Executive Traveller exclusive
Lufthansa’s new Allegris first class will take to the skies in the second half of this year, making its debut on a fleet of Airbus A350 jets based in Munich.
And it’ll be exclusive to the A350 for some time, with Lufthansa confirming there are currently no plans to add the new Allegris first class to the Boeing 747-8, Airbus A380, Boeing 787 or even the Boeing 777-9, which is now being considered for a 2025 delivery.
As a result, Lufthansa’s newest first class offering is “only (on the ) A350 for the moment” says Paul Estoppey, Head of Product Management Cabin for the Lufthansa Group.
But that will only make Lufthansa’s new first class experience even more rarified and sought-after by the airline’s high flyers.
To date seen only in a pair of carefully-selected PR photos showing two views of a single suite, the elegant first class stands as the flagship of the Allegris family, which aims to reinvent all four travel classes on board Lufthansa (although the Allegris premium economy seat is already flying with Lufthansa sibling Swiss).
Oh, and that uniquely familiar-yet-not Allegris name?
Despite its apparent roots in the Romance languages – the Italian allegro and French allègre both mean ‘cheerful’, while a musical term allegro instructs you play fast, quick, and bright – Allegris is an artificial, made-up name.
It “stands for joy, and the joy of travelling and easiness of travelling, for choice” explains Dr. Björn Becker, Lufthansa Group’s Head of Project for the Future Intercontinental Experience.
Becker says “a name that describes the product” would have been "the classical Lufthansa way… but we intentionally decided to go this way.”
Lufthansa invited Executive Traveller to visit the Lufthansa Aviation Centre in Frankfurt for an exclusive preview of the new Allegris premium portfolio and the new shape of Lufthansa first class.
Lufthansa explored four first class concepts
Lufthansa’s next-gen first class began to take shape several years after the new business class was first conceived for the Boeing 777-9 in 2016, and was spurred on by the Airbus A350.
“As soon as an aircraft came into the equation where we were sure we need a first class (cabin)” – which turned out to be Lufthansa’s order for a second tranche of A350s – “that’s where we knew we need to have first class, and we started immediately,” Estoppey tells Executive Traveller.
Lufthansa explored four very different concepts for its Allegris first class.
“We had ideas going even more luxury, and we had ideas more on the standard we know today,” Estoppey reflects, with the airline eventually landing for a design “more or less in the middle” which drew from both ends.
The winning concept became a bespoke design developed in-house by Lufthansa and London-based PriestmanGoode, which has worked with the Lufthansa Group since 1999, including the airline’s A380 first class and business class.
As PriestmanGoode puts it, the aim was to deliver “the ambience of the most comfortable luxury space at home, but in the air.”
Creating Lufthansa’s new Allegris first class
At the outset, the primary aim was clear: privacy was top of the list, certainly more privacy than offered by Lufthansa’s current ‘open plan’ first class.
“If you look into the market, of those (airlines) who are (continuing) first class or doing something new in first class, it's all about privacy,” Estoppey reflects.
“The seats or beds, the sizes are already okay today... (if) you can be a little bit bigger, that's nice to have. But the privacy, that's the point you want to make.”
This in turn called for a sliding door and high walls, although due to safety regulations – in particular around ‘rapid decompression’ incidents and airflow throughout the cabin – those walls don’t run all the way from floor to ceiling to completely enclose each first class suite.
“We have to keep a little space open,” Estoppey explains, “so the wall is around 1.8 metres (70 inches).
But “the privacy is pretty high… so I'm 188cm, I cannot see over it until I go (up on) the tip of my toes.”
“Airbus make sure that the ventilation is good, as well,” he adds. “You would probably not think about that, but Airbus did the mockup where we could see how good the ventilation is with closed doors and open doors.”
The same European and US safely regulations steered Lufthansa towards a unique approach to the first class suite’s door, which is made from a foam panel sandwiched between two layers of fabric.
A ‘curtain-like’ sliding door
“That (also) has to do with the certification,” Estoppey shares, as does the unique way the door can slide into a partition but also be pushed open at the middle in case of emergency.
“If you have a door, you need to make sure that if the door is blocked, can you get out of it?”
“We had to make sure (for the EASA) that you can easily walk through if it's closed and if it doesn't open for a certain reason.”
“The panel is quite soft and you close it, as panels, like a door (but) it's held together with magnets in the middle, so it's done in a way that you can walk through in this case.”
In fact, Estoppey says it’s in some respects it’s like a flat, non-pleated curtain. “I would say if you see it, you would consider as a door (but) technically, it's a curtain.”
Estoppey won’t be drawn on the overall size of the suite’s footprint – it’s among the many details Lufthansa is holding back for Allegris’ forthcoming ‘big bang’ media launch – but “it actually increases the space of today’s seat pretty massively.”
But he shares that the new first class seat itself is “close to” one metre across.
And the wide ottoman facing the passenger doubles as a second bench – with its own seatbelt – for a travelling companion, such as sharing a meal across the generously-sized table.
“We wanted to have that large table (and) if you see all the tableware we use, actually it needs a big table,” Estoppey says.
“If you use it for double dining or not, that's absolutely on your decision. But even if you don't and you are alone, you have ample space for work, to put your things there, or it's just nice to have a big table for dining (on your own).”
How many first class suites will Lufthansa’s A350 have?
And while Estoppey confirmed to Executive Traveller that the A350’s first class cabin would be seperate to the large business class section, he declined to reveal how many first class berths there’d be – or even if there’d be three or four suites per row.
"Obviously you how the outboard suite (in the PR photos) looks," Estoppey smiles as he baits the hook. “I want to keep you curious.”
An earlier remark by his colleague Becker that “we decided to have less seats” than Lufthansa’s current first class cabins – all of which are fitted with eight suites – indicates an Allegris first class cabin could have anywhere from three or four suites in a single row, to as many as six suites across two rows of three apiece.
No first class refit for Lufthansa 747s, A380s
And for now, Lufthansa’s new Allegris first class suites will only be seen on the Munich-based arm of its Airbus A350 fleet.
“Today, there is no plan for the 787,” Estoppey shares. “Which doesn't say really anything to be honest. I mean, in two years could be completely different.”
What about the Dreamliner’s larger cousin, the Boeing 747-8?
“We have not decided on the 747 yet,” Estoppey adds, elaborating that the unique shape and footprint of the jumbo’s nose which today houses eight open suites “gives you opportunities but it gives you challenges as well.”
“Obviously we are looking into that to be honest, but there's no decision taken at all what we are going to do with first class in the 747.”
Any plans to upgrade the A380 superjumbo with the Allegris products – not just in first class but business class – are also “not yet decided,” Estoppey admits, citing the current “dynamic in the fleet planning” which is seeing not only see the A380s brought back but also a second batch of fuel-thirsty A340-600s.
“It has to do with usage of the fleet. there is so much movement in there, and we all don't really know what happens in the future and how the market is going to behave after that first wave we see today.”
As the mix of the short-term fleet changes “we make sure that it still makes sense to build something like that into a cabin. It doesn't make sense if you just fly for two, three years.”
Nor will the long-delayed Boeing 777-9, for which Lufthansa remains one of the prestigious launch customers, be crowned by Allegris first class suites. “There is no first on the 777-9,” Estoppey clarifies.
However, as previously reported, the Allegris family – including first class – will make its way onto Swiss from 2025.
Lufthansa’s Becker tells Executive Traveller that Swiss remains a natural fit for first class “because it belongs to the positioning of Swiss International. Switzerland is a very high profit market so it makes sense.”