Lufthansa is in discussions with Airbus over speeding up the delivery of a second tranche of A350 jets fitted with the airline's all-new business class seating.
The German flag-carrier would rely on the fuel-efficient A350s to replace the bulk of its older four-engine fleet, including the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747-400, both of which are facing premature retirement as the coronavirus pandemic and related travel restrictions continues to strangle demand.
Six of Lufthansa's 14 superjumbos have already been dispatched, and CEO Carsten Spohr told staff in an online meeting this week, "we will decide next week if more A380s are phased out, and more probably would mean all."
A similar fate would apply to the eight remaining Boeing 747-400s and most Airbus A340s, according to people attending the meeting. "The only four-engine aircraft with a future is the Boeing747-8," Spohr said.
To fill out the long-range fleet as demand returns and Lufthansa rebuilds its network, Lufthansa has discussed with Airbus potentially taking some A350s faster than it planned – "but only if the new business class is on board," Spohr affirmed.
Lufthansa planned to debut its new business class on the Boeing 777X this year, but following a series of delays the delivery of the first 777-9 into the hangars at Frankfurt is now not expected until at least the second quarter of 2022, Spohr said.
All 16 of Lufthansa's current Airbus A350-900 jets are fitted with a dated 2-2-2 business class that's out of step with the modern trend of a 1-2-1 layout, affording direct aisle access for all passengers.
In stark contrast, Lufthansa's next-generation business class seat aims to leap beyond the current state of play.
Its unique design alternates between rows of 1-2-1 and 1-1-1, so that every second row provides a centre 'throne' seat – the ultimate for solo flyers seeking more space and more privacy.
But you can expect to pay more for that privilege, as Lufthansa moves towards a 'tailored' model where passengers will pay a base fare for the core business class experience – lounge access, seat and meals – with an extra charge levied on the throne, or those seats which convert into the longest bed (up to 2.2m at some prized locations).
“It's not just one business class anymore," Lufthansa exec Harry Hohmeister previously told Executive Traveller.
"Within the (Boeing 777X) business class cabin, you can upgrade yourself to an even better product than just standard business class… it’s a real jump forward in terms of convenience, and in terms of product selection... it's not unbundling, it's upgrading.”
Most of Lufthansa's new business class seats will also be staggered.
Window seats alternate between being located at the aisle – with a bench between the passenger and the window – and having passengers directly next to the window, with a bench between their seat and the aisle (both treatments are shown in the mockup below).
What's not immediately clear from this image is that the window-adjacent seats are angled towards the window so you can enjoy the view while enjoying more privacy; the aisle-adjacent seats are a little bit more more open, and face into the cabin.
While the paired middle seats are angled away from one another, a privacy screen between the seats can be lowered for some travelling tête-à-tête, although you'll still need to swivel towards your companion.
Each passenger should see at least 10% more space than in Lufthansa's current business class seat, along with "significantly more storage compartments and shelves".
The console next to each seat will include an inbuilt wireless charging pad for the latest smartphones, smartwatches and other accessories, while a removable tablet docked into the wall of each seat will provide control over everything from the inflight entertainment and seating position to lighting and ventilation.
The same seat will also take pride of place in the business class cabins of sister airlines Swiss and Austrian, although slightly customised to suit each airline's unique branding.
It's not known if the next batch of A350s would also sport a redesign of Lufthansa's premium economy seat, which popped up during an airline presentation to investors in 2019 and shows a larger video screen, a larger storage nook below that upsized display, and more privacy between the aisle passenger and the aisle itself.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg