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Photos & first impressions: inside Lufthansa's Boeing 747-8

By John Walton     Filed under: Boeing, business class, Lufthansa, Boeing 747-8

Lufthansa’s new Boeing 747-8 – the majestic successor to the Boeing 747-400 and last of the mighty 747 family – takes to the skies this weekend.

At 250 foot (76 metres) from tip to tail, this fifth-gen Jumbo is the longest passenger aircraft in the world and can seat around 470 passengers in a typical three-class configuration, up from 416 in the 747-400.

Australian Business Traveller toured the 747-8 (nicknamed the Intercontinental by Boeing) in Frankfurt, during Lufthansa’s Passenger Experience Day, to bring you these real-world photos and hands-on impressions.

Something old, something new...

At its core, Lufthansa’s 747-8 is a seriously stretched version of the 747-400 – albeit quieter, more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly.

On the inside, everything looks fresh and modern – as the 747-8 uses the Boeing Sky Interior design common to the 787 Dreamliner and the latest 737-800s flown domestically by Qantas and Virgin Australia.

That means gently sculpted side walls, bigger overhead bins, larger oval window surrounds to let in more light (and make the windows themselves seem larger, even though they’re not) plus brighter variable LED mood lighting.

The overall effect is a cabin that’s lighter and brighter, as well as looking softer and more spacious.

Regular Lufthansa travellers will also note a dramatic shift from the blue and silver-dominated scheme of Lufthansa’s 747 business class to the more relaxing muted brown and grey-themed cabin, which Lufthansa says creates a ‘living-room feel’.

Lufthansa's Boeing 747-8 Business class

Lufthansa has dedicated the 747-8's expansive upper deck to business class.

And if you like the exclusive vibe of business class in the Boeing 747’s bubble then you’ll love sitting upstairs on the 747-8.

As this Lufthansa-supplied PR shot shows, the 'private cabin' ambience and 2-2 seating layout makes it feel like you’re travelling in a much smaller all-business class plane like a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320.

You couldn't be blamed if you forgot that there's a whole 'nother deck of passengers just beneath you!

Business class continues downstairs, with a still-spacious 2-2-2 seat layout split over two cabins. We'd pick the front one as our first preference, it's likely to be quieter than the rear cabin shown below, which borders economy class:

This layout compares favourably to the 2-3-2 (Qantas) or even 2-4-2 (British Airways and United) configuration seen in business class on a 747-400‘s main deck.

If you'll be sitting downstairs, consider a seat in the centre pair – the extra-wide centre console between these seats will afford plenty of elbow room.

Contrast that with the narrower console in the pairs of seats by the windows or on the upper deck:

These seats also fold out into a long lie-flat bed -- more than long enough for our 6'2"/188cm journalist to stretch out.

Regular Lufthansa travellers will also note a dramatic shift from the blue and silver-dominated scheme of Lufthansa’s 747 business class to the more relaxing muted brown and grey-themed cabin, which Lufthansa says creates a ‘living-room feel’.

And a big bonus for those carry-on bags: bigger bins, even upstairs where window passengers have their own private side storage bin too!

First class

Eight first class 'mini-suites' are ensconced in the airplane’s nose (a change from their previous location on the 747's upper deck). This Lufthansa PR shot uses a bit of 'fisheye' lens to expand the space, but it's still a plush, roomy interior.

They’re nearly identical to Lufthansa's new Airbus A380 first class seats, reclining into individual fully flat beds, with a personal locker for each passenger to hang their clothes and put away their carry-on bag. Another Lufthansa shot:

Here's a close-up of one of the wide first class seats.

And in bed mode:

The 747-8's nose also has a touch of the Boeing Sky Interior design in the LED illumation surrounding a ceiling cut-away, as Lufthansa's PR photo illustrates:

Economy class

Much further down the back, in an area almost as long as the lower desk business class cabin, are are 28 rows of economy seats arranged mostly 3-4-3.

These seats are a little narrower than Lufthansa’s A380 economy benches but use the same slimline design.

Notice how the back of the economy seats are scalloped towards the base and raise the magazine pocket a little higher, to provide that extra bit of precious knee room in the seat's 31 inch pitch.

Here's a Lufthansa shot of what things look like on the A380, for a bit of spot-the-difference comparison:

Now, about those "footsie" seats in business...

In our in-depth photo special on Lufthansa's new business class seats, we flagged a concern that the angled two-together layout of the business class seats could see you almost playing footsie with your seatmate.

So once onboard the 747-8 we made a beeline for business class and tested it out with a couple of fellow journalists.

When you're the only person stretching out, all's fine, especially if you're in one of the few extra-wide seats in the centre section downstairs:

But as we suspected, the divider between the recessed foot sections is too shallow, too short, too narrow and not rigid enough to adequately separate our feet from those of our seatmate when in an upstairs seat or in one of the window pairs downstairs.

Fortunately, it shouldn't be too hard to fix the footsie problem: a larger, firmer, and basically more ‘dividing’ divider is surely not beyond the realms of Lufthansa Technik's techies. (Hey, if they can create flying VIP palaces for the 747-8 and A380, they can sort this one out.)

Another issue, and one not as easily solved, is that you won’t have have direct aisle access if you’re in the window seat.

There’s simply not enough room in front of you, so you'll have to find away over your seatmate’s somnolent bulk to get out – this photo illustrates how tight things can get.

The only way to avoid clambering over someone (or being clambered over, if you're in the aisle seat) is to book a seat in the downstairs cabin, where there are centre pairs flanked by an aisle either side.

But for comfort and privacy, Lufthansa’s business class window seats are significantly better than aisles.

The way the seat pairs are angled means that aisle passengers' shoulders and arms tend to stick out into the gangway, which makes you ripe for a clunk from someone's handbag or stray elbow.

For more on the seats themselves, check out our photo tour of Lufthansa's new fully flat business class seats -- and stay tuned for an in-depth analysis covering the whole seat soon.

And for why they're so much better than the old angled flat Lufthansa business class seats they're replacing, refer back to our call-it-like-we-see-it review of Lufthansa's A380 business class.

For the very latest news and reviews, follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT.

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About John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 1/6/12 by KG

Thanks for the review. I cannot believe that LH choose these business seats over the ones that e.g. CX (and soon AA) have. Even US Envoy seats or AY business is so much better (at least from what I can judge from the pics). Seriously, angled seats toward each other with your feet so close to your neighbour? When reclined no way of comfortably getting out the seat? First class is a huge improvement over their current offering and looks nice and airy. Having flown EK and 9W in suites and QF in thier semi suites, I do like the privacy but I don't mind the open feel of the cabin LH has (even their old F was not to bad, esp since they started selling only 8 seats). Economy looks very thight with only 31inch, compare that to EK or EY and it is very meager (I do realise that many airlines only have a pich of 31" in economy, but since LH does not have a Prem eco offering I would have thought they could add an inch).

1 on 1/6/12 by John

Thanks KG. I share your concerns!

2 on 1/6/12 by am

Nice story! Those Y seats look extremely thin for long haul... The J seats also look very narrow in that last photo, and massive inconsistencies in the amount of foot space between different seats.

They'd have been better of adopting the Continental style layout (I think it's the same core seat?) which feel more private and has more foot room without reducing the density.

Big improvement overall though!

1 on 1/6/12 by John

Big improvement overall though!

See, that's my fundamental problem with this. "It's better than Lufthansa's old seat" just doesn't cut it with me, since that was the worst angled lie-flat business class seat I have ever experienced (and I've done a lot of angled lie-flat), and worse than many recliners.

Lufthansa's non-European competition is standardising on fully flat beds, often with direct aisle access. I said to Lufthansa's people yesterday that this brings them back into the game, but it remains to see whether it will win the game for them.

1 on 1/6/12 by am

Absolutely agree. The big Euro airlines (Air France and Lufthansa in particular) complain their heads off about dropping passengers numbers, yet fail to realise that their subpar product is a big factor in passengers ditching them.

They are frustratingly close to a strong product - they could have made this product so much more than it is without doing much more work.

3 on 1/6/12 by Al

Wow, AusBT really rocks these types of articles and reviews, another great piece of work John! Incredibly informative and still love the way AusBT doesn't 'pull any punches', unlike many travel writers who will never criticise a junket you guys tell it like it is!

1 on 1/6/12 by John

Thanks Al -- I absolutely tell it like I see it, as ever. Glad you enjoyed.

4 on 1/6/12 by Jesse

Really enjoyed this article, informative as usual! Although what else do you expect from ausbt?!

Great article, John. 

1 on 1/6/12 by John

Thanks mate! Really appreciate your feedback and your kind words. 

5 on 1/6/12 by mrp

Seems crazy that when launching a new product that Lufthansa only seem to try to better their existing product rather than leapfrog the competitions product. That might keep their existing customers happy but it's hardy likely to lead to them stealing customers from their competitors. I'm currently trying to plan a round the world trip and Star Alliance seems to work best but this hasn't compelled me to put Lufthansa into the mix (even though Air Canada and Singapore still insist on adding a surcharge for their business lie flat seats).

6 on 1/6/12 by Jesse

Interesting comment, Mrp. I don't really know mcuh about the industry in Europe so perhaps someone can help. Would Lufthansa need to improve their product in this case to "leapfrog" over say, British Airways or more Middle Eastern carriers? Lufthansa say themselves that their direct competitors include no frills airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair so in terms of quality of product who should they be watching out for?

1 on 1/6/12 by mrp

I certainly can't speak for Lufthansa as to who they think are their competitors but I will say that it doesn't look like this new product will compare favourably with QR, EY or EK. BA is let down more by their service (or rather lack of it) and meal service than the configuration of their business class seat and AF/KL never compares favourably on price.

Of the European Star Alliance airlines I am more likely to use SK or LX but I'm planning on trying long haul TP for the first time in January.

7 on 1/6/12 by Ksmith

The footsie problem seems a bit ridiculous. Having flown in US Airway's new Envoy class (which was very good... I've not flown Cathay Pacific recently so can't comment on their new business product), the centre seats had a thick plastic divider running up the entire height of the middle pairs to prevent any footsie problems.

Regarding the layout, I suppose it's simply a case of getting more passengers on the aircraft and making more money that way, rather than offering a class leading product that people have to pay more for. I am interested to see how they arrange it on their narrower A330 and A340 aircraft; perhaps 1-2-1 (hopefully), or perhaps 2-2-2 with the extra space between the middle seats lost?

Does anyone know the schedule for retrofitting this new business on their existing fleet?

8 on 2/6/12 by here2go

Looking at the economy seats - at least when Lufthansa's contract checkin staff in YVR separate couples across aisles on intercontiental flights while a husband is trying to console their upset spouse on a family matter, they'll at least be directly next to each other across the aisle, as opposed to being staggered.

Still, LH can't resolve the issue of LHR Checkin, who have probably only flown Chav Air, "We're giving you the same seat LHR - FRA, then FRA-SIN"  To find that your seats (30 E&F) on the B737 are smack bang in the middle of a B747.  Good thing I am no longer naive, read AusBT, and won't tolerate this nonsense from non-Teutonic representatives of this airline.

9 on 30/6/12 by aero-seat

Great review! Is Lufthansa's Business Class seat based on Webber Aircraft's Model Cirrus? Compare the pair:

Webber Aircraft Website: webberair.com Webber Aircraft Website: webberair.com   And now compare it to Lufthansa's model: Australian Business Traveller: ausbt.com.au

1 on 30/6/12 by John

Nope — it's a similar idea, but completely different, designed by PearsonLloyd and manufactured by B/E.

 

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