Lufthansa fast tracks premium economy launch in Asia

6 Oct 2014 by Clement Huang

Lufthansa has officially unveiled its new premium economy (PE) cabin – its first new cabin class in 35 years –and Business Traveller Asia-Pacific was there to give you the lowdown.

First things first: In an exclusive interview with Andreas Bartels, Head of Communications at Lufthansa, we were told that the airline will push the revenue launch of its new PE cabin up by over a month.

Originally slated to be available for booking from December 10 only, Bartels told us that the German national carrier is now looking to launch the new subclass from November 1, citing faster than expected delivery of new B747-8 aircraft fitted with the new cabin, and quicker conversion of existing aircraft.

Launch ceremony 

PE will be available on five B747-8 launch routes from the Asia-Pacific to Frankfurt: Bangalore, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo (Haneda).

“For those booked in high economy booking classes (think Y, B, M), and status travellers, there will be a good chance for a complimentary upgrade to premium economy from now through to November 1, subject to whether the aircraft features the new cabin yet,” said Bartels.

Lufthansa says it has received more bookings for PE since it became available for booking in June than expected. “Bookings for premium eco have exceeded our estimates by 10 – 20%,” chief executive officer (CEO) and member of the board at Lufthansa German Airlines Karl Ulrich Garnadt told Business Traveller Asia-Pacific.

Premium economy seat

“So far we have observed that the new cabin appeals particularly to the leisure traveller market that is willing to pay a slightly higher fare than economy, but not ready to pay for business,” Garnadt said.

Lufthansa said it did not expect a cannibalization effect from the introduction of the subclass, citing that the gap between PE and business class is still wide enough to siphon passengers off its more premium, full-flat product upfront.

The Germans’ PE economy features the ‘industry-standard’ 38-inch seat pitch, some 50% more than in economy, larger 11.1-inch PTVs and comes in a 2-4-2 configuration on the B747-8 fleet, compared to 3-4-3 in regular economy class.

Reclined premium economy seat

Service perks include an additional allowance of one piece of checked luggage, a welcome drink of champagne upon boarding and an upgraded meal service on china ware, though the meal, the carrier said, is closer to what you can expect to find in economy than in business.

For the mileage hunters among us enrolled in the airline’s Miles&More programme, PE economy offers 100% miles in booking code ‘N’, and 150% in booking classes ‘E’ and ‘G’. The accrual rates for members of other Star Alliance loyalty programmes may differ.

The PE cabin will at first only be available on the carrier’s B747-8 fleet, the ‘stretched’ and upgraded ‘Jumbo Jet’. However, by summer-2015, Lufthansa’s entire long-haul fleet, including the A380 superjumbo, A340-600, A340-300 and A330-300, will feature the new cabin.

IFE system in premium economy seat

Introductory routes for PE on the A340-600 out of Munich include Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo (Haneda) from January 28, and Seoul from February 11.

Prices for a PE ticket from Hong Kong to Frankfurt start at EUR1,249 (US$1,564).

For the last two years, Lufthansa has been undergoing “the biggest product upgrade in its history”, said CEO Garnadt. With a new first, a new business and now a brand new premium economy class, the airline may be one step closer to realising its set goal of becoming the first Western five-star airline.

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Dominic Sebastian Lalk

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