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Here’s Lufthansa’s new premium economy seat, with a fixed-shell design

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Lufthansa’s business class seating might be in disarray but it is making in-roads on updating its premium economy offering.

Lufthansa’s first Boeing 747-8 aircraft are coming up on ten years old and will launch the airline’s new premium economy seat, originally due on the delayed Boeing 777X.

Lufthansa has selected the same seat as its stablemate SWISS, which announced it was retrofitting the ZIMprivacy fixed-shell as its new premium economy seat last summer. Whilst the seat finishes and branding will be different it does seem as if Lufthansa Group is starting to align its sub-brands more closely.

Lufthansa's new premium economy seat

What’s special about a fixed-shell seat?

A fixed-shell seat means that the person behind you will not be impacted when you recline. The seat itself is separate from a fixed husk, much like modern business class seats.

Fixed-shell seats are widely seen as more of fusion between traditional premium economy and business class. Last year, there were rumours that Emirates had selected Haeco’s fixed-shell seats for its new premium economy cabin, although those rumours turned out to be false and Emirates went down a more conventional path.

Lufthansa's new premium economy seat
Haeco’s premium economy seat

Prior to that, Air New Zealand had some truly radical fixed-shell seats that were close to business class than economy. Sadly, it couldn’t make the business case work out and eventually ripped them out:

Lufthansa's new premium economy seat
Believe it or not, this was Air New Zealand’s revolutionary premium economy seat

The key benefit of fixed-shell seats is that your personal space is not impacted when the person in front of you reclines.

Lufthansa’s new premium economy: the specs

Lufthansa’s new premium economy seat will give passengers slightly more privacy than traditional seats, with winged headrests and closed gaps between seats:

Lufthansa's new premium economy seat

The seats will be rolled out to the 19-strong 747-8 fleet initially, although it will also be fitted to new deliveries of A350 and Boeing 787-9s. It will presumably also be on the Boeing 777X fleet, whenever those start arriving.

The seat also has what Lufthansa is calling an ‘extra large IFE screen.’ Assuming this is the same as the SWISS seat it measures 15.6″ diagonally – significantly larger than the 12″ on BA’s A350s.

Legroom is 39″ – again marginally better than competing premium economy products. The maximum recline is 31 degrees and includes a leg rest.

Here is a picture of the new seat in the colour of SWISS, which is also installing it on selected aircraft:

Lufthansa's new premium economy seat


Lufthansa joins a growing group of airlines – including its sister carrier SWISS – choosing to upgrade the premium economy experience with fixed-shell seats.

The seatback IFE screens are a particular draw – the expansive size is not far off what you find in many business class screens. Hopefully Lufthansa also stocks suitably high resolution HD content, which isn’t always a given.

It’s not clear when the first refurbished 747-8 will be flying but I imagine it will be some time this year.

PS. You may not know much about the Boeing 747-8, since virtually no airlines globally bought it for passenger use, and only Lufthansa in Europe. I wrote about the Boeing 747-8’s history here.

Comments (34)

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  • Ian says:

    Does anyone know the width of these seats from armrest to armrest? This information is rarely provided but is really helpful for larger passengers.

    • Rhys says:

      18-19 inches, although I’m not sure there is an industry standard way of measuring either with/without arm rests etc.

  • Phillip says:

    I seem to recall that when Cathay tried fixed shell seating they got very bad feedback and got rid of them.

  • Lou says:

    I’m guessing the biggest drawback from the shell seats is less space. Eg if you recline, you have less leg room.

    Whilst having someone’s seat back closer to your face is less than desirable, if I’m sleeping I don’t care

    • Rhys says:

      Both are compromises – I don’t think one necessarily wins above the other.

  • BJ says:

    The key point is lost here; the apparent recline is achieved largely by the seat base sliding forward as opposed to the back of the seat going down. Thus, the nature of the recline is and feels different to that of the more conventional seats. This is what many do not like about them. AF has recently gone the opposite way, dropping, these fixed shell seats in favour of more conventional. At a guess I would say most find fixed shell seats better for daytime or shorter flights while preferring the more conventional seats for longer or overnight flights.

    • Nick says:

      Always suspicious when every statistic is compared to its competitors in an article apart from one (the angle of seat recline in this case).

      • Rhys says:

        I included the angle of the recline!

        …only because I found the specs for the SWISS seat since the Lufthansa press release had virtually no information in it whatsoever 🙂

        • Nick says:

          Yes, we know it was included. The point was that this is the only statistic in the article that isn’t compared to its competitors.

          • Rhys says:

            Not intentionally!

          • BJ says:

            The angle of reclinebon a hard shell seat does not compare well to that of a conventional seat anyway. Difficult to put into words but if you try both with similar angles of recline then the difference is readily noted.

    • Thegasman says:

      Agree 100%, these are awful for trying to sleep. Feels like your hips are forced into a flexed rather than extended position.

    • yonasl says:

      I have been avoiding AF premium because of HfP and other reviewers marked them as awful. Are there new seats now that look more like those from BA?

  • Qrfan says:

    I think Cathay has these seats in their regional business class flights on Cathay dragon? If the same or similar then that’s quite a good option for a day time flight and enough to tempt me to save money vs business for a short transatlantic flight going West.

  • tony says:

    Incase anyone else makes the same mistake as me, sees that Swiss photo and thinks “blimey, that’s a massive Y+ cabin”, it’s because they don’t have a divider between Y+ and Y. It’s just a few rows of premium.

    • AJA says:

      I guess the best economy seats are in the row immediately behind these PE seats as you presumably get the larger IFE screen and the PE passenger doesn’t recline into your space.

      • riku says:

        The first row of economy will have screens that flip out of their armrests. On a 777 the seat config is 2-4-2 in premium economy and 3-4-3 in economy.

  • T says:

    Fixed seats are awful. Had that in economy one time (Cathay 747?) the bottom of the seat slides forward and the recline is super uncomfortable

  • dougzz99 says:

    I find the real ‘feels like’ space can never be determined by simple seat width measurements. There are so many more factors, and unless an airline fits less seats across, the real space never varies very much on the same airframe. Economy on a 787, no thanks. One of the nice things of a window seat was the ability to lean into the curve of the fuselage and have that but more shoulder space, once they packed in the extra seats across the window ones ended so against the fuselage the curve impacted you negatively.
    It will be interesting to try these, hard to judge value of recline until you’ve sat in one for a few hours.
    From being a regular in PE I’ve grown to dislike the compromise, business if can afford, else just suck it up in economy, PE seldom worth the additional cost.

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