Lufthansa’s Grim First Class Prospects

Lufthansa has been refreshing their longhaul fleet over the past several years in an effort to become more competitive and improve their profitability. This included installing a new (mediocre) business class product, new first class product, and adding premium economy. Last year Lufthansa finished their first & business class overhaul, though they’re still installing premium economy on some planes.

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Lufthansa’s new business class

On top of that, for the past several years Lufthansa has been cutting their first class capacity. This started in 2013, when Lufthansa announced that they wanted to remove first class from ~20% of their longhaul fleet. Those cuts were supposed to come from their A340-300 and 747-400 aircraft. All A340-300s would be reconfigured without first class, while select 747-400s would have their first class cabins removed when the new business class product was installed.

Unfortunately that was just the beginning. In 2014 it was announced that Lufthansa would eliminate first class from all of their 747-400 aircraft, which was quite sad, since the plane had a unique first class product, with a separate seat and bed.

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Lufthansa 747-400 first class

Unfortunately the trend has continued. Lufthansa is also in the process of removing first class from all their A330 aircraft based at Munich Airport, and their newly delivered A350s (which will be based in Munich) won’t feature a first class cabin either.

Lufthansa-First-Class-A330
Lufthansa A330 first class

The next major longhaul aircraft that Lufthansa will take delivery of is the 777X, which will be the largest twin engine plane in the world. Lufthansa is actually the launch customer for the plane. Lufthansa has 34 of these planes on order, and they should take delivery of them between 2020 and 2025.

Lufthansa-777X

From a passenger standpoint, the exciting thing about these planes is that they’ll finally feature a new business class product, as I first reported a bit over a year ago. However, unfortunately that’s where the good news ends as far as premium cabins go. As reported by @e_russell from Flightglobal, Lufthansa’s 777X planes won’t feature a first class cabin.

Lufthansa-First-Class-Cut

On one hand this is surprising, given what a big plane this will be. At the same time, I guess it isn’t. Long term the 777X will be a replacement for the 747-400, and Lufthansa eliminated first class from those planes. So I guess it’s no surprise that they’re taking a similar approach to configuring the replacement plane.

Bottom line

While I don’t think Lufthansa will completely eliminate first class, it’s clear that they’re being very selective with the planes that will have the cabin. As it stands, only the A380s, 747-8s, select A330s, and select A340s still feature a first class cabin.

I figured there was a 50/50 shot of Lufthansa installing first class on the 777X, so I guess I’m not too surprised by their decision.

Now we just have to wait and see what Lufthansa’s new business class product is like, as the product introduced on the 777X will eventually be available on Austrian and Swiss as well.

Are you surprised to see Lufthansa not install first class on the 777X?

Comments

  1. I heard that Lufthansa group would be installing a new business class product in 2020 for the whole group, I wonder if it will be competitive or similar to the current one

  2. That means that in a couple of years LH will not have such a plane based in Munich that has first class product onboard. Will they close then the first class lounges?! Or I’m missing something…

  3. F product needs to be revenue generating like J one. Anytime there is a down cycle or spike in fuel costs it becomes the subject of cost cutting. Unless you’re a gulf carrier with deep subsidies, the end game in F is a perk more so than actual demand driven product.

  4. There are very few routes today that will support First Class and with added competition from the First Class products of the M3 it is no surprise LH has been joining the club of airlines cutting back on what’s increasingly becoming an award cabin and no longer paying its way. Even among the M3 First Class is a limited offering on select routes and winnowed down to A380 aircraft for the most part. EK is in some ways hobbled by having so many A380s that go out with less than profitable loads in Shower Class, and given cost/revenue pressures brought about by expansion of fleet and routes, will likely reconfigure some of its A380s to remove F.

    I’ve gotten my share of LH PJs and sweaters, ducks, and mini-Rimowa kits, so won’t miss LH F other than not likely having any other way of getting into the FCT at FRA and continuing to work my way through its superb whiskey selection!

  5. @Janos there are still many a340-600s still operating out of Munich and these don’t have plans to be reconfigured without first class so there’s nothing to worry about just yet in terms of Munich first class lounges. However, considering that these a340s are gas-guzzling machines I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw Lufthansa fazing them out over the next ~10 or so years

  6. @ Janos — Those are really “HON Circle” lounges, for their top tier elites. So I don’t think they’ll close the lounges, since a majority of the passengers using them are already HON Circle members.

  7. Lucky, I just want to say that ever since I started following this blog (around 2 years ago) it has been the highlight of my day and I check at least twice a day for aviation and hotel news and I have followed all of your trips to places like Oman, Indonesia, Fiji, johannesburg and most recently- Brunei. So I just want to say thanks for the last 2 years and here’s to another 2 years of checking your blog daily !!!!

  8. @Ben: thank you, this explanation makes sense. True, HONs are using this lounge, too.

    @Bruce: As far as I know all 340-600s will be phased out; A350s to replace them. First plane was already flown to the US for storage a week ago.

  9. There are two theories around: On I like to call “up and out”, which means that Business is always getting better – but fewer customers (i.e. businesses) allow it. Premium Eco is becoming the new class for people flying on behalf of their employer. The other is that differentiation (that’s what I call it) is allowing for more than the traditional three levels, but four or pissibly five.

    Looking at LH’s strong PE product, as well as phasing out First, they seem to believe in “up and out”. The only part of the story cannot explain is their very poor Business product, which is only marginally above PE and really at the very bottom of the leage … If this should become the new top notch product they need to improve it dramatically.

  10. Debit, a good number of passengers still love a 4-engine plane, and particularly a 747. If there is a choice I will fly a 747, or a A380, and pay more for it. And that was before SullyGate.

  11. Lucky, you lament the passing of First Class, but as Business Class on some airlines exceeds what F was even a decade ago, does it really matter?

    The last time I was at the BA Concorde lounge at London, I’d characterise the folks there as:

    1) Quasi-royalty, i.e. entire families from Africa and the ME

    2) Rock stars and celebrities – a Rolling Stone was there

    3) Folks like me on upgrades and miles

    First is becoming politically incorrect as well as unprofitable, as much as I like it.

  12. I love the B747-8. The small, upstairs business class cabin is great, much nicer than the dormitory-style business class on a A380!
    And I do agree that LH will cut First more and more – it’s not “politically correct” in Germany. People remove the model numbers from their cars, so people don’t see they bought the biggest one. So, few will admit to paying for First Class and few companies allow it.
    Business Class offers so much of what First Class does – a flat bed, good food & wine, friendly service, the distinction is more a matter of status than tangible benefits and that reduces the demand for it…

  13. The have nots continue to get their panties in a bunch when they see others endulging in something they could only dream of.

  14. Jacinda, I think it’s a reference to the fact that there is something of a public backlash against conspicuous consumption, excessive wealth and inequality, tax avoidance by the rich and the somewhat pejorative term “the one percent”.

    So in some circles it can appear unseemly to be ostentatious to fly in First. Call it the “politics of envy” if you wish, but it’s not always viewed positively to want to be cut off from the hoi polloi.

  15. If the hoi polloi are starting to call flying First Class politically incorrect, no wonder “the one percent” wants to be cut off from them. Sheesh!

  16. Jacinda, if your sole motive for flying First is to avoid humanity then perhaps you should question your values. Do you really have that low an opinion of other people?

    The richest guy I know flies Economy because, in his words, “you meet more interesting people there”.

  17. Actually, my second comment was a response to yours, hence the “if” part.

    But keep making assumptions about me, my motives, and those of people flying first class.

  18. Jacinda,

    I’m not making any assumptions about you. You asked why some people are critical of those who travel first class and I explained some reasons why. (There’s also the high environmental cost which I didn’t mention, so will now).

  19. “if your sole motive for flying First is to avoid humanity then perhaps you should question your values. Do you really have that low an opinion of other people?”

    If that isn’t making assumptions and/or being judgemental, I don’t know what is. That would be like me saying the people complaining about others flying first class have some sort of combination of envy and self-projecting feelings of inadequacy onto themselves.

  20. You asked a question about why other people may resent or criticize those of us who travel first class and so I answered your question. I’ve almost definitely flown First more than you, and don’t feel any guilt about it, but even I can see why some may feel negatively about it. That’s my last word on the topic since your question has been fully answered

  21. Yes, and just because you said something, that doesn’t make it true. I have yet to see or experience any of this so-called backlash to people flying in First Class. And calling it politically incorrect to begin with is an insult to things which are actually politically incorrect.

    “I’ve almost definitely flown First more than you”

    And you keep judging me, even though you say you aren’t…

  22. Aaron, if he had made a point, I might agree with it as well. But all he did was ask a question, presumably because he did not know the answer. I do, and so answered.

    I’m not saying that I share that view. After all, I fly First as much as I can. Who wouldn’t? But that doesn’t mean that I am oblivious to how some might perceive it negatively.

    Those with privilege should be sensitive to perception.

  23. I believe in what DavidB states, that F has become more of a perk than a paying customer for most airlines. I think a great business class product on international routes are great because you can get more to buy into it. F has become a product that only a person who flies most of the year and then use points to be there instead of paying. As a airlines person, no money is not being generated. So what is the use of having it, especially if it is half empty.

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