Did Airberlin’s demise spur the Lufthansa Group into transforming Eurowings’ longhaul top offering from a ZIM recliner-based Best product to the Rockwell Collins Diamond-based fully flat beds used by Lufthansa’s mainline operations?
The initial list of destinations — Dusseldorf to New York, Miami and Fort Myers, all ex-Airberlin routes that start Eurowings service in late April or early May — would suggest so. But more widely, a fully flat business class product on a European long-haul, low-cost carrier subsidiary is a welcome arrival, and will hopefully start a trend. Your move, LEVEL.
Eurowings’ details are sketchy at this point, but with an image released on Twitter à la Advent Calendar and a brief press release, it appears from this vantage point that Eurowings will install the Diamond-based seats on its A330 aircraft in the H-V-H configuration where only the centre seats get to play footsie. It’s a big #PaxEx bump from the status quo.
The seats in the image released don’t cover exactly one zone of the aircraft, with a bulkhead separating the flatbeds from the next cabin back. That means one of two things. Option 1: Eurowings is adding only a few rows of business class, and indeed there are three rows of business, which would take up about that much space in the first zone. Option 2: Eurowings is adding a full first zone of business class and stretching it past doors 2 into the second zone of the aircraft. It seems to me that option 1 is markedly more likely, however.
If I’m not mistaken, the seats peeking through the curtain on the right side of the picture are the ZIM premium economy seats that Eurowings currently offers as its Best product, and the airline says it will continue to offer Best, Smart and Basic packages behind the flatbeds. Legacy full-service carriers are increasingly adopting this kind of market segmentation on their aircraft too.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the rather odd way the airline is presenting this new development, though.
Eurowings’ press release inexplicably makes the bald claim that it is the “first low-cost airline to offer business class on long-haul routes”. Even if we restricted this assertion to business class products above the level of a simple recliner, it’s hard to avoid the dead stare from the corpse of Airberlin, which has long operated Stelia (previously Sogerma) Solstys seats. Azul continues to do so, AirAsia X has angled lie-flat seats, and so on and so forth.
The name and reveal plans also feel a bit try-hard, with the carrier noting “except that at Eurowings it won’t be called Business Class but rather BIZclass. BIZclass will have its premiere at the world’s largest travel fair ITB in Berlin at the beginning of March 2018.”
It’s hardly revolutionary to call a business class by a shortened, weirdly capitalised monicker, and I’m frankly baffled that buying the ITB real estate to unveil a seat that’s been around on a large carrier for half a decade now at a major trade show makes cost-benefit sense.
This isn’t to bag on Eurowings: I was a big fan of its Best Eurobusiness-lite product when I flew it within the EU earlier this year. But any LCC, particularly one with a legacy parent airline, going fully flat in business is big enough news to avoid overegging the pudding on the novelty of its business class name — let alone suggesting firsts where none exist.