At a time when many European airlines are cutting back on short-haul catering, Lufthansa is taking a different tack.
According to reports on Bloomberg, the German national airline is preparing to unveil a new European product. An official announcement is likely to be made on December 15.
Catering will be upgraded and simplified into four bands for business and five bands for economy class. As at present, each band will be determined by flight length.
There will be more substantial offerings on all Lufthansa’s European routes compared with the situation today where the London-Frankfurt passenger in economy class receives just a roll and a drink.
It is believed that it is the first time in 15 years that Lufthansa has decided to offer more substantial catering on short flights.
Lufthansa will adopt new and slimmer seating which will allow it to add almost 2,000 more seats to its 200-strong narrow-bodied fleet operating within Europe. This will enable the carrier to earn more cash when flights are full.
The slimback seats which Lufthansa are installing are the same as those now being fitted by partner carrier Austrian Airlines (see online news November 25). They allow Lufthansa to add up to two extra rows per plane (enabling Lufthansa to carry an extra six to 12 extra passengers per flight) while boosting legroom by up to four inches.
It means that an A319 will go from 132 to 138 seats with the A320 moving from 156 to 168 seats and the A321 from 190 to 200 seats. A B737-500 will go from 111 to 120 seats while a B737-300 moves from 127 to 140 seats.
It is understood that one B737 will be retrofitted with the new seating prior to the official announcement.
The remainder of the fleet will follow and the idea is for Lufthansa to have all the planes retrofitted by the end of 2011.
There are some downsides. It is unclear whether the new seating will be as comfortable. And it is believed that wardrobes are being removed from the cabins to free up space while the larger A321s will lose one toilet.
Lufthansa’s short-haul network handles many passengers who connect to and from destinations farther afield. The loss of the wardrobes could mean a problem when staff need to find additional stowage space for hand luggage, winter coats and so on.
Readers must note that the new product applies to Lufthansa’s mainline fleet. We await confirmation about the catering offer for Lufthansa’s regional partners who operate less busy or niche routes which are flown by commuter-type planes.
An example here would be the Lufthansa services into London City from Frankfurt or Munich which are operated by Cityline. It may be that these smaller aircraft do not have the space for extra seats to be added.
Business Traveller will publish more details of the new short-haul product as and when available.
For more information visit lufthansa.com.
Report by Alex McWhirter