Buying and flying Lufthansa business class could be a very different proposition from next year as the German carrier moves towards what it terms "tailored needs-based airfare bundles".
Today, you just buy a business class ticket – and of the scores of seats in the business class cabin, every passenger is more or less treated equally (aside from what special attention might be extended to those with elite Miles&More HON Status).
But in the future, such as on Lufthansa's Boeing 777X flagship due to take wing in late 2020, you could purchase a baseline business class fare and then pay extra for not only a better seat – one with more space, legroom or privacy – but a series of bundled packages which could include services such as inflight WiFi.
Lufthansa has already begun talking up its move from a one-size-fits-all business class cabin to a more bespoke 'Business Class Plus' offering designed around individual needs and price points, but now we're starting to see more details on exactly how this will play out for the business traveller.
At this week's Capital Markets Day – where the airline also revealed its second-gen Boeing 777X premium economy seat – Lufthansa plotted a simplified set of base fares replacing the current roster of ticket types, with add-ons available in all cabins except for first class.
Those options, the airline says, will be built around "tailored offers and services" such as "Individual food offers" and a "new variety of seat options."
Lufthansa has already indicated that the unique layout of its Boeing 777X business cabin would see an extra charge levied on those seats which convert to a longer lie-flat bed or enjoy extra working and bench space such as the central 'throne' seats.
"For example, having a 220cm bed (as an upsell) is of course a selling argument, especially for (taller) guys like me!" explained Lufthansa exec Harry Hohmeister.
“It's not just one business class anymore. Within the (Boeing 777X) business class cabin, you can upgrade yourself to an even better product than just standard business class," Hohmeister told Australian Business Traveller earlier this month, although he's quick to declare this approach “it's not unbundling, it's upgrading.”
For example, Hohmeister said Lufthansa won't remove standard business class inclusions such as lounge access – in contrast to Emirates, which is now selling deep-discount business fares which forego lounge access and the chauffeur drive service. He also maintains that the price point for the standard Boeing 777X business class experience will remain comparable to today’s business class fares.
All the same, today's 'static branded fares' will be replaced by what Lufthansa describes as "need-based bundles (and an) upselling structure." The key to this, in turn, is "bundling the right offers and pricing them according to the customers’ willingness to pay."
Lufthansa cites examples of what it describes as Efficiency and Traveller packages – and even a beefed-up Plus version of each – being purchased atop a base fare.
Passengers are being broken down into sociographic sets, each representing a discrete chunk of Lufthansa's market, so that these add-on packages can be designed to suit their perceived needs.
The airline is also changing its own definition of premium travel, from being simply a class of travel to something which is "defined individually by every customer."
“We have to make clear in the market that we are not disrupting the (existing business class) product, but developing it to a better quality standard," Hohmeister told Australian Business Traveller, "to give the customer the best selection for themselves in terms of individualisation."