V-seating offers far more shoulder room.

The seats are fully customizable in their recline. Seat. Bed. And everything in between.

The seat shell makes a private nest for sleeping.

The seat shell makes a private nest for sleeping.

The seat shell makes a private nest for sleeping.

Center console stows all the electronic controls.

Center console stows all the electronic controls.

Center console stows all the electronic controls.

Video screens are now 15 inches (up from 10). That’s the size of a large laptop monitor.

Video screens are now 15 inches (up from 10). That’s the size of a large laptop monitor.

Video screens are now 15 inches (up from 10). That’s the size of a large laptop monitor.

Video screens are now 15 inches (up from 10). That’s the size of a large laptop monitor.

Video screens are now 15 inches (up from 10). That’s the size of a large laptop monitor.

5 Years In The Making, Lufthansa’s Ingenious New Business Class Seats

How do you make a small space as appealing as possible? With a little help from simple geometry.

The easiest way for always-struggling airlines to maximize revenue is to get people sitting in their premium seats. Without buying new planes or rethinking routes, business class means that precious plane real estate can sell for more per square foot. But what do the airlines really have to work with? Space is finite. Serve them food, a glass of wine, and what else? Design the space better.

The seats recline into 6.5-foot beds.

So in the late 2000s, Lufthansa invited designers to reimagine their business class seats. "Basically since Lufthansa had designed the previous seat the business class market had moved on significantly. It was necessary to introduce a fully flat bed which up to now had not been Lufthansa’s offer," explains Luke Pearson of PearsonLloyd. But they had one big requirement: While other airlines had rotated chairs like Tetris pieces to make reclining possible, Lufthansa wanted all seats to face the direction of travel for optimal flyer comfort.

PearsonLloyd ended up winning the contract with a novel approach, by shaping the seats like a V. It sounds intimate at first, with two passengers facing in toward one another. But ultimately, this places passengers further apart. And when people actually lay down, their heads are partitioned off by their own consoles. Meanwhile, this hypotenuse-like approach buys precious leg room. The beds recline to almost 6.5 feet in length.

"This principle is not unique in aviation seating design," Pearson admits. "However, the way in which the layout we utilised within the aircraft and the specific functions of the seat are unique to this design and Lufthansa in this case." Indeed, it was the small details, details carved out over several years of mockups, user testing, then test flights, that didn’t just make their design as spacious as possible, but as comfortable as possible.

Reading light, and custom textiles you’ll only see on Lufthansa.

A perfect example are the integrated displays. PearsonLloyd had wanted to connect these in a center band to optimize their complexity of articulation. And while this didn’t affect roominess, the band blocked a view into the next row, cutting down on perceived space. So they abandoned the idea. The precise shape of the head/shoulder compartment was honed to accept users of multiple broadness. The lower lumbar adjustments were given massage functions (which sounds like a godsend for anyone who’s gone numb during a long flight). And even the seat textile is wholly custom, bringing in flecks of yellow to warm the otherwise silver sheen.

I asked Pearson why many of these pretty obvious improvements hadn’t been made before, why if V-shaped seating is so efficient, it wasn’t simply implemented in the first place?

"Simply because design and engineering knowledge evolves," he responded. "People never arrive immediately at the optimum solution." Which makes you wonder, with a few more great ideas, how wonderful could Lufthansa’s next new business class be?

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25 Comments

  • Lisanne Kippenberg

    As someone who has personally experienced the new Business Class, let me tell you it is amazing and there are worlds between the new and the old one. It is very sleek and modern looking and the seats are extremely comfortable and spacious. I don't really understand where most of the users are getting the idea that feet are touching simply from the images, because let me tell you this is not the case. There is plenty of personal space and I really don't think the V concept takes away any privacy from travellers. The upgraded IFE is also superb and done in a way that is easy to follow. Overall I really love this product and cannot wait to fly again--and I would personally recommend it to all travellers.

  • FlyFlat

    I have flown on Singapore Air, Swiss, Virgin and Air New Zealand in business. I absolutely love how all of them have direct aisle access even in the window seat. I am not really inclined to try the new LH product unless it is heavily discounted. IMHO they are 5 years too late with this launch and the next generation of seats are already in the making. Strangely their subsidiaries Swiss, Brussel and Austrian Airlines have selected a superior product. 
      

  • H1733283

    I think a decent solution would be to have personal pods, like those japanese capsule hotels, on some sort of carriage designed to fit into the airplane cabin. People would get into their pod and be knocked out, then the carriage rolled onto the plane and secured, cargo style. At the end of the trip, roll it off, wake them back up, send them on their merry way.

  • MelissaS

    If you have experienced these seats, you know that they aren't as great as they look. I flew on the second (ever!) flight of the new 747-8 and it was honestly the worst Business Class experience I've had. The seats aren't that comfortable, the blankets are like sheets, and the pillows, well, you're better off without them. Lufthansa wasted 5 years designing this interior...what a joke.

  • Fahad

    They look fine, looking very Eames chair however practicality wise they totally defeat the purpose of going business class, zero privacy and inconvenience.
    V shape concept might work for economy class with appropriate size adjustment.

  • Per

    If this took 5 years to design, the designers should be fired. More then 5 years ago BA and VA came out with truly innovative seats and this is not even close.  

  • Guest

    You're also not looking directly square (or down your feet) at your TV due to the nature of lining up V shapes... which means anyone sitting behind you will be able to directly see what you are watching, reading or writing from the aisle...

    Awkward.

  • 1K+ flyer

    Swiss solves this same problem (how you fit lay-flat beds without having 72" seat pitch) in a more elegant way. In their business class, your feet fit into the console of the row in front. It's the best business class I've flown in so far. 

  • Mikejanarch

    I'm not completely anti-social, but this is entirely too cozy -- not that I fly in business class anyway, (freight compartment aka economy).  

  • Paolo Lonati

    the problem is always that window seats are blocked if the close passenger is sleeping. British Airways has not this kind of issue.

  • Gaz Mema

    why would you mind that girls leg touching you? i don'g get it, this is facebook 101

  • Daniel Karpantschof

    I don't get it. They look completely identical and have the same features as Scandinavian Airlines' Business Class seats.

  • Philippe Clairo

    Not sure I like it either, no matter what, you are facing each other in this configuration, and flying business all you want is privacy. I understand your heads are further away from each other, but not your feet... awkward!
    In my opinion, this serves the airline interest better then the passenger.
    Nothing beats Air Canada's business class!

  • OrionAdvertising

    Why stop at business class? It's the people in steerage, um, coach that really need some creative seating solutions!

  • Arman Nobari

    Give the seats the ability to recline and allow passengers to stretch all the way out, laying down... But don't consider how the person trapped between that stretched out person and their window view is going to get out if they need to use the restroom? The seats look brilliant, but the V-Design is all sorts of backwards as far as passenger experience goes. If anything, they've accentuated that specific problem. The rest of the design, however, looks great.

  • scott_edwards

    Most international business travelers expect direct aisle access if they are flying in premium classes. Lufthansa here is still following the old model of 2x2x2 it seems. What happens when the person in the window seat wants to get up in the middle of the night and their seat mate is sleeping fully reclined?