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Is it just me or has there been an unusually high number of new premium cabin products announced in recent months? Granted I’m usually more excited about staying at aspirational hotels then flying in a business class seat – so I probably don’t keep as close tabs as others do on airline product news – but despite that, I can’t help but always get excited ahead of flying in a leading First Class cabin.
Having just concluded a trip to Japan with a flight from Tokyo to JFK on Japan Airways First Class, I thought it would be as good a time as any to go through five of the newest First & Business Class seats that I’m most looking forward to coming out over the next 1-2 years. Here they are in no particular order…
Lufthansa First Class
In October 2022, Lufthansa announced it was finally introducing a brand new First Class product. The brand new seats, part of what they’re calling the ‘Allegris’ generation, will be installed on 10 newly delivered A350-1000’s expected in 2024. About time! The premium cabin investment is long overdue in my opinion, as despite a great ground experience and a competitive soft product – the hard product was beginning to severely lag the competition. While the October 2022 announcement was welcome news to many – the details were still scarce.
Fast forward to Feb 2023, and we finally have a good idea of what the new product will look like – and I have to say that I’m very excited by it! The airline will be debuting a sort of hybrid 1-2-1 seat configuration with a middle suite that they are calling the ‘Suite Plus’, capable of seating two passengers.
I love the color scheme of the cabin and the finishes from what I can tell. Each of these suites will have full floor to ceiling dividers and doors – similar to Emirates’ “Game Changer”. The single suites look very spacious however most of the questions are with respect to the Suite Plus middle seat – such as how does Lufthansa plan on selling this seat – will it simply not be bookable if there is only 1 passenger looking to book? Will 2 passengers booking this seat pay less than if they had been purchasing 2 individual seats? How will award redemptions look like?
It’s a product that I can only see using with a child or a spouse – I love my friends – but I don’t know how I’d feel about snuggling up with them on a loveseat essentially. That aside – I love what I’m seeing and am excited that we’re getting some creativity again in the premium experience.
The other noteworthy takeaway is that it seems the A350 will only have one row of these suites in the 1-2(1)-1 configuration which could have ramifications to award space availability. The news release did mention that Lufthansa’s 19x 747-8s based in Frankfurt, will be retrofitted with the ”Allegris” seat – but it’s unclear if that includes the First Class seats or just the other cabins (the entire line of seats are referred to as the “Allegris” generation).
Long story short:
- New Seat Highlights: A new “Allegris” First Class seat will be fully enclosed suites in a hybrid 1-2(1)-1 configuration with the middle suite potentially holding two people in a double suite.
- Footprint & Capacity: 10x A350-1000’s will have one row of these suites and are expected to be based out of Munich. Rest of Lufthansa’s fleet plans are unclear (at least to me) as currently some reactivated A340’s (8 First Class seats) and soon A380’s, will have First Class seats. I expect the ones flying out of Munich will only be around until the new A350s enter service – at which point there will be an obvious decrease to the First Class footprint from Munich (more than 50%). Lufthansa’s 19x 747-8s (8 First Class seats) based in Frankfurt could potentially get retrofitted with the new First Class seats… but what would the configuration look like on a 747-8? I guess we’ll have to continue to wait and see on this.
- Award Availability? Currently Lufthansa releases quite a bit of award space ~15 days out. I have a hard time seeing this trend persisting on the A350’s given that you’d expect the airline to not have much difficulty selling out a 3 seat brand new cabin. I reckon points enthusiast keep their fingers crossed that the 747-8 retrofit doesn’t scale back First Class capacity – as that might be the best shot of flying the new cabin in the foreseeable future on points.
Hawaiian Airlines Business Class
Being the only Business Cabin product (or First Class as Hawaiian will market it) on my list should give you an idea about how excited I am for this. My excitement stems from the following factors primarily:
- The airline has 12x 787-9’s that it will start taking delivery on by the end of 2023, followed by 2-3 new planes every year until the order is completed. The new planes will feature 34 Business Class seats representing a significant increase in capacity from the current 18 seats, which should hopefully translate to even more award availability. I had written a few weeks ago about how you can leverage HawaiianMiles to score lie flat seats to Hawaii – so with more capacity, I’m hopeful there will be more opportunity to leverage that sweet spot.
- The new business class product will be “Adient Ascent” seats – a significant upgrade to the current hard product (which I didn’t mind one bit to be honest). Every seat will have direct isle access and privacy doors with the middle seats having the ability to convert into a double bed. This product is similar to Qatar Airways 787-9 business class cabins, though will be configured differently so that in lie flat mode it will look more like a double bed and less angled away that the Qatar Airways customization.
I really enjoyed Hawaiian Airlines soft product and service on my recent flight, so this will certainly be amongst my top choices to fly to Hawaii once the new hard product is in service.
- Finally, Hawaiian has given strong indications that the first route to receive this product will be JFK and Boston -exciting indeed as in my previous article I had highlighted how the long-haul routes from the East Coast were especially good redemption value.
Long story short:
- New Seat Highlights: Adient Ascent Seats with privacy doors, in a 1-2-1 layout with middle seats able to turn into a double bed.
- Footprint & Capacity: 12x 787-9’s each with 34 seats will increase capacity from current 10x A330’s with 18 seats. It’s unclear to me what Hawaiian Airlines intends to do with the existing planes which entered service in 2010. Initial Plans were route expansions into new markets in Europe/Oceania. Would love to hear if anyone knows in the comments below.
- Award Availability? I’m optimistic about this one. Current award space trends coupled with a significant increase in capacity should make it better I would imagine.
Qantas First Class
Just a few days prior to Lufthansa giving us details on their new product, Qantas also revealed details on its new First and Business Class products. The airline intends to debut the new product on A350-1000’s it will receive by 2025 as part of its long talked about “Project Sunrise”. The new suites will be in a 1-1-1 configuration and will feature a reclining seat alongside a separate full length bed. Each A350 will have two First Class rows featuring 6 suites.
The cabin and suite finishes again look quite stunning – and whilst not coming with floor to ceiling walls, the suites will still offer plenty of privacy on the projected ~18 hour flights between Sydney and London/NYC. I also appreciate that the suites are fitted with a permanent bed, as many can attest a purpose built bed will almost always offer more comfort than a lie flat seat – something that will be well received for the length of flights these products will operate.
Long story short:
- New Seat Highlights: New First Class suites with privacy doors (not floor to ceiling), in a 1-1-1 layout. Each suite comes fitted with a bed and a reclining seat.
- Footprint & Capacity: New product will be fitted on 12x A350-1000’s to be delivered to Qantas by 2025. Each plane will have 6 suites in a 1-1- configuration and is expected to be deployed on routes between Sydney/Melbourne and London/NYC. Currently only Qantas A380’s have a First Class Cabin so should represent an increase in the airline’s First Class footprint assuming nothing changes with their A380 operations by the time the new planes are delivered.
- Award Availability? I’m not about to hold my breath on this one. Qantas First Class is notoriously hard to book on points. Every once in a while they’ll release a bunch of award space that can be booked – however I can’t see myself have that kind of flexibility to drop things at a moment and head off down under. Nonetheless – will keep an eye on this one and hope against hope that eventual future plans coincide with award space dump.
Japan Airways First Class
Having just finished a flight on the current product- I couldn’t help but think several times during the flight, about how incredible the soft product is and how it deserves a newer hard product to do it justice. It’s still a great way to fly to Japan – but it has all the potential in the world to be one of the best again – but its time for an update.
Fortunately, the airlines has plans to do just that. Once again the A350-1000 will be home to yet another brand new First Class product (honestly Boeing…) as the airlines replaces its fleet of 13x 777-300’s with 13x of the Airbus blockbuster plane, becoming its new flagship aircraft.
Not much is known about the the cabin, however some sleuthing from OMAAT lends credence to the theory that it might have 6 seats instead of the current 8 – possibly being 2 rows of 1-1-1 which seems to be in line with what Qantas is doing with their new configuration.
Short story even shorter:
- New Seat Highlights: New First Class suites are expected to be introduced on the airline’s new A350-1000’s as of the end of 2023.
- Footprint & Capacity: 13x A350-1000’s are expected to be delivered starting at the end of 2023 (2x) through to 2028, with the first routes getting the new plane to be between JFK and Tokyo Haneda. The First Class footprint is expected to shrink a little as there is a 1:1 swap of the new planes to the old ones, and each possibly having 6 First Class seats instead of 8 seats that it currently has.
- Award Availability? Again, the reduced footprint isn’t going to make booking this product any easier – but I suspect it won’t be as difficult as Qantas or Lufthansa’s new products. As of this summer, I’ll have exhausted my Alaska miles – so I’m expecting Cathay or American points to be my friends if a chance comes up again to book. With just 2 planes being delivered in 2023, I expect award space will likely only become more available in 2025 when the airline take delivery on 9 more planes.
Air France First Class
After the refresh of its Business Class cabins, Air France announced in mid-2022 that a new La Premiere First Class seat was in the works, promising to unveil more details during the 2023/2024 winter season. Currently offered on select 777-300s (19 planes) in a 1-2-1 layout, these planes are set to be retrofitted with the new product and its also expected to be on some upcoming A350-900 planes it has on order.
Air France used to offer First Class on all 10 of its A380’s (90 seats in total) but with the onset of the pandemic, they retired all the A380’s – resulting in a significant downgrade to the overall First Class footprint. (90 seats out of 166 seats were on the A380s). Thankfully the news that some upcoming A350’s will be getting the new seat should go a fair way towards replacing its First Class capacity that was lost in 2020.
The only clues we have about the cabin is a “sketch’ that was shared along with the fact that it will be the “longest” cabin in the sky (5 windows length) and also feature a seat, a sofa and a fully flat bed. The rendering also seems to hint that La Premiere will continue to use privacy curtains instead of having fully enclosed suites.
I really looking forward to hearing more about this product. I came very close to flying this product last spring, but last minute had to pivot plans and could not make it happen in the end. With the new cabin representing an increase to overall capacity – I’m hopeful of being able to fly it in upcoming years.
Long story short:
- New Seat Highlights: New First Class suites are currently in the design process and will likely be a 1-2-1 cabin. So far indications are that the seats will continue to have privacy curtains and come with fully flat beds, a sofa and a seat.
- Footprint & Capacity: 19x existing 777-300s will be retrofitted with the product and select newly delivered A350-900s will also feature these seats, thus increasing Air France’s First Class footprint.
- Award Availability? La Premiere is already one of the most elusive products to fly on with points, and I expect it will remain as is despite the overall increase to capacity. Still – there are opportunities to nab seats on there for a reasonable cost… and it doesn’t involve delaying another plane in the process.
It seems there are some exciting times ahead for people lucky enough to be on the prowl for First Class experiences. Though most of the above won’t be particularly easy to grab… and will likely become considerably more difficult (i.e Lufthansa) – I’m hoping there will be just enough availability to keep the most motivated amongst us in the hunt for these new experiences.
Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed anything – or if you have any thoughts on the products I’ve listed here!