PHOTO TOUR: What's new on board Lufthansa's first Boeing 747-8I

By John Walton, May 3 2012
PHOTO TOUR: What's new on board Lufthansa's first Boeing 747-8I

Boeing has packed its newest plane -- the latest evolution of the venerable jumbo jet, the 747-8I -- off to its launch customer Lufthansa.

As with any new plane (and especially with one of the airliners of the future) business travellers are keen to find out what improvements are on board.

While the plane doesn't come into service until next month, there are some new and interesting things on board, including a new business class seat, a move upstairs for business class passengers, Airbus A380-standard first class seats, and new economy seats down the back of the plane too.

Once Lufthansa puts the 747-8I to work, expect it to start on the transatlantic routes from Frankfurt to the US, plus shorter routes to India. 

So join us on a nose-to-tail tour of the new jumbo -- which is probably the last version ever of the Queen of the Skies -- and find out what's on board.

First Class: in the nose

If you've coughed up the big bucks (or a lot of frequent flyer miles) for first class, you'll find eight seats in the nose, which is a change from the previous location on the upper deck.

They're Lufthansa's most recent first class, which recline into individual fully flat beds.

Even without the fish-eye lens effect, there's actually a lot of room in the nose of a 747-8I for first class.
Even without the fish-eye lens effect, there's actually a lot of room in the nose of a 747-8I for first class.

It's the same seat you'll see on Lufthansa's A380s -- and not the "seat plus bed" version refitted to the airline's older 747s.

Naturally, it comes with mood lighting, as just about every plane does these days. That's handy if you want to get some sleep, or if you can persuade the crew to go for a disco effect.
Naturally, it comes with mood lighting, as just about every plane does these days. That's handy if you want to get some sleep, or if you can persuade the crew to go for a disco effect.

Also carried over from the A380: each passenger has a personal locker behind the main cabin to hang their clothes and put away their carry-on bag.

Business class: upstairs and downstairs

Business class is now found in the stretched extra-long upper deck of the 747-8I and downstairs in the main cabin behind the nose, for a total of 92 seats.

Upstairs finds a 2-2 layout, with a 2-2-2 configuration downstairs.

It's a new business class seat for Lufthansa, and indeed a world premiere of this type of seat, so we've got a full photo tour of Lufthansa's new business class all on its own.

The new business class debuts on the 747-8I and will be retrofitted to the Airbus A380 fleet.

The 2-2 layout upstairs will lend an exclusive feel, but every aisle passenger has a window seat neighbour climbing over them all flight.
The 2-2 layout upstairs will lend an exclusive feel, but every aisle passenger has a window seat neighbour climbing over them all flight.

Only 32 of those new seats will be found upstairs on the 747-8I -- and they're likely the ones to pick for all the usual 747 upper deck reasons: a quieter ride, a more private cabin, and that upper deck exclusivity.

But since Lufthansa's frankly uncompetitive seating requires every window passenger to clamber over their aisle neighbour's feet, you might consider heading downstairs to one of the pairs of middle seats instead if you want to get some sleep or just be undisturbed.

It'll be a bit of a leap to get across from the window if the aisle passenger is asleep.
It'll be a bit of a leap to get across from the window if the aisle passenger is asleep.

Since there's nobody to climb over you, you'll have a more peaceful and restful flight. It won't make any difference about playing footsie with your neighbour, though.

The new business seats have gained the online moniker of "footsie class" since your feet and those of the person next to you are separated by only the tiniest of partitions.

That partition is all that separates your feet from the clodhoppers of whoever's sitting next to you, and it's a significant drawback to Lufthansa's seats.
That partition is all that separates your feet from the clodhoppers of whoever's sitting next to you, and it's a significant drawback to Lufthansa's seats.

Economy class: down the back

Towards the rear of the plane, you'll find regular economy seats -- they're just bog-standard regular seats, with a fairly middling 31 inches of seat pitch, set out in a standard 3-4-3 layout.

Lufthansa hasn't put out pictures of 747 economy yet, but they're similar (though not identical) to the A380 offering:

Despite the fish-eye lens in Lufthansa's press photos, there's not a lot of space between rows in either the A380 or the 747-8I.
Despite the fish-eye lens in Lufthansa's press photos, there's not a lot of space between rows in either the A380 or the 747-8I.

Since the 747-8I is around 40cm narrower than the A380 overall, expect to feel that pinch in either seat width or aisle space -- or both.

The seat pitch (which is related to but slightly different from the actual legroom you'll find on board) is the minimum that any full-service airline uses on its larger planes.

Lufthansa's 31 inches is similar to Qantas or British Airways, but three full inches less than (for example) Korean Air or Malaysia Airlines. Low-cost airlines like AirAsia X break have less legroom, of course.

Throughout the plane

With new, quieter engines, and with more than two decades' worth of design improvements to insulation and other systems, the 747-8I will be a quieter ride than older planes: that's a given.

Other across-the-board improvements include larger overhead bins than you'd find in an older 747: they're the newer style Boeing Sky Interior overhead compartments that fold away into the ceiling.

That means less scrabbling for carry-on space, and quieter mechanisms mean hopefully less door-slamming too.

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John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

17 Nov 2011

Total posts 25

I'll just note that the difference between the 747 and the A380 at armrest height is about 21.6cm (8.5 inches), not 40cm as in the article.  As well, AirAsiaX has same seat pitch, but much narrower seats. 

About Lufthansa's seats, the business class seems to be uncompetitive compared to other carriers, most likely due to German business travel policy (however I have no experience with this, just assuming), especially too "open" seat design and no direct aisle access still after all these years.  What's with the 92 business class seats though?  Do they really have that much premium demand on some of their flight?  If so, that is quite amazing.


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