Lufthansa has unveiled a new passenger seat and inflight service concept, which are to be rolled out across its short and medium-haul fleet over the next 12 months.
The German flag carrier aims to "square the circle" in reducing the seat pitch to install more seats and create additional capacity while, at the same time, improving passenger comfort. More space in the knee area, dubbed "living space", was partly created by moving up the literature pocket from the lower end of the back rest to a position above the tray table.
The other main change is that the manufacturer Recaro replaced almost all seat padding foam with an elastic, polyester-based netting material underneath the leather cover. Foam is merely used to pad and slightly raise the edges of the sitting area and back rest along the aluminium structure. This has led to a much slimmer back rest and apparently more seat comfort.
Lufthansa claims that the elastic diaphragm not only accommodates the individual body shape of passengers better - the seat ergonomics have been developed in cooperation with the Technical University Munich - but also it does not wear out like conventional foam. Stress tests suggest that the mesh should retain its tension throughout the seat's entire lifecycle of six to seven years.
While the average seat pitch has been reduced from 32in to 30in, passengers will gain 1.6in (4cm) more legroom at knee level as a net effect of the BL3520 seat. This allows the installation of up to two additional seat rows per aircraft. For example, an Airbus A320 will be able to accommodate 168 passengers instead of the current 150. The airline's total capacity is to grow by more than 2,000 seats or around 8%, equivalent to 12 additional A320s.
Lufthansa has ordered 32,000 seats for installation on 181 A319, A320, A321 and Boeing 737-300/500 aircraft by the end of 2011; eight new A320-family aircraft are to be delivered with the future interior in 2012. The retrofit programme will cost approximately €170 million ($225 million), including other upgrades such as LED lighting, cosmetic cabin changes and new, more voluminous overhead bins for the 737s.
A further 6,000 seats have been ordered for Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Swiss International Air Lines subsidiaries. Whether BMI will also install the BL3520 seat has not yet been decided, says Lufthansa.