Lufthansa to reduce economy seat pitch

19 Nov 2009 by Mark Caswell

Interviews in the German media this week with Lufthansa’s deputy CEO Christoph Franz,  reveal that Lufthansa will overhaul its European economy class product next year in a bid to cut costs.

The main development is that passengers will see their seat pitch reduced so that the German national carrier can fill its planes with more passengers.

Further economies will be made by simplifying catering (Lufthansa has six differing catering bands inside Europe compared to British Airways’ four bands) which in turn will mean some onboard kitchen space can be freed up.

Aviation experts say that Lufthansa is being forced to make economies because more passengers are trading down to cheaper tickets. As a high cost, quality carrier it cannot profitably offer low-cost fares as can budget carriers such as Easyjet or Ryanair.

Full details are not available. So it is not clear whether or not the changes will affect just Lufthansa’s mainline European fleet which comprises a mixture of planes like Airbus A320s and B737s or whether it will also include its specialised commuter fleet (operated by Lufthansa subsidiaries) like the BAe146s and the Canadair CRJs where seating is already quite tight.

For its part, Lufthansa denies it is becoming a budget airline. In a statement issued by its London office, the airline says “Lufthansa is and will remain a quality carrier. Without a doubt, the current competitive climate means we have to further control our cost structures so that we can operate in an economically viable way.

“The aim is that Lufthansa becomes more profitable and less complex but passengers will not experience any decrease in service quality.”

“From next year onwards a new design of seat will be installed on short-haul aircraft which will allow a reduction in seat pitch without restricting passenger comfort and so-called living space. One measure being taken would be to relocate the seat back pocket to a higher level which would then free up more space in the knee area.”

“Complimentary food and drink will continue as before and passengers will not be given less to eat. What will happen is that the various service levels will be harmonised so that a flight from Frankfurt to Berlin will have the same catering as one from Frankfurt to Brussels. Previously there would be a difference in catering as one flight is domestic and the other cross-border.”

Rest assured that Business Traveller will bring you full details of the changes when they are announced.

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Report by Alex Mcwhirter

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