Lufthansa introduces Premium Economy, 20 years after Virgin!

Back in 1992, Virgin Atlantic introduced Mid Class, later renamed Premium Economy for (to quote) “the cost conscious business traveller who for budgetary reasons travelled economy but still required extra space in which to work or relax.”

In reality, Premium Economy and World Traveller Plus (on BA) seem to have become the domain of better off leisure travellers.  It is, apparently, the most profitable part of the aircraft on a square footage basis, adjusting for load factor.

Lufthansa – the airline that still doesn’t have flat beds in business on most of its planes (see a post next week) – is now catching up, 22 years on.

Premium Economy Lufthansa

The new seat, image above, was launched at the Berlin travel show last week.

The formal webpage for the new seat is here.  Lufthansa summarise the benefits as:

  • Double free baggage allowance: two bags per person, each weighing up to 23 kg
  • A welcome drink, a water bottle at every seat and a high-quality amenity kit with many useful accessories providing additional refreshment
  • The high quality meals are presented in menus and are served on china tableware
  • An 11- or 12-inch touch screen monitor, a handset to control the in-flight entertainment and a generous range of magazines provide for even more entertainment
  • More storage space for personal belongings
  • Central console between the seats with sturdy table and power outlet at every seat – well suited for work on board
  • All seats in Premium Economy Class are not more than one seat away from the aisle
  • Access to Lufthansa Business Lounges available (for a fee of EUR 25)

The last of these – lounge access for €25 – is novel.  This is something I feel British Airways and Virgin should be offering in Premium Economy to really differentiate the entire ‘kerb to kerb’ experience.

Lufthansa also fails to mention the other key benefit of Premium Economy, at least on BA.  You have a pretty good chance of being upgraded to Club World on a full flight, and a pretty good chance of being offered a cheap cash or Avios upgrade to Club World on an empty one!

Lufthansa is expecting to charge €600 more for this seat than a standard one.

In the short term, I expect some ‘issues’ as the seat is rolled out.  It will be going into the Boeing 747-400 fleet to start with, but until all are converted there is a chance that either a) you pay for it and the plane does not have it, or b) you don’t pay for it but the plane unexpectedly has it and you get sat there anyway.

(PS.  Fact of the week.  I have never flown Premium Economy with any carrier, ever!)

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  1. Virgin’s PE product is good, esp. for £374 +25k miles rtn to Orlando (Econ miles seat sale + Virgin Amex upgrade reward) and you’re right if they did lounge access for £25 for PE customers it would prove incredibly popular.

    Wonder what UC pax would think of that tho…! 🙂

  2. Agree with Raffles about the upgrades. We had 4 redemption premium economy seats home from Barbados at the end of October half term, by the time we boarded 3 of us were upgraded. My teenaged daughter would have been left in premium economy but I took the seat to prevent hassle. It was front row and fine. My older daughter swapped for some of the journey and naturally it feels rubbish if you move there from Club World.

  3. Sorry for veering OT, pls. ignore if not of interest.

    Choosing the right seat in PE with Virgin offers chance of first pax off the plane, Even before UC, which is handy for those immigration queues, although these have improved at Orlando due to new self service kiosks,
    Discussed here;

  4. Charlie says:

    I have 2 similar experiences with upgrades from PE to Upper on Virgin. One was an automatic upgrade from Hong Kong to London, the other was upgrades for sale at the check in desk in Miami, just 3000 miles, this was last year and on a redemption booking. Unfortunately there were 2 of us and they only had 1 remaining seat so we declined, then changed our mind for my wife to take it only to find it snapped up. Lesson learnt is to always turn up early for PE!

    I have had enough of saving up miles to fly PE as I think with Raffles help Business Class should be attainable!

  5. I too have never flown PE with anyone. Always struck me as a product that offered little for a lot more money. When I have been on board BA or QF the cabins always look cramped and chaotic and impossible to clearly see the differentiation between PE and economy.
    The LH seat look robust and more along the lines of an old style cradle seat. This would be a minimum for me to buy such a product.
    I am also struck by how difficult all airlines make buying split cabin products. A decent PE on a day time JFK might be attractive when combined with a flat bed on the overnight return.

    • It is quite easy buying split cabin itineries online with BA these days, both with cash and avios redemptions as it shows three classes side by side (Y/W/J or W/J/F depending on the requested booking class) when displaying flight options and you mix and match.

      Mixing Y and F is probably still difficult, but relatively unlikely that most people would want that unless scratching around for any redemption availability.

  6. Maximus says:

    Allowing lounge access would be great if i were flying PE BUT in a busy hub, with several long haul flights all with PE cabins, it would not take much to overload the business lounge. I suspect this would prove detrimental to the main benefit of lounge access for business customers- a relaxing, quiet haven away from the throng of the airport.

    A fee of £25/€25 would not cover the cost of drinks, food and a spa treatment in the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class lounge (although it may cover the poorer range of offerings in a BA Terraces lounge though!).

  7. Never flown PE, keep getting CW opup even though I am BA Blue!

    (It helps that I tend to fly when lots of boarding school / university students are travelling to Asia)

  8. Rich. S says:

    Buying a BA “T” class premium economy ticket can be a bargain. The new premium economy on BA is very good , too. It is good to see Lufthansa offering a pe product.
    BA lounges are already too busy to allow entry to Pe customers IMHO, and if there is a charge then why not use a pay lounge at the airport? ( I accept there isn’t one at T5)

  9. Although I’m a BA fan, my experience is that Virgin’s Prem Ec is light-years ahead.

    I’d be happy in a Virgin Prem Ec cabin for flights of almost any duration – it’s a significant step up from the Economy cabin – with much better recline, much better food, and better service, with Biz check-in even without status.

    Although the more modern BA planes might be better, the only real benefit to WTP+ is the possibility of being upgraded, and a bit more leg room. There’s little differentiation from true economy – especially in the inbound second meal from the US, the infamous ‘muffin or nothin'” – just a bit rude when a ticket costs a few hundred quid more each way. Would a packaged sandwich or roll really kill them?

  10. Blacberryaddict says:

    I’m not sure about your comment of PE being the preserve of leisure passengers. I see quite a few leisure passengers in business class as well, and conversely see a lot of business travellers in PE (at least on BA – haven’t flown VS since 1990 something).
    PE is a bit better than Y – believe me – and when travelling on business (where typically we are not allowed business class) it does help surviving the flight. Plus the occasional OpUp to business is welcome.

  11. BA WT+ is my preferred cabin when travelling for business or leasure. That is of course after Club World. Our company policy does allow business class for flights more than 6.5 hours but the departmental policy doesn’t. So, WT+ is a happy compromise because I do occasionally get UUA availability. 90tier points is also a good bonus.

  12. Hingeless says:

    I’ve never flown long haul J on BA, lots of Y and even more F (thanks to raffles)

  13. Gumshoe says:

    Although it’s not advertised, Virgin do sometimes allow pay-as-you-go access to their LHR and LGW Clubhouses, strictly on a space available basis, for about £60 and £45 respectively.

    However anyone who regularly uses those lounges – and BA’s in T5 – will know at peak times they can become very busy, so guaranteeing paid access for PE/WT+ pax would overwhelm them. Virgin’s LHR Clubhouse is about to get busier as it is, with the transfer of several DL routes to T3 at the end of the month.

  14. Col A-B says:

    Interesting point you made about being in WTP & being offered upgrade to Club. I’m booked in WTP to fly YVR-LHR next week & all 3 of us on the same booking were offered the upgrade for £350pp. We took it!
    Now trying to get the Finnair website to work to get my CX Marco Polo gold number into the booking so I can save £80pp to reserve upper deck seats.

  15. I have only ever flown PE twice both comp upgrades ….a long time ago. I think you are better off in a normal economy exit row. Having said that these days I cant cope with economy or premium ecomony.

  16. franknotes says:

    “Premium Economy, at least on BA. You have a pretty good chance of being upgraded to Club World on a full flight, and a pretty good chance of being offered a cheap cash or Avios upgrade to Club World on an empty one!”

    I have a WT+ flight to HRT in July (2 pax). What are the chances of both of us being given an OpUP (I booked the tickets and am BA Silver), and also, how soon before the flight would cheap upgrades – either cash or Avios – come in to play? Thanks.

    • Col A-B says:

      I’m flying Vancouver to Heathrow on Wednesday. Was booked in WTP. Happened to have a quick look in Manage My Booking on Thursday night (local time) and was being offered upgrade to Club for £350pp.
      This was a price I was told via the Business Traveller forum that was in line with usual upgrade price & was good value – so we took it on Friday morning, before the 3 were no longer available.

  17. Could Lufthansa have made the cabin look any more drab? And I don’t think lounge access for WT+ is a good idea unless BA improve the size, it gets busy enough at peak times.

  18. The seat pitch of 38 inches is same as BA, but not as good as some:

    btw, the Lufthansa website says that it will be the 747-8 that will receive it initially.