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Lufthansa is backtracking after announcing the introduction of a weird, one-off and very cramped premium-class section on its flights from Frankfurt to Pune, India. Starting early next year, it’s bringing back lie-flat beds in biz class, ending operations with an Airbus A319 featuring a makeshift “business class,” jerry-rigged from a standard 3-3 coach class.
Lufthansa used to fly to Pune on a Boeing 737-700 operated by Swiss luxury-charter operator Privatair, with only 20 flat beds in biz and 66 seats in economy. The 737 has range enough to even get across the Atlantic, and with just 86 seats is also had a spacious layout. But earlier this year, the airline ended its agreement with Privatair, leaving it without planes that could serve Pune nonstop. The runway is too short for its twin-aisle long-haul jets, so Lufthansa had to improvise.
The solution came in the form of the plain old Airbus A319, normally used on routes within Europe, which will be introduced on flights to Pune soon. But it has two problems. One: To get all the way to India, it needs a fuel stop — which Lufthansa decided to put in Baku, Azerbaijan, splitting the nine-hour flight in half. Two: The A319 is configured for short flights, featuring a one-class layout with seats just 31 inches apart and thin seatbacks with no entertainment monitors. Hardly fun for a nine-hour flight.
Within Europe, the front of the plane becomes “business class,” by blocking the middle seat. To make things a bit more tolerable on the Pune run, Lufthansa decided to block all but two seats per row at the front, producing what is arguably the world’s weirdest (and possibly worst) long-haul biz class. Hardly worthy of an airline that prides itself on service standards.
But not for long. According to Airline Routes, Lufthansa and Privatair have patched things up, and the lie-flat 737 is returning next year. Starting Feb. 1, the A319 goes away and the 737 returns, flying Frankfurt (FRA) – Pune (PNQ) – Bucharest (OTP) – FRA. The stop in Bucharest is needed for fuel, since winds blowing eastward increase fuel burn when flying westbound.
As for the question of who is going to fill all those seats from Frankfurt to Pune, not a prime tourism destination, the answer is: Employees of the more than 200 German companies that have set up shop there, including Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz. Pune is a large automotive-industry hub, with a list of German businesses based in the city that runs to 88 pages.
Featured image: Business class on PrivatAir’s Lufthansa-configured 737-700, courtesy of Privatair
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