Lufthansa’s adoption of slimline seats for its European fleet has allowed the carrier to add the capacity equivalent of 12 Airbus A320s. But the Star Alliance member admits it encountered some teething problems when rolling out the economy-class product.
In 2010 Lufthansa started retrofitting its narrowbodies with Recaro’s lightweight BL3250 seat under its so-called NEK programme; this enabled the carrier to add 2,163 additional seats to its inventory.
“That is equivalent to 7.8% and equals the capacity of more than 12 Additional A320 aircraft,” confirms the carrier.
“Furthermore, we have started another programme on our regional fleet (Bombardier Dash-8, CRJ700/900 and Embraer 190/195) with a similar slim seat from Zodiac Seats California that adds another 324 seats in our fleet. That is equivalent to the capacity of three Embraer 190 aircraft.”
Recently a commenter to the APEX editor’s blog made the following claim: “The BL3250, although ’award winning’ has not performed very well at LH [Lufthansa]. The engineered fabric that is the backbone of the slim seat, give way too fast, requiring regular checks.”
Asked if this statement is accurate, Lufthansa said: “Lufthansa is very happy and satisfied with the NEK seat. In the meantime, all airlines of the Lufthansa Group (Austrian Airlines, Swiss, Brussels Airlines and Germanwings) have ordered and some already installed the seat in their fleet(s).
“We were facing some challenges in the beginning where the net fabric in the seat backshell gave way too fast. Although having done life-cycle tests in a laboratory before installing it into an aircraft, the fabric didn’t hold conformity to its specification. In the meantime, Recaro has done an exchange programme on all seats with a new and better material that now fulfils the requests. Since the exchange, we’ve had no problems with the backshell of the seat.”
Whilst Lufthansa’s Austrian subsidiary also turned to Recaro for slimline seats for narrowbodies, the carrier is spending over 90 million Euros to retrofit its long-haul fleet – 10 Boeing 777s and 767s – with modern cabins, inclusive of new economy-class seats manufactured by B/E Aerospace.
Based on B/E’s popular ‘Pinnacle’ design and dubbed Star Plus, the economy class seat represents the first joint sourcing milestone of the Star Alliance. Lufthansa and Air China are also customers of Star Plus.
“The conversion of the long-haul fleet is an important milestone in a series of measures being taken to improve our product and quality,” says Austrian chief commercial officer Karsten Benz in a statement.
Thompson Aero Seating is providing its ‘Vantage’ fully flat business-class seat to Austrian for the 767s and 777s. Austrian says conversion of a long-haul aircraft takes around six weeks per aircraft. “The first converted aircraft should take off before the end of this year. Retrofitting of the fleet as a whole will take place on a step-by-step basis and should be completed in spring next year,” adds the airline.