It’s an almost never-ending story that has been dragging on since 2017. At that time, Lufthansa published the first images of the new business class for its long-haul jets. The new generation of seats should be introduced with the delivery of the new Boeing 777X. But nothing has changed in terms of equipment for customers since the announcement. The intercontinental fleet is traveling with a product that is considered outdated among business travelers, as discussions in frequent flyer forums show. The Skytrax company also deprived Lufthansa of its fifth star in its airline ranking in 2022.

Airlines from Asia, the USA and the Gulf States offer more protection from those sitting next to them in their class for business and demanding private travelers. Instead of usually placing the chairs in a 2-2-2 arrangement per row like Lufthansa, the competition has established the 1-2-1 seating with more privacy and direct access to the aisle.

At least journalists were already able to admire more than just computer renderings of the future cabin. At the end of February 2023, the press was invited to the “Allegris” launch event in Berlin. The made-up word (“allegro” – fast, bright, friendly) refers to a completely new cabin concept, which means new seating for all four travel classes of long-haul aircraft. The new seating arrangements were available for viewing and testing for the first time at the presentation, as well as full-bodied words: Allegris “takes passengers into a new era of travel. A holistic and individual experience across all classes.” At the same time, it was announced that Allegris would take off in the same year: “The introduction will take place with the Boeing 787-9 in 2023,” it said.

But this appointment was also canceled. As is well known, the first delivery of the Boeing 777X to Lufthansa, which was originally planned for 2020, has still not taken place. The handover is now being discussed at the earliest in 2025. And with the smaller Boeing 787-9, of which the Lufthansa Group has ordered 32 copies and which has been flying in scheduled service with other airlines since 2011, in addition to quality problems during production, there are also delivery problems with the seating.

It is quite common in the aviation industry that different manufacturers are used for seats for individual travel classes. For Allegris, the German companies Recaro supply the lightweight seats in economy class and ZIM those for premium economy. But Lufthansa works with three different manufacturers in business class: Stella in France, Collins Aerospace in the USA and Thompson in Great Britain. Is the Allegris project perhaps too ambitious?

In times of supply chain problems, the “complexity is a particularly challenging approach,” says aviation expert Heinrich Großbongardt, describing the Allegris product in an interview with stern. “The ultra-high degree of individualization also affects the certification, because only one class can be completely certified at a time.”

The delivery of brand-new Boeing 777X and 787 jets, which was postponed several times, put Lufthansa in distress. This was remedied by taking over five Boeing 787-9s equipped for the Chinese Hainan Airlines in 2022. This was the first time an improved business class with a 1-2-1 seating arrangement was used. These twin-engine jets based in Frankfurt, nicknamed the “Hainansa Dreamliner”, have seats from Collins Aerospace in a reverse herringbone layout: the seats are not placed parallel to the aisle, but at a slight angle to the window or the middle of the cabin. At least a step towards a more contemporary business class.

In the same year, four Airbus A350s were leased for the Munich hub, which previously flew for Philippine Airlines and retained their more modern 30 seats in Thompson’s business class, also in the 1-2-1 layout. This began a rejuvenation of the product, but also a confusion for customers: Do I sit in the old Lufthansa Business Class or in the more modern Filipino or Chinese hardware?

Things get even more complicated with the introduction of Allegris. “Customers should be able to choose between twelve seat options in the future,” said Heiko Reitz, Chief Commercial Officer of Lufthansa, to the trade magazine “FVW”, seven different ones in business class alone. These include, among other things, seats with an extra-long lying area of ​​2.20 meters, window seats with more privacy, double seats with a retractable center console for couples as well as single and double suites. However, like the individual “throne” seats at Swiss, surcharges will be charged for these, the prices of which have not yet been determined. Then business class travelers also have to get used to the surcharge policy for economy class like a low-cost airline.

These options create desire for certain seats that must be booked in advance. But the offer is limited. In practice, conflicts are likely to be programmed at the check-in counter and during boarding. This is unthinkable if there is a last-minute aircraft swap and a jet with a different seating configuration is at the gate. Then an availability lottery begins for status customers such as frequent travelers and senators.

Since the conversion phase of a long-haul fleet takes years, Lufthansa offers its wealthy customers a dubious superlative like no other airline, namely ten different business class seats: seven through Allegris, plus the old seats and those in those jets that were originally designed for Hainan and Philippine Airlines were intended.

A flight in the 19 Boeing 747-8 aircraft becomes even more incomprehensible for the customer. The conversion should “take place in several stages”. The Economy, Economy Plus and Business Class seats on the main deck will be swapped first, while the Business Class on the upper deck and the First Class in the bow will have their turn later, “as the narrowing nose represents a special situation,” according to the statement Lufthansa.

Stern also learned at Lufthansa’s request that Premium Economy in this aircraft type will in future be installed directly behind Business Class and not between two segments of Economy Class as was previously the case. However, the semi-converted Boeing 747-8 jets will then be flying with two different business products in one aircraft. This hybrid design is likely to be annoying for customers who are processed with boarding passes for the old business class.

Only later did it seem to have been noticed internally that the new Allegris seats did not fit into the narrower upper deck of the jumbo jet. “It should have been noticeable during product development that the technical framework conditions were also gone through,” wonders expert Großbongardt.

The new luxury class is also a problem, in two respects. The “First Class Suite Plus” is much heavier and has to be completely designed by Lufthansa Technik for installation in the strongly rounded nose of the jumbo jet. Because of the increase in weight, there was even talk in the trade press at the end of October 2023 of installing an additional tank as a balance weight in the rear of the Boeing 747-8. But Lufthansa denied the trim-critical challenges to Stern in April 2024. “A counterweight in the rear is not necessary.”

In times when it is desirable to reduce kerosene consumption for cost and environmental reasons, heavier cabin equipment would be an anachronism. Finnair recently took a different approach with the new Business Class in the Airbus A350: The seat, called the “Air Lounge”, reduces the weight compared to the previous generation thanks to fewer mechanics and electrical components.

This brings us to the second, anything but glorious superlative: Lufthansa operates long-haul flights with eight different aircraft types: Airbus A330-300, A340-300, Airbus A340-600, Airbus A350-900, Airbus A380, Boeing 747-400, Boeing 747-8, Boeing 787-9.

This not only creates opposite synergy effects, but this “diversity” is unparalleled anywhere in the world. In addition, no other airline operates so many jets with four kerosene-thirsty engines.

“Lufthansa flies a retro fleet,” says Heinrich Großbongardt. “From the perspective of CO2 reduction, the four-jet Airbus A340 and Boeing 747-400 are outdated.” Altogether there are 40 machines from these older series. All but three of the other airlines have long since retired the Boeing 747-400 for passenger operations.

The Airbus A340-600 is now only used by companies that are subject to an embargo, such as the Iranian Mahan Air and the Venezuelan Conviasa. With the pandemic, Lufthansa actually said goodbye to its Airbus A380 and A340-600 jets forever. But due to the rapidly increasing demand after the pandemic and the delivery problems at Boeing and engine manufacturers, Lufthansa had to reactivate part of the A380 fleet and ten Airbus A340-600s. 280 new aircraft have long been ordered for fleet modernization, of which more than 100 are long-haul jets with Allegris cabins.

Lufthansa would like to be premium again soon and has now named the destinations that will be served for the first time “in May 2024” with a new Airbus A350 and the Allegris cabin. “With a bit of luck, travelers can then experience the new Economy Class, Premium Economy Class and Business Class on the connections between Munich and Vancouver (LH476/LH477) or Toronto (LH494/LH495),” it says on the homepage.

The curious thing behind the report: Several brand-new Airbus A350s are already parked in Teruel, Spain, because rows of chairs are still missing. The installation of the two single seats and double suite for First Class is still up in the air. There is no certification yet for these A350 suites from the manufacturer Collins Aerospace.

The only thing that is certain is that the Allegris premiere on board the first Airbus A350 jets will start with a product breakdown: “Due to aviation regulations, so-called hand hold seats will initially be installed in the First Class area, as this area cannot remain empty and therefore the crew members can hold on there during the flight,” explains Lufthansa operator Heiko Reitz. “But no one will sit there.” This means that the airline will miss the income from the most expensive tickets on these flights for months.

But what use is the most beautiful new cabin in all classes if the travel chain doesn’t run smoothly? If the flight is delayed again, the connection is lost, there is a strike, the passengers have to wait over an hour for their suitcases at the destination or the flight is canceled because the crew is missing. A lack of personnel in the cockpit has been a vexing issue in recent weeks. Frequent flyers want nothing more from an airline than reliability and stability in their flight schedule.

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