Lufthansa and Swiss pick new premium economy recliners — but are they an improvement?

Jan 19, 2022

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There’s a new premium economy product coming to Lufthansa’s long-haul fleet.

The airline announced on Monday that it will install the new ZIMprivacy PC-02 premium economy recliner on 19 of its existing Boeing 747-8 flagship double-decker jets, along with future deliveries of the Boeing 777-9, Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.

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While the details are light, the new seats, manufactured by ZIM Aircraft Seating, have a shell-like design with enhanced privacy thanks to a shield separating each seat from each other, and from the aisle.

(Rendering courtesy of ZIM Aircraft Seating)

Based on the mockups, the seats will feature adjustable armrests with manual seat controls. They’ll also sport a small cocktail table and a tray table that folds out from the seat in front. Each seat will have an individual reading light, as well as an oversized inflight entertainment monitor.

Of course, we’ll have to wait until we try the seats for a full review, but these new seats are likely to be controversial.

For one, the additional privacy shields will be a welcome change for anyone who’s flown in Lufthansa’s existing product that offers little to no privacy.

(Rendering courtesy of ZIM Aircraft Seating)

However, the move to offering a shell-like seat will likely be a step backward for some passengers. This design means that the seats recline within the confines of the shell.

Based on the mockups, it appears that the new product is similar to the one installed on Air France’s now-retired Airbus A380s. When TPG’s Scott Mayerowitz reviewed the product, he found some major issues with the shell design.

“While [the shell] is good for not having another seat’s back recline into your space, it’s bad otherwise. It just makes you slouch. Despite the leg rest, foot rest and adjustable head rest, getting comfortable enough to sleep was out of the question,” he noted about the Air France product.

Air France Airbus A380 premium economy (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

Hopefully, Lufthansa worked with the manufacturer to address some of these concerns with the shell design, but we’ll wait until we review the product for a full assessment.

In addition to being installed across a large swath of the Lufthansa fleet, these new recliners will soon be found on some Swiss planes as well. (The Lufthansa Group includes Lufthansa, along with Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Bruseels Airlines, Eurowings and more.)

Nine Swiss Airbus A330 aircraft will be retrofitted with the new premium economy product, along with an undisclosed number of Airbus A340 and Boeing 777 aircraft in the first quarter of 2022.

Lufthansa’s investment in premium economy comes as the cabin has soared in popularity in recent years. The airline has said that premium economy is its highest-earning cabin, ahead of both business and first class. Offering more space with additional amenities compared to coach, for a modest buy-up compared to a lie-flat pod in business class, it makes sense that premium economy has been well received.

At this point, premium economy seems to be a hit with most major airlines. In the U.S., Delta is leading the charge to retrofit a large swath of its Boeing 767 and Airbus A330 fleet with a new Premium Select cabin. The Atlanta-based carrier is promising that all European routes next summer will feature this new cabin.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Meanwhile, fan-favorite Emirates recently unveiled its luxurious take on premium economy, which is already shaping up to be one of, if not the, nicest in the world.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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