Lufthansa to decide on premium economy within nine months

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The introduction by Lufthansa of an enhanced business class product on its new Boeing 747-8I may prompt it to offer a premium economy product on its long-haul services, with the airline due to make a decision by early next year.

The German airline received its first of 20 747-8Is on 2 May, and these are the first to feature its new lie-flat business class seat, which will eventually be rolled out across the entire long-haul fleet.

Carsten Spohr, who heads ups Lufthansa's passenger airline division, says the improvements may prompt the airline to offer premium economy seating, which was previously ruled out due to concerns that it could cannibalise its business-class market.

"We deliberately didn't offer this in the past because we had been afraid that we'd lose people from business class into premium economy, rather than the up-sell," he says. "Now, with the lie-flat business class that risk is less, so we're looking at it again."

Spohr adds that for technical reasons such as equipping aircraft, it will need to make a decision on the introduction of the premium economy cabin "in the next nine months".

The product, if launched, would only be offered in aircraft that have the full-flat business class, and this will be introduced on all its long-haul types - including its Airbus A380s - "over the next three years", Spohr says.

Lufthansa recently announced plans to reconfigure 30 of its older long-haul aircraft from a three-class to a two-class layout as part of its cost-saving and efficiency drive. From 2014 the first class cabins will be removed from 13 747-400s and its remaining Airbus A340-300 fleet. The airline will retain first class in 85 of its long-haul aircraft. "We'll [still] be the biggest first class offering in the market," says Spohr.