Here are the first photos of Lufthansa's all-new business class seats for its Boeing 777X (777-9) jets, which will begin flying from 2020.
As previously and exclusively revealed by Australian Business Traveller, the next-gen design finally provides direct aisle access for every passenger: no more awkwardly stepping over your sleeping seatmate – or having them clamber across you, if you're next to the aisle.
Lufthansa has also opted for an alternating 1-2-1 and 1-1-1 layout, as shown below.
The former sees two passengers seated side by side, although both seats are angled away from one another. A privacy screen between the seats which can be lowered for some travelling tête-à-tête, although you'll still need to swivel towards your companion.
Meanwhile, the 1-1-1 rows provide a centre 'throne' seat which is likely to be highly sought-after, not only for the additional privacy it offers but the added personal space on either side of the passenger.
The computer renderings indicate Lufthansa has gone for a subdued colour palette of charcoal, cream and dusky blue with elements of chocolate brown.
The seats will convert into fully-flat beds "up to" 2.2 metres (87 inches) long, Lufthansa says. A bedding service will cover the lie-flat seat with a "thick overlay", while the seatback "makes it possible for the shoulder to sink in when you are lying on your side" to keep your spine straight. The armrests can also be lowered for more sleeping space.
About that "up to" reference above – not all seats in the business class cabin will let you stretch out a full 2.2 metres from head to heel. It seems the 'throne' seats will be a more modest 2 metres.
"Depending on their personal needs, passengers can choose between a number of spatial configurations," is how Lufthansa sells this arrangement. "For instance, they can choose to have an extended-length bed or a seat with twice as much desk space."
There's also a new staggered layout: in common with many other 1-2-1 business class layouts, the 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. You can see both treatments 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.
The console next to each seat will include an inbuilt Qi-standard wireless charging pad which will work with the latest smartphones from Apple, Samsung and co. Fancy ye olde fashioned cable? It's believed the seat will sprout several USB ports, most likely including the conventional USB-A socket plus the newest USB-C jack.
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".
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.
Lufthansa began work on its next-generation seat some three years ago, shortly after the current business class seat debuted, and entertained concepts "such as a variant in which the seats were slightly offset on top of each other and the guests either had to climb down or up."
A very long list was whittled down to a shortlist of five candidates which went through the gamut of everything from 3D visualisations to wooden mockups before Lufthansa settled on the new design.
Invitation-only workshops made of Lufthansa's Miles & More frequent flyer members "that reflected the full spectrum of passengers in terms of weight, physique and demand" tested the seat at a nondescript warehouse near Frankfurt Airport, while airline CEO Carsten Spohr has also bunked down in the business class bed for several nights.
This seat won't be limited to Lufthansa's Boeing 777-9 jets – it will also take pride of place in the premium cabins of sister airlines Swiss and Austrian, although slightly customised to suit each airline's unique branding.
However, it's believed that the new business class seats won't be installed across Lufthansa's existing jets – they could be exclusive to the Boeing 777X family.
The fate of first class in the Boeing 777-9 fleet remains undecided, or at least undeclared.
While Lufthansa executive Harry Hohmeister has previously told Australian Business Traveller that "maybe we will have a better idea than just having first class," he has also spoken of a "more flexible" approach to what is defined as the primo cabin, due to "new business class concepts which are nearly as good as first class."
One of these could see first class replaced by a Business Plus cabin, according to an internal video presentation by Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr.
This could be introduced on some Boeing 777-9 jets flying routes with insufficient demand for a full first class cabin.
PREVIOUS [EXCLUSIVE] | Lufthansa's next generation of business class seats will adopt a new design which offers direct aisle access to every passenger, in what the Star Alliance member says will be an "all-new concept" for its forthcoming Boeing 777-9 jets due to take wing from 2020.
The move will see Lufthansa abandon its current business class layout (below), in which window passengers need to do a stretching step over their seatmate to reach the aisle, and adopt a configuration that's become the norm among the world's best business class cabins.
"It will be a single seat approach so that every seat has a direct approach to the aisle," Lufthansa executive Harry Hohmeister confirmed to Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of a Star Alliance media briefing in Frankfurt.
"This single seat configuration is more or less a must for the next decade."
Hohmeister added that Lufthansa is working on this all-new "business class concept with a major seat manufacturer", with the final design to be locked down by the end of 2018.
Lufthansa wouldn't need to move to a conventional 1-2-1 seating layout, however: several airlines and seat manufacturers are now working on business class cabin designs which pack more passengers into the same floor space while still putting the aisle just one step away.
This includes United Airlines' Polaris business class; the airline-agnostic Zodiac Optima version of the same design (seen above and below); and British Airways' new Airbus A350 Club World seat due in 2019.
As first reported by Australian Business Traveller, Lufthansa's new business class seat will be shared across the fleets of LH-owned Swiss and Austrian Airlines.
Business class goes bespoke
"It's a fantastic project, it's about innovation in not just the seat but everything around it," Hohmeister enthuses.
"It's having more individual possibilities than just having a window or aisle seat. It also has to be around the inflight service, the preflight and after-flight service and all of that, to combine the human touch with the digital touch."
Lufthansa has already shared a mock-up of how a new app will let passengers use their smartphone or tablet to control the seat.
"This seat will be more than 'just' a seat. It will meet the specific needs of customers... whether they prefer to work or sleep, or whether they are traveling with their families or on their own for business."
The fate of first class
Lufthansa is less certain on the role of first class in its Boeing 777-9s, and Hohmeister admits that the need for a first class cabin could be eliminated by a vastly improved business class.
"I think we will get close to that, and this is why we have to review what we do with first class, it's being investigated," he said.
"There are good opportunities with new business class concepts which are nearly as good as first class but more flexible in terms of cabin design (and) when you have a business class that is so close to first class that the differentiation for the customer will not be relevant any more."
"But maybe we will have a better idea than just having first class, we are working on that now," Hohmeister teased.
Hohmeister also added that the Boeing 777-9's premium economy seat would also be an "evolution" of the current design.
David Flynn travelled to Frankfurt as a guest of Star Alliance.
PREVIOUS | Lufthansa will introduce an all-new business class seat with the launch of its Boeing 777-9 in 2020, with the same seat also being rolled out on the Swiss and Austrian Airlines fleets.
The move towards a unified business class design across all three sibling airlines is intended to both lower costs and provide a more consistent passenger experience, especially on codeshare flights.
"We’re starting to design it now" Lufthansa Chairman and CEO Carsten Spohr (below) told Australian Business Traveller at this week's meeting of Star Alliance airlines in Chicago.
"Technically it will be the same seat – but when it comes to seat covers and the design of the cabin, I see an upside in being different and maintaining diversity on our aircraft, because we are not one brand."
Lufthansa has upgraded its fleet to the airline's latest business class...
Austrian Airlines already uses the same basic seat as the current Swiss design, with fully flat beds in a staggered configuration featuring the same popular 'throne' seat.
Lufthansa's next-gen business class will take wing in 2020 on the first of the German flag-carrier's 34 Boeing 777-9 jets, although Spohr said it had not yet been determined if the jet would also feature first class.
David Flynn travelled to Chicago as a guest of Star Alliance
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