Lufthansa's premium-economy cabin to avoid business clash

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Lufthansa is holding back its introduction of premium-economy seating until all long-haul aircraft have been equipped with new business-class seats.

The carrier is concerned that the planned new seat category could cannibalise custom on aircraft with old business-class accommodation.

Lufthansa's supervisory board gave the green light for a new premium-economy class on 5 December. But apart from outlining a two-year timeframe for the "substantially upgraded" product, the carrier said that a project group would be formed in 2013 to work out all further details.

Carsten Spohr, head of Lufthansa's passenger airline business, says that the premium-economy class will be introduced after all long-haul aircraft have been equipped with the new business-class seat. This was launched in March and offers, for the first time, a full-flat bed.

The upgrade is to be completed by the end of 2014, and the introduction of premium-economy class will start afterwards.

Spohr says the new business-class seat offers enough comfort to differentiate itself from a future premium-economy class. But this would not have been the case with the predecessor and it could have jeopardised the airline's business-class custom on aircraft with the old configuration.

Spohr stresses that Lufthansa could not compromise its premium passenger custom, because its long-haul aircraft are configured with a comparatively large business-class section.

The future premium-economy class will be part of the standard coach accommodation, and not come at the expense of fewer premium class seats. The new seating will lead to a slight reduction in economy-class capacity, says Lufthansa, but no exact figures are yet available.

While the carrier developed a bespoke new business-class seat with manufacturer B/E Aerospace and design consultancy PearsonLloyd, the premium-economy seat will be a standard industry product, says Spohr.