Lufthansa Cuts First Class Seats, Ousts Air-Miles Hunters

According to Bloomberg,

Lufthansa Aircraft (Bloomberg)

Lufthansa Aircraft (Bloomberg)

Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) said sales of first-class tickets have risen more than 10 percent following a revamp of its premium cabins and efforts to fill seats with paying customers rather than passengers burning air miles.

The trimming of first-class routes to focus on the strongest markets, coupled with cheaper but less flexible fares aimed at wealthy leisure travelers, has also spurred uptake of the premium product, Jens Bischof, sales chief for Lufthansa’s main brand, said in an interview at the carrier’s Frankfurt hub.

“There’s good demand and it’s very robust, not just a marketing peak,” Bischof said. “We try not to fill first at any price. It’s an exclusive, innovative product.”

Lufthansa has decided to remove first-class cabins from one-third of its long-haul aircraft, with the remaining 70 planes receiving an upgrade that includes more comfortable seats fitted with thicker mattresses and a more elaborate culinary offering. About 60 of the jetliners due for the refit have already been overhauled, driving the sales gain, Bischof said.

Lufthansa’s repositioning of its premium offering comes as Gulf carriers led by Dubai-based Emirates lure affluent long-haul passengers with scores of new wide-body aircraft. Its plan will see older Airbus SAS A340 and Boeing Co. (BA) 747 wide-bodies cut to two classes, while some new planes will have four cabin options as premium-economy berths are added for the first time.

‘Upgrade Class’

The German carrier’s reduced-price, leisure-oriented offering knocks about 40 percent off the price of a first-class seat for travel to about 30 destinations, Bischof said.

Lufthansa was selling first-class tickets from Frankfurt to Bangkok in January for 4,299 euros ($5,785) this week, less than fully flexible business-class seats cost. With a 400-euro fee for cancellations, the fares are ill-suited to an unpredictable schedule, and so won’t hurt lucrative corporate sales.

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