Revealed: Lufthansa’s New Premium Economy Seat

Filed Under: Lufthansa

Next year Lufthansa will take delivery of their first Boeing 777-9, of which they have 20 on order. These planes are exciting because they’ll be the first to feature Lufthansa’s all new business class, offering direct aisle access from every seat (though Lufthansa will also charge for at least some seat assignments).

Lufthansa’s new 777-9 business class

Apparently that’s not the only thing that is changing with the plane, though. Lufthansa plans to roll out a second generation premium economy seat on their Boeing 777-9.

During Lufthansa Group’s Capital Markets Day presentation the airline revealed what their new premium economy seat will look like.

Lufthansa’s new 777-9 premium economy seat

As you can see, it looks like Lufthansa will be going with a “shell” seat for their new premium economy. The benefit of this is that there won’t be anyone reclining into you, though otherwise I don’t find shell seats to be as comfortable, so I’m not sure that’s actually great news.

Lufthansa’s first generation premium economy seats debuted in 2015, so they’re not waiting very long to change up these seats.

Lufthansa’s current premium economy seat

This new premium economy seat will initially be installed on the following planes:

  • Lufthansa’s 777-9s as of the third quarter of 2020
  • Swiss’ Boeing 777-300ERs as of the first quarter of 2021
  • Swiss’ A340-300s as of second quarter of 2021

It’s interesting that the Swiss A340-300s will be getting these cabins. These planes just had their entire cabins refreshed, and I imagine Swiss will retire them eventually. Currently they don’t have premium economy, so I’m surprised they didn’t do it all at once.

The presentation also has some interesting data about premium economy. Apparently premium economy is Lufthansa’s most “productive” cabin, defined as revenue per square meter. It’s 6% more productive than business class and 33% more productive than economy. That’s surprising to me.

Bottom line

I’m sure we’ll learn more about these seats soon, though these seats don’t look terribly comfortable to me. Personally I don’t love these kinds of shell seats, though I’m sure others feel differently.

It’s also interesting that Swiss planes will get these cabins in the next couple of years.

What are your first impressions of Lufthansa’s new premium economy? Are you surprised premium economy is the most “productive” cabin?

  1. In that picture, it looks like there is a row of Y seats behind those W seats, and they’re the same width.

    Does this mean their new W seat is no wider than Y? It’s just nicer and with more legroom?

  2. Shell seats would be unfortunate. I really like current LH premium economy seats, and definitely don’t like AF shell-type premium economy seats.

    Not too surprised by this cabin being the most productive. In some companies business trips must be booked in economy class, and premium economy is still economy even if it is much more expensive.

  3. So if it’s the most productive cabin class for Lufthansa, effectively it’s the worst value cabin for customers?

  4. In general, premium economy is more productive because each seat takes only a little more space than regular Y but apparently people are willing to pay a lot more. The problem with J is that the seats take a lot of space.

  5. I used to fly a fair bit of LH`s premium economy and I have to say it´s a very decent way to travel. The seats are wide, comfy, with a good upholstery and recline especially well. These new seats however, at least what I can spot from the picture, look like slimline seats from the side and we all know shelled seats are rather awful. I feel it´s not a good sign at all if an airline fails to get the basics straight. LH has less and less going for them.

  6. I like this new seat very much and this should be the industry standard: You recline at your own cost – NOT MINE!

  7. @Adam
    That’s what I was thinking.

    And does this mean the first row of Economy gets that big screen?

  8. @EV
    This is the correct answer. The only answer. Especially in PE where you pay more so that someone can recline an additional 3 inches into your face.

  9. That seat looks as hard as concrete. Someone needs to fly this seat and report back – can’t possibly be as bad as it looks…..

  10. @EV @Phoenix

    Do you like sitting with the seat back all the way up for an 11-hour red-eye flight? For me the extra cost of PE is justified by the comfortable recline, and shell-type PE seats are worse than regular economy when it comes to comfort in reclined position – all you can do in those seats is slouch.

    Current LH PE seats recline a lot, and that’s a good thing. They also have a lot of leg room and the tray tables are in your own armrest, so that even with the seat in front of you fully reclined you can still use a laptop or have a meal, so I really don’t see what the problem is.

    Unless for some reason you must push the tray table all the way out, in which case there might be some interference with the fully reclined seat in front of you.

    The way I see it, “your” space on a plane is defined by the seat design. If it can recline, then “your” space extends as far back as it goes. Just be reasonable about it, don’t recline during meal times, and when you do, look behind first and lower the seat back slowly instead of slamming it down.

  11. @SBS: “For me the extra cost of PE is justified by the comfortable recline…”
    Your comfort – my cost.

    “shell-type PE seats are worse than regular economy when it comes to comfort in reclined position…”
    For you – not for me.

    “Just be reasonable about it, don’t recline during meal times…”
    Unfortunately many of PE Flyer does not behave reasonably and the only way to force them to behave reasonably is a fixed shell a la Air France, Aeroflot & China Airlines. Sadly I don’t fly Skyteam that often. But I’m happy this will be introduced in LH Group. I wish BA and AA will follow someday.

  12. I’m 6 feet tall and I’m not at a hight that is not freakish. Traveling long distance on a fixed shell seat is an absolute nightmare. Cathay Pacific used to have those on a route I had to take and I was in pain for 14 hours as the recline just put all the pressure on your lower back. I complained all the way up to.the CEO level. Apparently enough people complained that Cathy removed those awful seats a fee years later.
    I paid for a seat in coach that reclines and I know about how it’s designed in advance. To the pro shell people u know which airline have those seats. Fly them, the great majority of the rest of us will avoid like it’s a case of herpes…

  13. @SBS
    You’re describing a seat that does not decline or move at all, which is not what this new product is, and is not what either EV or myself are supporting.

    Shell type seats provide angle to the back by sliding the bottom forward, so you get to choose – recline or knee space? All of this happens within your own space which you purchased.

    This idea of ‘being reasonable about it’ is completely absent among basically every flyer today who, at best, may only recline gently into your face for the next 11 hours. The lack of any decency or respect for others’ space while on a tube in the sky is exactly why this shell type seat is needed – your choice impacts you and you alone.

  14. experience with premium economy on long haul flights is with British Airways and Air France.
    The BA seat (particularly bulkhead row) are really comfortable on a 6-7 hour flight. They recline nicely and have good leg room.

    The service in this BA premium economy cabin is very good. Friendly and accommodating flight crews and generous and tasty food. On the routes I fly (USA to Middle East) BA has the best product. I do prefer the PE cabins in the 777 and 747 aircraft. I have not flown the BA 380. I do NOT like the PE cabin on the 787 (not as comfortable as the 777 and 747) and would not recommend.

    The Air France premium economy seats are shell seat. While there is good leg room the seats are quite hard and slide forward with now recline. I used to double fold the blanket provide and place on the seat to provide some cushioning. Then I purchased an inflatable seat cushion to go on the seat to obtain more padding the comfort. I would not recommend flying Air France premium economy without have an inflatable cushion.

    The Service in Air France premium is quite good better wine and liquor than BA but surprisingly the food to my taste is not a good as BA.

  15. May I ask why people hate the shell seats so much? On a recent AF flight I was able to sit on one for 5-10 minutes when taking a walk.(I was seated in J and there was a W seat open) I did not find them all that uncomfortable, and a lot roomier than CX W seats. And having no one recline in you was a great plus as well.

  16. shell seats are awful on both alitalia and air france. this is disappointing. I recently flew premium economy in Swiss and found it to be very comfortable thanks to the recline. I am 193 cm so I am the target market for these seats.

  17. +1 fan of shell seats. As a regular commuter between BOS and BKK, there is nothing worse than having the seat in front of you relined into your face for 18 hours, which has happened to me way too many times.

    Air France PE is currently my flight of choice for the commute. The padding on the seats is a bit sparse, although seemed to be improved slightly on the latest trip, but otherwise the seats are roomy and comfortable, and the private space which can not be intruded on is priceless. Sevice is pretty decent too.

    But these Lufthansa seats look promising and I’m pleased that they’ll find their way into Swiss planes too.

  18. Revenue per square is an odd metric – skewed by the small size of the cabin (easier to sell out – less discounting)

  19. I used to fly CX’s shell seats in Y and they were not good. The back support is worse in that design. (I’m not tall, so legroom wasn’t as big of a deal but still suboptimal.)

    Yes you won’t have someone reclining into you, but it comes at the expense of your own comfort as well.

  20. Maybe Premium Economy have better “revenue per square meter” because it takes up the least amount of space on the plane. They usually had just like 3-5 rows of it?

    So when the plane is flying quite empty it would hurt less, thus help bumping up the “revenue per square meter” ratio relative to business and economy?

    And I guess it is always easier to fill up the rather small premium economy cabin.

  21. It looks like the tray table now will be incorporated into the seat in front of you.

    If anything, that first row in economy could be a good deal. Big TV screen and not having someone recline into your space.

  22. LH frequently bumps passengers up from coach to PE making the cabin almost always full. I wonder how they count revenue in these situations.

  23. I’m guessing that cabins that are more productive than J depend on overoptimistic assumptions regarding load factors given their intended pricing for PY.

    For example, I wouldn’t be surprised if SQ’s PY product would also in theory be more productive than their J product. Except that SQ really struggles to sell seats in PY, precisely because they’ve currently chosen a price point that’s way too high for the product they have on offer.

  24. I dont know, they look really uncomfortable.

    I do fly in PE for long haul. I noticed that not all PE are the same.

  25. I’m still irritated why there is one row of Y seats displayed in the rendering. Just for comparison? Or would LH no longer offer a separate premium economy cabin on its 777-9s following those mixed cabin concepts of China Eastern’s First Class row on its B787 and Malaysia Airlines’ Business Suite Class?

  26. I fly PE as night flights from Europe to Asia and back. I love the recline of Lufthansa and EVA. That’s the only reason I fly PE. The larger legroom is only secondary. By the way, I don’t take away the place of my back man, because he can lean back and has his same big place again. During day flights I can imagine a few conflicts but during night flights the Recline is the most important thing for me.

  27. Comfort is to be seen, hard to judge based on the picture. What I do suspect is that they will use this to make the seats narrower and maybe also reduce seat pitch. The rendering suggests that the seats are hardly wider than the regular economy seats behind, and the tray is attached to the seat in front. I wonder how many seats per row they will put in on the different planes.

  28. @Jesse T McCann
    SWISS doesn’t have PE yet, so you would have flown regular economy. Probably the A330 or A340.

  29. Like others here, I’m not all that surprised that Premium Economy performs well for LH. As business seats get bigger and more elaborate, they do take up a fair bit of space, whereas the W seat takes only a bit more real estate than a Y seat, all the while getting €200-300 more revenue.

    I really like LH’s premium economy – it delivers just the right amount of improvement to make a flight comfortable. Sure, a business seat/bed would be nice, but it’s hard to justify that expense when paying out of pocket.

  30. Here’s the bad news — there will be even more pressure to discourage the “economy class” passenger and make the ride as unpleasant as possible.

    Although my favorite sleazy trick is charging us big bucks to place our luggage in the “luggage hold” and encourage clowns to put their belongings into a tiny bag that is placed overhead in the “coat rack”.

    Next all the airline execs will have us standing, holding one hand on a strap, and the other holding our tiny luggage the whole trip.

    Hey, we wimpishly take it and don’t protest so it will keep getting worse.

  31. NOOOOO! If this is anything like the Air France PE, it is the worst product anyone has ever thought of for long haul flights. It’s fine for sitting during wakeful hours. THE WORST, MOST UNCOMFORTABLE seat for “reclining” for sleep you can possibly imagine. I’d love to hear what an ergonomic expert has to say about these slump down contraptions. But they look good and that’s what matters to the marketing folks and bean counters.

  32. I don’t understand why one needs a shell in order to have a reclining seat that does not go into the space of the person sitting behind.

    The mechanics of the seat sliding forward while the seatback tilts back is not dependent on a shell.

    The shell takes up space. In this game, inches mean a lot.

    On a side note, add me to the Air France PE is agony camp.

  33. The seats are miserable in the Air France PE product. I’d rather fly in Y.

    and for all the people complaining about reclining seats, if you hate it that much, fly a different product, buy your own jet, or shut up.

  34. Flew Virgin Atlantic in PE 3x last year (including 11+ hrs overnight/red eyes for 2 of the 3 flights, plus 3rd aboard 8pm LHR-JFK) in its “conventional” recliner seat.

    Also flew Virgin Atlantic JFK-LHR aboard 2-4-2 eight abreast Airbus A340 for overnight/red eye in 34” pitch extra legroom row seat.

    Then flew China Airlines JFK-Taipei-JFK six months ago in PE aboard its densified Boeing 777-300ER, which have shell seats.

    My partner flew Aeroflot Moscow-JFK in PE aboard its densified Boeing 777-300ER, which have shell seats in Oct 2017.

    It’s NOT even close which seats we found more comfortable:

    Virgin Atlantic’s PE seats far and away were more comfortable.

    In fact, we liked China Airlines service a lot – but we’d probably like it even more but for the shell seats, which overall, were LESS comfortable than the window-aisle pair aboard Virgin Atlantic’s A340 in the 34” pitch extra legroom seats.

    And while we’d happily take China Airlines again in PE because we liked everything else a lot, and because most of our other flights are on Delta (or SkyTeam member airlines), the PE conventional recliner seats aboard China Airlines’ hometown rival, EVA Air, sure do look so much more attractive for those 16 hrs slogs!

    Too bad United is no longer our “preferred airline” – because the combination of SkyPesos and China Airlines’ service likely tips the scale in favor of it in the future even if its shell seats are decidedly inferior to EVA’s conventional recliners in PE.

    But, I definitely understand why some airlines believe it better to install shell seats – why those in favor of shell seats because they don’t invade their space are as passionate about protecting the space they also pay more to have, as for sure, at 38” pitch, unless one is in the bulkhead row, as we were for our Virgin Atlantic flights (my partner had Polio and has reduced mobility typical of that disease; btw he found its ottoman/footstool practically life-changing when flying as those flights did NOT result in any post arrival pain flare-ups that can take a while to abate sometimes) so we didn’t have to worry about our space being invaded for those flights.

    But, for sure, I made it a point to look at the rows behind us, and when fully reclined, PE seats at 38” pitch go back so far, that anyone seated in the window or middle seats, will have a difficult time getting up and out when they needed to use the loo or to stretch their legs as one should do for any flights longer than 3 or so hours.

    And that’s the problem: 38” pitch simply is too little separation between rows to offer enough recline for sleeping and a footrest without almost being in the face of the person in the row behind.

    And haters of the recliners are right to resent that they’re paying extra to also have additional space, and then seeing it taken away from them when the person ahead of them pushes the recline button!

    So, as always, I’d place the blame square on the shoulders of the airlines, and their senior most executives who never, ever use the crappy/substandard products they sell (which of course makes clear through their actions that they KNOW how crappy it is since if they don’t bother using it, then they’re showing by their precious, better than the rest of us, derrières, that it’s not good enough for them to use as we do), whom have now been so successful at degrading economy cabins in recent years, that even if the shell seats suck bigly (and they sure do compared to conventional recliners), that the alternative for those poor unfortunate souls whose bank accounts don’t allow for all aisle access, living rooms/castles in the sky (aka private suites) but can step up to PE to escape the intentionally created miseries of misery class (for example, much narrower seats packed into 31” pitch, no legroom rows aboard Boeing’s hideous 9-abreast 787 & 10-abreast 777 densified beasts), is even worse – so the suckers, when facing a choice between 17” wide seats packed 10-abreast in 31” pitch no legroom rows on a densified 777, or an horrible and uncomfortable, but wider and 38” pitch shell seat in PE, will hold their noses and still pay for the vastly inferior to a recliner seat instead of the even worse ones in economy.

    Of course, if the corrupt jerks were required to fly in the horrible seats they sell, things would likely change for the better for the rest of us real fast.

    But, they aren’t required to fly the crappy seats they profit so handsomely from – so it’s a “win-win” for them!

    Never ever flying the crap they sell, while also fattening the value of their stock options.

    Meanwhile, for most others, it’s strictly a “lose-lose” proposition with dreadful shell seats in PE – or much worse in economy.

    Based on what was observed on those three Virgin Atlantic flights, it probably requires at least 40” pitch to make its recliners work for those NOT seated in bulkhead rows.

    And well, if Lufthansa did that, then they wouldn’t be able to rip-off PE passengers nearly as efficiently as 33% higher revenue per square meter in economy class or (amazingly!) 6% more than the pointy end of the plane as they’re doing now.

    So, instead of the comfier space invading recliners for its future PE cabins at 38” pitch, they’re opting for the decidedly less pleasant and inferior shell seats instead of bumping pitch up to 40” (or slightly more).


  35. Current LH PE is fine when sit in the last row. Otherwise people behind you will constantly drag on your seat when someone needs to stand up and the touch display in your seat behind you is so incredibly annoying

  36. Alright but I wish they could make Premium Economy seats that weren’t just better economy seats/have a different fundamental design…

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