds are not meant to fold up. Sure, they can be very comfortable, but most airlines get to that point by putting an increasingly thick mini-mattress over the bed to hide the bumps and dips.

What you get is a pretty comfortable bed with a mostly comfortable seat. It works well considering the space constraints, but Lufthansa looked it in a different way. They applied typical German efficiency.

Lufthansa’s First Class on the 747 is dated. It does go fully flat, but you sit right next to someone. In a world of insanely-private suites and opulent amenities, it’s just not that competitive. So Lufthansa looked at the space and said, “Huh, instead of selling 16 First Class seats, why not sell only 8 of them so it’s more private?” And that’s exactly what they’re doing on the 747s starting April 22. So First Class customers will have two seats all to themselves.

But on 10 of the 747s, Lufthansa is pulling out eight of those seats and installing real beds instead. So there will still be eight First Class seats sold, but instead of two seats, you’ll have a seat and a bed. Works for me.

My only problem with this whole plan is that it’s only on 10 of the 747s. I’m told that these airplanes will not be dedicated to any specific routes, so it will really be luck of the draw. And that’s a bummer. It’s also kind of a waste since people won’t be willing to pay extra if they don’t know that they’ll actually get it. But it was emphasized to me that there will be only be 10 done “for now” because that’s how many they can get done this year. My guess is that we’ll either see more retrofitted later or we’ll just see more of the 747s retired.

Beginning next year, Lufthansa starts taking delivery of the bigger 747-8, and those will have this new First Class as well as a new business class. So it seems this year is something of a transition year.

I do like where the airline is going with this. You can now have a true bed and a comfortable seat for reclining and eating. Sounds like a nice way to pass the time to me. Combine that with the private First Class Terminal in Frankfurt and you’ve got an incredible experience from the time you arrive.


37 Responses to Lufthansa Goes Back in Time, Gives First Class Travelers a Seat and a Bed

  1. Am I the only one who finds this arrangement both an inefficient use of space and strange? What if you want to look out the window on takeoff and landing, or from any seated position for that matter?

    Seems like they could have just yanked the old F and put in a new, suite like setup w/ more than 8 seats.

    • Sanjeev M says:

      Yes, but I guess with First Class, the people expect lots of space even if they don’t use it. Also, this doesn’t cost LH that much, which is key.

      I’m a big fan of BA’s first, cause it’s just a bit more space than J but not too much space. In fact, for J class, I’ve seen people say Singapore Airlines seat is too wide. That’s why I think BA’s 8-across in J is excellent, cause all people really want is the flat bed to sleep. No need for random compartments and side panels.

      Disclaimer: I’ve never traveled in anything higher than Economy Plus.

  2. Frank says:

    I couldnt find the width for the first class seat online. But, the bed is 2 meters long. Nice.

    http://www.lufthansa.com/online/portal/lh/de/info_and_services/on_board?nodeid=3276594&l=en&cid=18002

    Interesting, that an airline would REMOVE (premium) seats and in all likelihood, reduce revenue in a volatile (fuel) environment.

  3. Seems odd that they can’t use those planes on certain routes only so people traveling in a certain market will always know they are getting it. At least they could say as an example JFK/LAX would always have those seats.

    To bad they didn’t config the area like a train compartment with the seat next to the window like ‘normal’ and the bed across from it (head near the window) and put a partial wall around the whole thing. Put up some curtains and the empty space next to the seat could have been used as a little changing area. Would have been like a private compartment. That would have been nice.

    • CF says:

      I think one of the good reasons for not putting the bed on the aisle is that people will be walking right by you as you sleep. That can be uncomfortable for some people and it can be distracting. Having it on the window side isolates the bed from people walking around.

  4. The next step may be fully enclosed rooms a la Pullmans.

  5. love it! provides a better bed and a better seat than the do-everything cradles, easy to add privacy if they so desire, probably rather cost effective as well. david’s brainy suggestion above could be easily incorporated if the bed simply folded in half from back to front.

  6. jason says:

    Craftmatic.. love it! Tip for the hat for such a witty reference. Passengers could use “The Clapper” to call the flight attendant.

  7. Rob Lipman says:

    LH First may be a throwback today, but it’s REAL first class service and they do things they way they should be done. The food, wine, and service are magnificent, even if the seats do look a little goofy compared to the competition.

    I think this new setup looks very strange. Almost like a hospital bed! I’ve flown Cathay, Singapore and BA in First and their new suite setups are perfectly comfortable – and you aren’t completely isolated from everyone else. Putting first upstairs on the 747 is a problem; it’s really better seated to the long haul herringbone business setup as Cathay has… More seats, more revenue… But I believe our German colleagues will do as they wish and they’re unlikely to be swayed by our opinion.

    By the way – Emirates really gets it right in business class on the A-380…if you ever have a chance to fly it, I highly recommend it. For those concerned that it might be an experience that’s too, uh, middle-Eastern, let me report that it’s completely international in style and service, with a crew hailing from Australia to Spain. They brought back the in-flight bar, and it’s spectacular.

  8. Aubrey Cohen says:

    Cranky wrote: ” as far as I’m concerned, this might be the best First Class product in the air”
    Desert Ghost wrote: “The next step may be fully enclosed rooms a la Pullmans.”
    Behold Singapore’s A380 suite: http://www.singaporeair.com/saa/en_UK/content/exp/new/suite/suite.jsp

  9. eurotourst says:

    This brings back memories of Phillipines airlines, who as late as the 1980s had a seat and a bed on their 747SPs for first class passengers. The seat was on the main level and the bed was a bunkbed in the 747’s bubble. Lufthansa’s design certainly looks a lot more inviting than a bunk bed.
    My big issue with Lufthansa’s first class is that it is located upstairs. Although that gives one the feeling of a private cabin, it puts one way behind in the immigration and customs lines at many airports as by the time first class passengers exit the aircraft, business class has already exited and economy class is quite a bit of the way empty.
    Emirates knows how to do first class on their A380s. I have flown that twice and loved the private suite, the seat, the great shower, the size of the screen, the AVOD – everything. Even Jet Airways has private suites ala Emirates on their 777s, but lacks the showers. Have not flown on Singapore’s A380s yet.

    • mark says:

      Re: immigration
      Not necessarily. Thai Airways International hold back guests from business and economy cabins for First passengers. Once F has disembarked, then C is allowed to leave, then Y. Haven’t flown LH F before so I can’t say if this is something that they do. However, as some TG business class seats are upper deck, there’s no reason that it cannot be done simply because of the location upstairs. Would just take strategically placed cabin crew.

      • eurotourst says:

        You are right Mark; not just Thai, but many other airlines do it as well, but LH does not do so; it may be because they feel that they cannot hold back Business Class passengers from the lower deck. Economy usually empties from the second door. But the point is that by the time F passengers reach immigration, they are behind a long line if the airport does not offer Fast Track; and if the airport does offer Fast Track, then the F passengers are still behind Business Class in the immigration lines.

        • Patrick says:

          On a recent Lufthansa flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt, I was in the last row of business class, next to the stairs, and flight attendants blocked all the doorways as the first class passengers descended the stairs and exited the aircraft.

        • mamb0 says:

          Hi, simply not true. On a LH 747 LH F-Pax exit first, if you need longer to pack your stuff and go down later, Purser and FA will stop other PAX to let you out. Regards, a frequent LH-F flyer

  10. Ron says:

    To save space without sacrificing bed quality, use bunk beds! I’ve seen this on a government-owned VIP-configured 707. Doubt we’ll see in on commercial airlines, though.

  11. Jim says:

    This looks great, but they are going to have to charge exactly DOUBLE the cost of a normal first class ticket in order to simply break even on it. Are people willing to pay that?

    • CF says:

      More likely is that we’ll just see fewer mileage redemptions for First Class seats and restrictions on upgrades (if there aren’t some already). There aren’t a ton of people who pay for a First Class seat, but those people will unlikely have to pay more than they already do.

      • Euan says:

        Agreed that the first step they will take, and probably already have, it to cut the number of award seats available in First.

  12. Brett:
    I can tell you there was once an even better First Class “product”. Philippine Airlines offered beds on the upper deck of the 747 (I think they called it the Mabuhay Deck—Mabuhay being the Tagalog greeting —long life or hearty welcome). I rode it a couple of times from LAX to MNL back in the 1980s (with a stop in HNL). The beds were legitimate—considerably wider than this LH version— with “all-around” curtains except for the outboard beds where you could lie awake and look out the window at the stars. They were not “lie flat seats”, they were beds. There was a “changing room” and pajamas and slippers were provided to keep as a souvenier. The upper deck was kept darkened and quiet and a flight attendant with a flashlight assisted you to your bed—real sheets, pillows and blankets just as in a hotel. Whenever you wished to retire after dinner, you simply left your First Class seat on the main deck, went up the stairs, changed into your “PJs” and went to “bed”. You could sleep through HNL as the beds had seat belts which you could fasten over your blanket for landing and take-off. I assume the FAA approved that policy but even so, it was the “way things were”. It was the best (and I’ve done ATL-JHB, ORD DEL, DFW-NRT, JFK-NRT and a number of other “extra long” flights in F Class but this was the most comfortable—and service and food were excellent. If there were ever a “golden age”, that was it. I don’t know how long those upper deck beds lasted but it was a great service while it did.

  13. Bruce says:

    Nice, but maybe LH didn’t go back far enough. As a Pan Am brat I flew on the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser which had berths that pulled down from the ceiling on each side of the aisle. A curtain enclosed the entire space. It was very comfortable. Memory may be faulty here, but I think you could even have breakfast in bed! Some Strats even had a forward cabin stateroom providing several upper and lower berths. A 1954 PA timetable mentions an unspecified “extra charge” for the berths.

    As have several other commentators, I wonder how LH will make money without charging double the F fare since the psgr is in effect occupying two seats.

    • I don’t know that they’ll have to charge double; in fact, they might make more money by charging the same as they do now and actually selling a few more of the F seats instead of having to give nearly all of them away on upgrades.

  14. Bobber says:

    Firstly, no F product is worth paying for (always have someone else pay!).

    I wouldn’t be impressed with that offering from LH were I to stumble into First. Even stylistically, it looks immensely old fashioned and, as commented above, a dodgy arrangement if you don’t want to sleep the whole flight.

  15. GRB says:

    Nice, but I really prefer the Singapore Airlines busines class seat that is very wde and comfortable and then flips into a lie flat bed.

  16. Steve says:

    GRB sums it up – SQ’s J class seems preferable to this horrific idea. This LH getup looks terrible, and like an enormous waste of space – and I suspect that’s how it will come off to those who actually fly in F. To think that F travelers don’t care about the seat is a mistake: that’s where half the flight is. Hello, long-hauls happen during daytime hours also.

    Maybe for someone doing a novelty F ride it’s cute….but that’s where the fun stops. Chair looks ghetto and just on glance seems to have inferior reclining capabilities than the best chair/beds – far behind their competitors (if you want to say this is the “best”, then you must compare to Emirates and SQ suites, and Cathay’s F), the chair is not positioned by the window, the screen positioning looks strange (and it would be even worse if it can’t swivel toward the bed), and anecdotally it looks like people with long legs won’t even be able to stretch out when sitting down. Worse yet, all that extra “space” you get in even a traditional F setup, like Cathay’s (all that space between the seat and the windows, the cubby space, the space under the ottoman, etc.) is gone in the name of trying to cram in too much inefficiently.

    Finally, I much prefer flying in the nose of 747s than upstairs. The nose always feels more private, there is no lav in front, and there are no pilots and stewardesses to shuffle through the cabin.

  17. Dirk from AMS says:

    The concept is great, but I don’t like the look of it. For me it looks like a flying hospital! It’s also a lot of lost room and it feels too “open” and not private. Honestly, I much prefer the product offered by other airlines like SQ and even EK. But perhaps this will appeal to a specific niche and it will be a success. Who knows.

    • Dirk you are right that’s what it reminds me of. When I worked for TWA we did medical transport and they would set up stretcher service in first class. The stretcher would go along the window over two seats and the traveling attendant would sit in one of the aisle seats, which is why they had to purchase four seats to block the area about the size of the area in the LH photo. Now that’s all I can see when looking that the LH photo is some sick person laying there.

  18. Dan says:

    In many ways this is going forward, not back. Many of the most elegant airliners of the 1950’s had beds that were actually converted seats:

    http://www.airliner.net/air-france-golden-parisian

  19. Traveler J says:

    That picture comes from the A380, not the 747, and Brett should know this.

  20. Traveler J says:

    My mistake on my previous comment. It is from the 747. They just look so much alike.

  21. Guess they won’t be putting a special redone 747 on the FRA-SFO-FRA run in April since May 10th that flight switches to the giant A380 and the MUC-SF-MUC uses the A340.

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  23. Melinda says:

    I flew SAS over the pole (Ankara, Turkey to US) in 1959 & had a bunk bed above my seat. The bunk came down much like the overhead storage bins do and was very comfy & private, with heavy curtains pulled across to block light and sound. This”new” innovation is an old one, enjoyed more than fifty years ago! It apparently disappeared for many years as fuel costs grew & airlines searched for every angle to squeeze out more profit, sacrificing comfort.

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