Thinking About Lufthansa’s New Business Class

I didn’t write about Lufthansa’s new business class when it first came out, because I just wasn’t sure what to make of it. But I’ve been talking to a few people, and I think it might be a good time to discuss. I really can’t make up my mind. I think I’m going to have to wait until I can sit in the seat myself to see if it’s good or if it’s bad.

Without question, it has to be better than what Lufthansa has today. This is the Lufthansa business class seat at its best today. I say “at its best” because this is how it is on the A380, which has nicer seat coverings and amenities than the rest of the fleet:

Business Class Seats A380

The seat is an angled lie flat bed, and while I found it pretty comfy for reclining during daylight hours, sleeping was impossible. I was in row 1 on my overnight flight last year and somehow found myself on my stomach, all the way down with my legs kicked up on the bulkhead in the middle of the night. It wasn’t a pretty sight. And that’s why everyone is going away from the angled flat beds now: they suck.

Lufthansa told us last year it would do the same, but it wouldn’t make the change until the 747-8 came out. With that airplane going into service very soon, Lufthansa last month decided to unwrap the details on the new business class. Here’s the new offering:

New Lufthansa Business Class

At first glance, it certainly looks nice. I like the colors and the wood paneling. I’m also very happy to know that it’s a fully flat bed, as expected. But there are a couple of things that stand out. First is that it’s not a very private offering. I’m actually ok with that, but it’s very different than what you’ll find on some other airlines out there. Second, you have to climb over someone if you’re in the window. Many airlines have gone out of their way to give direct aisle access while Lufthansa apparently has decided that isn’t necessary.

Third is the angled nature of the seat. No, the bed isn’t angled toward the floor, but you can see that the seats angle in toward the middle. So the aisle seat is pointed toward the window while the window seat is pointed toward the aisle. It doesn’t look like it’s so angled that you’ll have a stare down with your neighbor, but it’s still odd. I get why they did this – it gives you more space around your shoulders where you notice it the most. That’s good, but it has a consequence.

The strangest part about it is where your feet go. Look at this picture:

New Lufthansa Business Class Looking Forward

When the bed is fully extended, you’re just a thin piece of plastic away from playing footsie with your neighbor. That’s pretty close, but is it going to be annoying? I’m just not sure without having been in the seat itself.

I tend to think the most annoying part would be having the person in the window seat trying to get out by doing airplane gymnastics over the aisle seat. But I’m also concerned about the amount of private space.

You can see more new business class photos on the Lufthansa site (where I pulled these from). I just don’t know about this one. But I do hear the 747-8 will be coming to LAX as one of the first three markets, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to sneak onboard while it’s on a layover and check it out.


36 Responses to Thinking About Lufthansa’s New Business Class

  1. Neil S says:

    The bigger issue with Lufthansa is the service/friendliness of the flight attendants.

    I’ve been fortunate with work over the past 18 months, having flown in, but not paid for, business and first on Cathay (JFK-HKG) and BA (JFK-LHR-HKG). I’ve also done business on LH JFK-FRA.

    Cathay service lives up to everything you hear. I’ve also had only really good experiences with BA.

    And while footsie might be annoying in these new seats on LH, what’s really annoying is not being able to get a second Diet Coke or a bottle of water, because “We’re doing food now. You just had a drink.”

    And that level of “service” on an $8K ticket is a. consistent across three roundtrips, and b. just not acceptable.

    • Sanjeev M says:

      I flew LH transatlantic in February and the service was great (albeit this was economy). Several drink runs and hot towels and an overall wonderful crew that chatted with the passengers, greeted their top FF’s, etc. But maybe its a question of level and Cathay/BA are better service in the premium cabins.

    • FRANK says:

      easy solution: ASK FOR a diet coke AND a bottle of water. Problem solved.

      • Wouldn’t the appropriate solution to the problem be for the FA to say, “Just give me a few minutes, I’m currently delivering food.”? Except in an emergency situation rudeness is not called for in any service industry.

        • FRANK says:

          You’ve apparently never worked first class or coach for that matter. They want it NOW. They dont care that my hands are full or I’m speaking with someone else at the moment.
          Hey Nick, invite some 30 friends over and see how efficiently you cater to everyone’s needs. Drinks, appetitzers, main course, desert, multiple drinks and multiple refills.
          Personally, I find it easier to fullfill requests as they arise. To each their own, but explaining that meals are coming out is an explanation, it isnt rude.

        • FRANK says:

          Bother way, I rarely work first class, but you’d be surprised by the amount of drinking going on up front. An initial beverage service is done right after take off. I’ve counted the drinks needed for that service. I’m preparing and taking out some 30 drinks. I do an inventory at the end of the flight and count how many mini’s went out. Over 75 mini’s (just liquor). Add beer and wine and it’s amazing how THIRSTY everyone is flying. NO NEED to reply with the, well, we paid good money, blah, blah, blah. I paid for the upgrade. THIS WAS JUST AN EXPLANATION/how busy the job can be.

    • Oliver says:

      Are you extrapolating from one flight on each of these carriers, or do you have a sufficiently large sample for a statistically useful comparison (I realize, this is just a blog, so science isn’t asked for).

  2. Bobber says:

    Very odd design. You wouldn’t say no if someone else was paying for your ticket, but the close proximity of your neighbour’s feet is dodgy – anyone remember the ‘foot massage’ discussion scene in Pulp Fiction???

  3. Christine says:

    The pictures on their site make it look even worse! The guy with the remote in his hand looks like he should be watching his neighbor’s screen. And business class fliers are not usually traveling with their chummy friends like that couple they use!

  4. It would be fine if you were sitting next to your significant other but that is rarely the reality. I think I would have to take any other business class option. Sorry LH but I just don’t want to get to know the fat bald guy next to me that well on a long haul flight…

  5. Is it me or the photo? If you are sitting in your seat looking forward, you are looking at the foot space, but have to turn your head slightly to see the video screen. That could tire you neck watching a movie. The screens look like they may swing out, so that would help. I didn’t go to the LH website so maybe it shows better there.

    And if you are looking forward and just seeing your feet and your neighbors feet, lets hope your neighbor is wearing socks and you don’t have to stare at someones bare feet for 16 hours.

    • Although the window seat screen looks like it’s optimally positioned to get as much glare from the window as possible. I guess if it’s sunny outside you have to keep your window shade down to use the inflight entertainment.

    • travelnate says:

      DavidSF – I noticed the same thing. When I flew to DXB on Emirates (trip report posted in Nov/Dec here), I didn’t really talk about the screen, but it was on the bulkhead and higher, so everyone could watch my tv, and it also meant that I had to be in the recliner position in order to really enjoy it. Not to mention it was a good 3 to 4 feet in front of me.

      I really hope that airlines start putting the TVs in the armrests/console so they come out and are a bit closer to you. But that’s just my idea of a perfect world.

      • Theres another benefit of putting the TV closer to you: it appears larger to you. Alas, I’m sure putting it in the armrest causes extra maintenance issues.

    • @David – I get what you’re saying about the screen, although looking at the design, I’m curious if the screen swivels out from the seat back in some way. It looks like it might.

  6. Jason H says:

    While I can appreciate those that fly solo and want the privacy I really like this. When I fly for business it is usually in economy or economy +/comfort/premium, but when I fly for leisure I fly business for long-hauls. My wife loves having a window seat and I enjoy looking over her shoulder out the window as well. So, in the case of the fad of “direct aisle access” going on at most airlines that forces us into the center of the cabin. Even then the “privacy” pods on most airlines don’t give us the feeling of being together.

    Given that I like this offering by LH. Hopefully the new business class will roll out to their A340/744 that serves DEN or maybe DEN gets a 748. Okay, okay, I just busted out laughing typing that last bit. DEN with 748 service! HAHA!

  7. SEAN says:

    Footsie? That struck me funny. Watch the film Morning Glorry, there’s an early sene involving TY Berell & Rachel Mcadams just before the production meeting. It’s down right histericle.

    Back on topic, what is it with most airlines & there intention of making these seats as uncomfortable & non-functionable as possible? I mean playing footsie on an 8-hour transatlantic flight isn’t what I would call enjoyable.

  8. Simon says:

    That design makes no sense, why not angle them away from each other? It looks no better than Air New Zealand’s fancy new Premium Economy which I suspect is a darned sight cheaper than LH’s biz offering.

  9. AirBoss says:

    Oh-dearz… What a dated design. Has circa 2000 written all over it.

  10. David T says:

    “Sleeping was impossible”??? Really?! I sleep like a baby in economy or premium economy all the time.

  11. Martin says:

    Greetings from Lufthansa! We appreciate all of your thoughts on the seat design and the service onboard, including those that show us room for improvement. Believe us, there were numberless similar discussions internally regarding the angled seats and their various pros and cons. In the end, what convinced us was the fact that during a three-months test in 2011 (on the route JFK-FRA), we got an overwhelming approval rate of 98% by “real”, unbiased customers. The main “pro” was – beside the fully flat bed — the large amount of added space in the shoulder area, which is a direct result of the V-shaped angle. It nearly doubles the personal space in the area and during the time when you need it most: while you are awake, working, playing/watching a film, eating. The foot issue wasn’t a big throw-back for the testers, after all. There is a divider between the foot areas, which make you forget about the “footsies” rather quickly. Leaving the window seat is as easy or difficult as with every other seat (I checked that out myself?)

    My final thought: In the end, what really counts is how the passenger “feels” in those seats. I believe that the new seat will be a great leap forward. As an international carrier providing premium services to our guests, we are very much looking forward to the introduction of the seat, starting with the new Boeing 747-8, coming to three US destinations (IAD, ORD, LAX) this year!

    • Asarkiss says:

      Nice (and interesting) to see someone from an airline commenting one one of these posts. I do like the feature of having the improved space- that could be a big plus. I’d have to fly in the seat to see if the way the ottoman is set up might be a problem; but it sounds like it is not a big one… Good to hear.

    • FRANK says:

      sehr schon, Martin. Stating facts and observations about your airline. It’s funny that everyone’s WHINING about the seating when they havent actually TRIED IT OUT first. Everyone’s making judgements by pictures alone. Like you said, Martin. Listen to your REAL customers.

    • Ron says:

      Martin — would you be able to elaborate on the test? Was it with an installed prototype, or through surveys or other means? What does a 98% approval rate mean? Does it mean customers like it better than the current design? Better than some other alternative?

    • I am personally glad to see LH try something a little different in the business seating space in lieu of subscribing to the latest fads. There are many situations where the cocoon style or reverse herringbone styles of seats that provide direct aisle access to all seats are a negative. I think it is innovative to have a biz class product that offers more functional personal space and comfort in lieu of universal aisle access and some privacy. On flights of 8 hours or more, personal space and comfort far exceed any other criteria for me.

  12. Ed Kelty says:

    When I was 16, we traveled across the country by Greyhound. $99 RT. I learned to sleep in a recliner seat, and still fall asleep when the seat reclines on the plane. So, the flat bed “feature” does not resonate with me.
    However, the footsie feature is interesting as a way of getting acquainted with your overnight partner — presumably my wife.

    • Ed, nothing against your wife, but I’d prefer not to get too acquainted with her while I’m sleeping overnight on a plane. That being said, I’m sure she makes an excellent overnight partner for you.. :-p

  13. docjames says:

    These photos certainly do not make me want to fly LH business.

    I’d imagine for single women travellers it would be even more of an issue with the proximity of the “seat mate”.

    I cant imagin why they’ve gone to this when there are perfectly good other true flat beds on the market (eg. QF, SQ).

  14. Asarkiss says:

    Looks aesthetically pleasing, but that odd seat angle does not look good at all; specially where you end up putting your feet. I’d have to sit in it- maybe it is great, but from the image, it seems like it could be a bit uncomfortableat night. Should be fine during the day.

  15. Martin says:

    @Ron @Frank: The test had 1,500 individuals on a two-months trial between JFK and FRA with installed prototypes that were almost identical to the final seat design. Guests were randomly selected upon checkin and asked to complete a survey towards the end of the flight. “98% appproval rate” means that 98 out of 100 passengers who tested the seat during the flight either said that they overall “like it” or “like it very much” opposed to “undecided”, “don’t like it” and “don’t like it at all”. Beside this overall positive feedback, we got numberless suggestions on small but important details, such as TV screen angle, location and size of cup holder, lighting etc… Most of these detail improvements went into the final design (that’s why we did these tests). Hope this helps!

    • Scott says:

      I wonder if those approval ratings reflected that this new seat is better than the existing LH seat. Even though I don’t like the looks of this new seat, I can see how it’s at least better than the existing seat.

      But do I have any interest in flying LH with this new seat? No. Based on what I can see (and admittedly I haven’t tried it in real life), I’d much rather fly BA mostly because of the much better privacy of their configuration.

      I’m guessing that most of your survey respondents on the JFK-FRA route are regular LH fliers. So comparing to your existing sub-standard product, I can see why they’d be happy to get anything new. But if you want to attract new customers away from the likes of BA and AF, I’m not sure this new designs is going to cut it.

      At that’s a shame, as I’ve been waiting for LH to finally improve its business class product so I can begin flying you again. I live in SFO and for a long haul to Europe from here, I just had to switch to BA and their superior seat. Looks like I’m going to have to stick with that decision for several more years, until hopefully LH comes out with a “new” new business class that’s on par with BA.

      • XJT DX says:

        Seems MORE private than the alternating business seats on BA, would much rather look at feet for a few seconds as a passing glance than an awqward staring contest when the plastic screen is down for T/O, landing, and service. Also bet it won’t be nearly as crammed as 8-across on a 747/777, YUCK :-P

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  17. Michael says:

    These look a lot like the Cirrus seats currently used by Cathay Pacific, US Airways, American Airlines, Delta, et al. Any confirmation that they are the same?

    • CF says:

      No, these are very different. Those seats are reverse herringbone and have direct aisle access. These are seat pairs.

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