Choosing your business class seat will no longer be a simple matter of ‘window or aisle’ when Lufthansa’s all-new Allegris business class takes to the skies later this year.
Instead, the German flag-carrier will offer travellers as many as seven variations on its new business class seat, based on factors such as space and privacy.
It’s all in the name of “personalisation and choice”, the airline says, arguing that different passengers have different needs – and those needs can also vary depending on if a flight runs during the day or overnight.
However, these different seats will largely come with different price tags – although Kai Peters, Lufthansa’s Heads of Customer Experience, tells Executive Traveller that some no-cost seat selection perks will remain for top-tier members of the airline’s Miles & More loyalty program.
Common to all Allegris business class seats will be direct aisle access, Bluetooth audio connectivity to the 17-inch screen, wireless charging, a minimum 2m long bed, individual seat heating and cooling settings, and a ‘shoulder sink-in’ to boost comfort for for side sleepers.
Passengers will control the features of Lufthansa’s Allegris business class seat, along with the inflight entertainment system, through a tablet mounted next to the seat, although this won’t be a wireless tablet due to the need to keep it powered up.
Each seat has warming panels built into the cushions, similar to a car’s heated seats, while cool air can be circulated from underneath the seat as well as from a vent mounted on the seat wall.
Peters says Lufthansa won’t fit individual air vents to the overhead panels in business class, while also confirming there’ll be no luggage bins running along the centre of the cabin so as to open up the space.
Here’s a breakdown of the new Lufthansa Allegris business class seating, which will debut on a series of factory-fresh Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners in northern autumn before also appearing on new Airbus A350s from 2024, along with refits to the Boeing 747-8 along with those A350s and Dreamliners already flying – and, eventually, the long-delayed Boeing 777-9 twinjet.
Facing the bulkhead wall at the front of each business class cabin will be four Business Class Suites, with the middle pair able to be opened up as a double suite for couples travelling together.
Boasting significantly more room than the standard business class, with a footprint of 2.2 to 2.5 square metres depending on the aircraft type, each Business Class Suite features a 2.2m flatbed, higher walls with sliding doors, personal wardrobe and small minibar, along with a larger 27” video screen.
The paired centre seats in the last row of each business class cabin will be marketed to couples as a Business Class Double seat, with those neighbouring seats able to be combined “to form a double berth” thanks to a fully-retractable centre console.
Every alternate row in business class sees a solo ‘throne’ seat in the middle – this will be marketed as a Business Class Extra Space seat in recognition of its additional personal space and two benches on either side of the seat.
Trialling a mock-up of the Business Class Extra Space seat at Lufthansa’s Berlin launch, we found the seat didn’t feel as confined as most other throne seats when in flatbed mode, while the foot cubby was also fairly generous – although it will still favour side sleepers, especially if they sleep on their left side and angle their knees into the void facing the aisle.
The space beneath the elongated right-hand bench, which closes off the aisle, allows the seat behind it to boast a 2.2m bed by tapping into the additional under-bench space – and Lufthansa will happily sell this to taller travellers as the Business Class Extra Long Bed.
Those seats directly next to the window will be branded as Business Class Privacy seats, with seats at the aisle badged as Business Class Classic, which will be priced as Lufthansa’s entry-level business class seat.
Peters tells Executive Traveller that “depending on the layout, 40-50%” of seats in any Allegris business class cabin will be these Classic seats.
Finally, the right-hand side seat at the rear of each business class cabin can have a pop-out panel on the side shelf replaced by a bassinet mount to create the logically-named Private Seat with Baby Bassinet.
Compared to conventional bulkhead bassinets, this also puts the infant directly next to the parent rather than having them out of reach and out of sight.
Lufthansa’s Boeing 787-9 business class will see 28 seats including four suites, while the Airbus A350 will have 38 business class seats split across two cabins, delivering eight suites.
The Lufthansa Group’s long-held plan to standardise seating across airlines should also see the Allegris business class make its way to Swiss, beginning with five new Swiss Airbus A350s from 2025, along with Austrian and Brussels, albeit with appropriate on-brand finishes.
The airline is well aware of the challenge posed to passengers by this sheer variety of seats, but hopes the plain English descriptors will help guide travellers to choose a seat that suits.
This radical new approach to business class came from a completely “ground-up” approach by design firm PearsonLloyd, which pioneered the Allegris business class for Lufthansa.
Instead of choosing an existing or under-development seat “we started from scratch,” co-founder Luke Pearson tells Executive Traveller, “agnostic of any of the (seat) manufacturers.”
“We did about a year's research, really trying to understand and find out what we could deliver in terms of customer experience (and) roadmap the different experiences that we know we all need beyond just business travel, and then build a landscape throughout the cabin that would provide that.”
This led PearsonLloyd and Lufthansa to conceptualise and then prototype the different forms of the business class seat, and then take it to manufacturers to build.
Rather than taking a single seat “and then it sort of cut-and-paste across the cabin (and) giving more or less the same to everyone,” Pearson explains, “we were trying to think holistically when we were designing the cabin.”
“It allowed us to have the freedom to try and maximise each seat space… and optimise the layout for these different propositions, for the different seats.”
“It's incredibly ambitious, but ultimately if you ask the customer what they’re looking for, they’re not looking for the compromise, they’re actually looking for the optimum.”
With these seats first conceived in 2016, it’s been a long journey for Lufthansa – not to mention its passengers, who’ve been making do with what is now a decidedly out-dated business class on the German flag carrier since 2012.
A business class made for the Boeing 777-9
Lufthansa initially teased its next-generation business class in late 2017, prior to an intended debut on the Boeing 777-9 in 2020.
But with delivery of the long-delayed jet continually pushed back – “they now say beginning of 2025” says Paul Estoppey, Head of Product Management Cabin for the Lufthansa Group – while other airlines forged ahead with their own fresh takes on business class, it was clear that Lufthansa couldn’t keep waiting.
The initial shortlist for Lufthansa’s new business class proved to be a long list: “at the very beginning there were probably seven ideas or eight ideas, but we really started with six – we had six different business classes for the time being – and then we narrowed it down.”
Everyone from Lufthansa executives and product specialists to the airline’s most frequent flyers played a vital part in that process, testing mockups at a dedicated workshop facility nestled in a small village some ten minutes from Lufthansa HQ.
“Obviously even if you have good ideas, you want to test it against your best customers, and that’s what we do,” Estoppey explains.
“We had about 250 of our top customers – first class and business class flyers – if I remember right, who had made about 10 flights in long-haul business class over the last 12 months.”
“We needed to make sure we had really experienced people in those tests, because most of those guys know us as well the competition.”
“And that’s an important point: you want to find out what do they like about your concept (and) what do they probably dislike about the other concepts in this world, so we make sure that we don’t do something they dislike on other (airlines).”
Those top-tier frequent flyers spent hours sitting in and combing over “physical mockups done by a carpenter” for all six concepts, Estoppey recalls.
The field was then narrowed to three potential new Lufthansa business class seats, the mockups for which “were getting more professional” as things progressed: “there’s already paint on it, foam and a seat cover, so it feels a little bit better.”
Yes to privacy, no to doors
Along the way, some common themes were emerging, such as the value of privacy.
“We wanted to increase privacy but you always need to watch out that you don't box them in too much, that was the feedback.”
This led Lufthansa to a design featuring 1.1m-high wrap-around seat walls rather than sliding doors for all but the first row of the business class cabin, where those doors became the key element in a differentiated proposition.
It’s a move at odds with the global trend towards doored business suites, and “we had a big discussion about it, a big debate,” Estoppey shares.
“The feedback from customers was really differentiated: it’s not that every customer wants doors, not at all.”
“It’s nice to close your area off, to say, ‘that’s mine here’ – but other than that, it’s really questionable.”
“So we changed the aisle side seat, we changed the wall a little bit so that we have a bit more privacy and more shield towards the aisle.”
“That was the compromise, if you like… but other than that, we wanted to give as much space as we could to the passenger.”
At the same time, it seemed that privacy trumped expansive space and a larger footprint for each seat, which reduces what Estoppey refers to as the “efficiency” of the cabin – how many seats, and paying passengers, it can accommodate.
“We were surprised that the one concept which was eating up the most space, which was the most inefficient one, the passenger didn't like it as well… because you might think the passenger votes in a direction which is more space-consuming and this was not the case.”
Lufthansa’s first routes for its new business class
Lufthansa’s Allegris business class will debut on a factory-fresh Boeing 787-9 towards the end of this year – and the airline is already mapping out the first routes for these jets, although no final decisions have yet been made.
“But what you usually do, and you can see that for all the new aircrafts coming in with the small fleets, is you use these aircrafts on routes where you can get a turnaround in one day,” Becker tells Executive Traveller.
“So you wouldn’t use it for example from central Europe to China because that's just too long. But if you just look at where our new 787 and A350 aircraft flew to, it will be a similar thing I would guess.”