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Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Europe’s second-largest airline, will debut a premium economy offering on its Airbus SAS fleet of A380 aircraft next year, adding a fourth class of service.
The offering, for which Lufthansa ordered 3,000 seats from ZIM Flugsitz GmbH, will be presented at a trade show in Berlin in March, Jens Bischof, who is responsible for sales at Lufthansa’s passenger airline, said yesterday. The Cologne, Germany-based carrier plans to upgrade about 10 percent of standard economy seats on its long-haul flights.
“It’s going to be wider, with more seat pitch, and we’ll provide additional benefits on board and on the ground,” Bischof told journalists in the southern Germany municipality of Seeheim-Jugenheim, declining to provide further details. “It’ll fly on the A380 from summer 2014. We’ll address economy passengers and ultra price sensitive business customers.”
The announcement coincides with Air France saying it will spend 500 million euros ($674 million) on improved services including the first makeover of its aircraft seats in more than a decade. Lufthansa said six months ago that it will sell first class tickets with less booking flexibility to tourists at about half the full fare, another indicator that the airline is looking for ways to make its classes attract more travelers.
Lufthansa had ten A380’s in service as of June 30, with another five on order, making it the largest airline customer for the world’s biggest passenger aircraft in Europe. The airline also claims to offer the largest number of business and first class seats in the industry.
The size of its premium offering means Lufthansa has to take extra care when introducing space-consuming changes, Bischof said. The company is equipping its long-haul fleet with full-flat beds in business class. British Airways announced both a premium economy class and flat beds in business class in 2000.
The main reason for introducing a variant of its economy class is to wrestle back customers from competitors, Bischof said. The new service will also allow the airline to wring extra revenue from tourists willing to pay for a more comfortable trip, he said.
Lufthansa took four years and questioned more than 3,000 customers to develop its new business-class flat-bed seat, and is undertaking similar efforts for the premium economy seat, Bischof said.
–Editors: Tim Farrand, Benedikt Kammel
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