A big thanks to my friend KKFlyer, who graciously offered to share his thoughts from Lufthansa’s ‘Preview Flight’ that debuted the new Premium Economy cabin aboard a 747-8i. He was one of the lucky few to be aboard for a 2 hour demonstration flight that gave him ample time to try out the new cabin. I think you’ll enjoy his perspective:
October 2, 2014: Lufthansa introduces its New Premium Economy Class
Guest blog by KKFlyer
The first Boeing 747-8 equipped with Premium Economy Class – offered a preview of Lufthansa’s upgrade of all travel classes in Lufthansa’s fleet.
At 11.00 a.m., special flight LH 9880, a brand-new 747-8i with registration number D-ABYQ, took off from Frankfurt Airport on a 2-hour demonstration flight with about 180 journalists, travel industry representatives, bloggers and employees on-board. The aircraft was outfitted in a 4-class configuration, including the new Premium Economy Class. The aircraft was the first in the Lufthansa fleet to offer premium economy service on-board.
Karl Ulrich Garnadt, Member of the Executive Board of Lufthansa AG and CEO of Lufthansa German Airlines accompanied the flight (and who in fact sat next to me for final approach and landing) and seemed quite proud of the new product introduction. “Today, we are seeing a genuine première. We are launching a new travel class [at Lufthsana] for the first time in 35 years.” Garnadt stressed that Premium Economy was an important part of the “biggest product upgrade in Lufthansa’s history”. With the upgrade of the Business Class cabins, Lufthansa decided that the gap between Economy and Business Class was now too large, and they wanted to offer economy customers who wanted a bit more space and comfort an affordable alternative to business class.
Premium Economy Class seats will make up about ten per cent of the capacity of the LH wide-bodied fleet. Over the next few months, Lufthansa will fit 21 premium economy seats on their Airbus A330-300 equipment, 52 on the Airbus A380-800 and 32 on the Boeing 747-8. The airline commissioned a total of 3,600 seats from the manufacturer ZIM Flugsitz, http://www.zim-flugsitz.de/zim-flugsitz/).
Along with the introduction of Premium Economy, Lufthansa is also updating its First, Business, and Economy classes on board its long-haul aircraft. The upgrades should be complete by late summer 2015. Lufthansa will offer its guests a refreshed First Class (on select routes), a new lie-flat Business Class, and regular Economy Class with touches such as upgraded in-flight entertainment.
While Lufthansa’s Premium Economy product is scheduled officially to enter service in December, there are already a few LH 747-8 machines (D-ABYQ, -YD, -YF, -YH, -YL, and –YN at press time) plying the skies with the Premium Economy configuration, offering passengers an unofficial early trial of the new product on typical 747-8 routes from/to Frankfurt (FRA) such as HND, HKG, IAD, ORD, and LAX.
More Data on the new Lufthansa Premium Economy:
While exact specifications vary slightly based on the aircraft type, the new Lufthansa Premium Economy seat is about 3cm (1.2”) wider and has about 10cm (4”) more room at the side, compared to regular economy, thanks to individual armrests and a small console between the seats. The seatback reclines to about 130 degrees, and the seat pitch is 38” (97cm), compared to 31” (79cm) for regular economy seats. As a result, Premium Economy passengers have around one-and-a-half times more space vs. regular economy class. The Premium Economy head-rests are adjustable and have generous side-flaps that provide extra head comfort and support. All seats are also equipped with adjustable foot-rests. The first row features fold-out leg supports with an integrated foot rest to comfort those seated at bulkheads and exit doors. I am sure the extra leg support will be appreciated when trying to relax/sleep on the longer international routes.
Small but practical features around the seats such as a water bottle holder and small extra storage spaces for passengers’ belongings round out the environment to ensure a relaxed and pleasant journey for those seated in Premium Economy. I found the electrical power features of the new Premium Economy seats especially nice: AC and USB power sources are provided in every seat, and the seat I had didn’t overload when I plugged in my 85W Apple power supply and connected it to a dead MacBookPro (!). The stronger power supply alone is to me almost worth more than the old C seats (whose power supplies tended to fail at loads of only about 55-60 W) on day flights when I am awake and using my electronic devices heavily. By comparison, the latest version of the Economy seat shares USB power with every 2 seats, which is nevertheless still a step up over the previous no in-seat power.
On the 747-8, the new seats are laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration, so you can choose between a seat where no one has to climb over you to get up, or a seat where you don’t have to climb over anyone else to get up, depending on your preference.
Extra Check Bag and Optional Lounge Access:
The free baggage allowance in Premium Economy allows for two bags weighing up to 23kg (50lb) each, so passengers can take twice as much free luggage compared to Economy Class. For an extra 25€, Premium Economy passengers can also enjoy access to Lufthansa Business Lounges before their departure. Access to the Welcome Lounge upon arrival in Frankfurt is available to Premium Economy ticket holders for a fee of 50 €. Check-in and boarding procedures as well as hand luggage regulations are the same as in Economy Class.
More Personalized Amenities:
On board, an enhanced service awaits Lufthansa Premium Economy passengers. Guests are greeted with a welcome drink and will find at their seat a bottle of water as well as an amenity kit with practical travel accessories (eye mask, socks, toothbrush/-paste, earplugs, moist towelette). Meals are essentially the traditional economy fare, but they are served on porcelain tableware with glass drinkware.
Passengers can navigate the in-flight entertainment program using an enlarged touchscreen monitor. Screen navigation is also possible using a remote control, which doubles as a controller for video games. The screens are 11 to 12 inches (28 to 30 cm), or about 2 inches bigger than the screens in Economy Class. Each seat also has a USB socket and individual AC power to charge and drive personal devices. A selection of magazines and newspapers completes the range of entertainment on offer.
Introductory Premium Economy Fares from Lufthansa:
Lufthansa currently offers special introductory prices for Premium Economy Class flights. For instance, return flights to Washington D.C. are available from as little as EUR 1,199, while passengers to Beijing can enjoy the new travelling experience for a mere EUR 1,249. For economy passengers looking to upgrade to Premium Economy, no rebooking fees are being charged to rebook from Economy to Premium Economy Class. Passengers will only have to pay the fare difference, provided that no changes are made to the original flights. This offer applies even if the original ticket was booked for a price that did not permit rebooking.
The new Lufthansa Premium Economy product is a definite step up from the regular economy service, and for a modest premium, provides a bit more space, comfort, and on-board service.