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Lufthansa's all-new premium economy service is expected to debut in December on selected Boeing 747-8I flights from Frankfurt, with upgraded Airbus A340 and A380 jets to follow across the first half of 2015.
We've already seen the slick PR shots of the premium economy seats, which promise both extra width and extra legroom.
But earlier this year, at the annual Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Australian Business Traveller took the chance to check out the real deal.
The seats were snapped, and sat in, at the stand of German manufacturer ZIM Flugsitz, although the design work was led by Müller/Romca Industrial Design.
We found the seats to be very comfortable, if a little on the firm side.
Lufthansa says its premium economy seats will be up to 1.2 inches (3cm) wider than the airline's standard economy seats, which are among the tightest squeeze of the world's full-service airlines, while seat pitch will be 38 inches (97cm).
The seats have excellent back support, both around the lower back and the sides.
These are crucial areas where premium economy can deliver a substantial difference in the travel experience compared to economy.
The wide and well-cushioned headrest has plenty of lateral play to help travellers find that 'just right' spot...
... with a wide console between the seats providing a bit of elbow room for wide armrest for each passenger.
The fold-out table is better suited to tablets and ultrabooks than full-size laptops, although such beasts are increasingly rare to spot inflight.
The seats on display were those set aside for the first row of Lufthansa's premium economy cabin, as they sported a padded legrest which swings up from the front of the seat.
That legrest is available only in the first row of premium economy – all other passengers have to make do with a simple metal footrest which swings down from the seat in front of them.
The seatback screens – which will be 11 inches or 12 inches, depending on the aircraft – pivot to suit a greater range of viewing angles and include a USB port.
Below these is a space set aside for the safety card and other literature, along with a small nook for holding two water bottles.
Not seen in this version of the seats are the AC power sockets available for each passenger.
Lufthansa's premium economy seats will follow a 2-3-2 or 2-4-2 layout, depending on the aircraft in which they'll be installed. compared to the tighter 3-4-3 of the main economy section.
Priming the premium economy pump
The German juggernaut has long resisted adding premium economy into its three-class mix, sharing the same concerns of major airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines that this 'in-between' category would dilute the profitable bookings made for business class.
But many other airlines – including Qantas, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic – have found premium economy to be an appealing upgrade from economy as well as a useful product for attracting cash-constrained business travellers in the post-GFC world.
Having finally bitten the premium economy bullet, Lufthansa exec Karl Ulrich Garnadt is framing this as part of the "biggest product upgrade in Lufthansa's history."
"We are launching a new travel class for the first time in 35 years" Garnadt says, adding that "booking levels to date have significantly exceeded our expectations."
"As well as cost-conscious business travellers, we're also attracting the rapidly growing target group of leisure travellers who don't want to skimp on on-board comforts during their holidays."
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