Reporting from 35,000 feet

Lufthansa's Airbus A380 fleet is featured Sunday on the new Discovery Channel series, Mighty Planes. Image courtesy of Lufthansa

Image courtesy of Lufthansa

As I make my way to Rome for the start of our Live Voyage Report aboard Windstar Cruises’ Wind Star, I thought I’d take the opportunity to do something I don’t ordinarily get to do: post live from the plane.

At this moment, I’m winding my way to Frankfurt aboard a Lufthansa Airbus A340-600, the second-longest passenger aircraft in the world. We’re cruising at an altitude of 35,000 feet and are roughly over Baffin Bay at the moment.

Flying over Canada's Arctic en-route to Frankfurt and, finally, Rome. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Flying over Canada’s Arctic en-route to Frankfurt and, finally, Rome. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

For €10, I can access the internet for one hour from my laptop, iPad or iPhone. For €19.99, I can have access for a full 24-hours, which would be advantageous if I absolutely had to conduct business or was taking long-haul back-to-back flights. At least, that’s the thought. Today, I had some issues connecting and therefore am posting this from terra firma in Rome.

I fly with Lufthansa quite regularly, mainly because I like their fleet of new Airbus and Boeing aircraft, their spotless cabins and the warm yet efficient German service from the flight crew. That my hometown has service to both Frankfurt and Munich doesn’t hurt, either.

But what I really like about Lufthansa is that they are continually trying to improve all aspects of the flying experience – sometimes in ways that even frequent fliers may not notice.

Snappy seats, even in Economy Class.  Taken today aboard LH 493. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Snappy seats, even in Economy Class. Taken today aboard LH 493, an Airbus A340-600, registration D-AIHF. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Back in 2011, the airline began replacing the service trolleys on all their intercontinental aircraft with newer, far lighter version that was dubbed the “Quantum Lightweight Trolley.” Aside from being easier for flight attendants to handle – particularly when fully-loaded – the new trolleys were expected to save 9,000 tonnes of jet fuel and reduce carbon emissions by 28,350 tonnes annually.

The roll-out of the new trolleys is almost complete, and the new trolleys even have a Canadian connection that I, as a Canadian, am particularly proud of: the trolleys are manufactured in Montreal, Quebec by Norduyn, a company specializing in lightweight materials.

What might be more visible to guests, however, is the rollout of a new Business Class Seat – particularly if you have the luxury of flying in one.

This new seat entered service when Lufthansa took delivery of their first Boeing 747-8 aircraft, and will be rolled out across the rest of the long-haul fleet between now and 2016. The new seat measures 6.5 feet in length and reclines to a fully-lie-flat surface for sleeping. It represents a three-billion-Euro investment by Lufthansa in upgrading their Business Class product.

Lufthansa's new Business Class seat aboard the Boeing 747-8. Photo courtesy of Lufthansa.

Lufthansa’s new Business Class seat aboard the Boeing 747-8. Photo courtesy of Lufthansa.

But the seat – with its innovative storage compartments and design that allows for increased privacy over the previous model – wasn’t constructed on a whim. Instead, Lufthansa surveyed over 500 of the airline’s most frequent fliers to see what they wanted and needed out of a Business Class product. Then, the line spent months “road testing” the concept on flights from Frankfurt to New York’s JFK airport.

Mission Control: everything you need is at your fingertips.  Photo courtesy of Lufthansa.

Mission Control: everything you need is at your fingertips. Photo courtesy of Lufthansa.

The new seat offers improved cushioning to ensure comfort on longer flights, and the seat can be adjusted into several separate positions one at a time or continuously, all without the need for the passenger to stand up. All of this is tremendously important for guests flying in Business Class, many of which – as the name implies – are flying out of necessity rather than pleasure.

My seat, 11A. Nearly everything has been thought of in these clever seats designed for Lufthansa by Recaro. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

My seat, 11A, on my first Lufthansa Business Class experience back in 2011. Nearly everything has been thought of in these clever seats designed for Lufthansa by Recaro. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Of course, business and pleasure aren’t mutually exclusive. I had the opportunity to test out Lufthansa’s existing Business Class product two years ago, and it knocked my socks off. I’d even rate it higher than Air Canada’s Business Class product – which in itself is already quite stellar – simply because I felt the service, food, and amenities at the time were of a higher quality.

The existing Business Class seat doesn’t quite lay flat, reclining instead at a nearly horizontal angle. While it is a massive improvement over sitting, say, in 55E sandwiched between two families with screaming children, the benefits of a fully-flat Business Class seat aren’t hard to appreciate.

In fact, there was a fascinating article in the in-flight Lufthansa Magazin about what was involved in retrofitting the first Airbus A330-300 with the new business class product, and it was far more involved than I had ever imagined: the plane has to be stripped down to the steel supports. Washrooms have to be moved to accommodate the larger Business Class layout, flooring re-enforced, and new cabling laid down to accommodate the more advanced in-flight entertainment system.

Economy Class aboard Lufthansa's D-AIHF, an Airbus A340-600. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Economy Class aboard Lufthansa’s D-AIHF, an Airbus A340-600. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Total refit time for the first A330: over 51 days. But the Lufthansa Technik team estimates that by the time they’re done refitting the first A340-600 and A340-300 this summer, that timeline will be down to as little as 30 days.

My digs on this flight aren’t nearly as luxurious, but Economy Class on Lufthansa’s long-haul flights is still rather comfortable. In fact, their seats are some of the only ones I can sit  in for hours on end and not end up with restless legs or a sore back.

But I am looking rather longingly at the drawn curtain just ten rows ahead of me!

Travel - and flight - go hand in hand, and there's nothing quite like a long-haul flight! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report continues in just a few short hours as we report from Rome prior to embarking Windstar Cruises’ Wind Star! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

 

One Response to Live Voyage Interlude: Up in the Air with Lufthansa

  1. Vanny says:

    well… there’s always wine to help put you to sleep. Economy on this plane doesn’t look bad at all!

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