Lufthansa has made an adjustment to their product description for flights operated by narrowbody aircraft in European & Domestic Business Class that used to come with a guaranteed empty middle seat.
Based on the new description on the Lufthansa website, this guarantee is now no longer there as they only offer the empty middle seat “where available” without any further footnote on what precisely that means.
Needless to say that even under normal circumstances, Lufthansa Short Haul Business Class is not exactly a pleasure to experience. It’s the same seat as Economy Class, extremely think and uncomfortable with minimal upholstery, and the only real distinction between Business and Economy Class is a curtain that can be moved based on demand for business seats by the crew and (until now) a guaranteed empty middle seat.
There is plenty of basis for (mis)interpretation after Lufthansa must have recently amended their product description for short haul business class during the booking process, which differentiates from the description on the Lufthansa website. I searched for a feeder flight to Paris and thought “what is this?”.
Here is how Lufthansa short haul Business Class (which isn’t really shorthaul at all, you will find this camping chair on 5-hour flights to North Africa, the Middle East, and the furthest ends of Europe) is described on their website:
It says the middle seat is always kept empty, which is a firm promise, otherwise, you’d basically sit in the same cabin style as Economy.
By the way, I purposely left the other promise of “fine dining” in the screenshot, which is another lie. These Heimat (regional cuisine) themed meals Lufthansa serves in short-haul Business have as much to do with fine dining as a snack from the gas station.
Here is how it now shows up when I try to book a flight from Frankfurt to Paris with Lufthansa’s European “Business Class”:
It clearly says “Empty Middle Seat (where available)” – so what happened to guaranteed ?
I would give them the benefit of the doubt if there were aircraft in the fleet where an empty middle seat is not technically possible, for example, if there is just one seat on the left (like some smaller aircraft types have it) but I looked through the seat maps of all listed Lufthansa aircraft and they don’t feature such cabins.
Here is an example of the Bombardier CRJ900:
The seat map clearly features an empty seat next to each Business Class seat. The same goes for the Embraer E190 and E195.
So why this change in terminology on the Lufthansa site? Nobody knows and Lufthansa has not responded to my request to their press department.
Mind you, other Business Class features such as Priority Boarding, Priority Security and Lounge Access are also listed as “where available” so Lufthansa really doesn’t guarantee all that much.
This new terminology for C-class seating is odd, though. Has someone simply chosen a bad wording, or is there something in the works that could see Lufthansa eliminating the empty side/middle seat for their short/medium haul Business passengers? That would be utterly grotesque.
And it immediately reminded me of this incident that we recently covered at Aegean Airlines:
So in the future, Lufthansa flight attendants or ground crew could just seat someone in the middle and say “your bad, stupid Business Class pax, no space for you!” rather than keeping the advertised promise of at least an empty seat next to you?
Last week I flew Thai Smile on a domestic flight within Thailand, and they sell their premium cabin in the same design (same seat as coach, middle seat blocked) as Premium Economy. It does come with lounge access and other amenities that one usually knows from Business Class tickets, but considering the seating (same as Economy) they are at least honest enough and don’t mislabel it. I think the price for my CNX-BKK ticket was 440 Baht more than the lowest available Economy Class, so I happily paid the tiny difference.
There is some confusion about Lufthansa now displaying the empty middle seat perk for Business Class on narrow body planes as “based on availability”. First I thought that it might depend on the aircraft type but after looking at all published seat maps I couldn’t find any plane in Lufthansa’s fleet that wouldn’t show an empty seat next to a Business passenger.
Maybe time will tell, or Lufthansa will eventually get back to us. I think that this product has already so many drawbacks that tightening the screws even further would be unacceptable. Especially given the price. What European airlines started a long time ago as far as calling these Economy Seats in front of the curtain Business Class is really nothing short of a scam. At least in the U.S. the Business/First seats are larger and offer significantly more comfort.