The Lufthansa Flying Lab – LH424 Munich to Boston (Premium Economy)
In this adventure
- A call from Germany
- Off to Heathrow T2. Wait. Terminal 2??
- LH2473 London Heathrow to Munich Airport
- Exploring innovation on the ground at Munich Airport
- LH424 Munich to Boston with Lufthansa and Recaro Aircraft Seating
- Into Boston, The Holiday Inn Bunker Hill
- Exploring Boston
- Robot and Bowl Food – Exploring Spyce… and lessons for the Passenger Experience?
- Oodles of Noodles – Pho and Ramen in Boston
- The APEX Conference and Expo – What you missed
- Back to Boston Logan International airport
- LH423 Boston Logan to Frankfurt-am-Main
- The joy of Frankfurt Airport
- LH924 Frankfurt to Heathrow… with a neo
- Train? Thataway
- The outlook for the next six months
LH424 Munich to Boston Logan International Airport
Lufthansa, Airbus A350-900, Seat 12E – Premium Economy
4568 Award Miles, 5762 Status miles
I headed down the jetway, with some delay during boarding. That was fine – as I got some beautiful views of the waiting Airbus A350.
And in many ways, the A350 has taken over the A330 for me as my preferred aircraft due to the lower cabin pressure, and the fact you don’t feel squeezed in Economy Class (compared to the Boeing 787).
But today, I would be in Premium Economy Class and sat next to John. I could swear that Lufthansa had more than a hand in seat shifting me…
So the seat. It’s by ZIM Flugsits of Germany. In a Lufthansa Airbus A350-900, these are laid out in a 2-3-2 formation. And I’m going to be nasty – they’re not the most well-designed seats out there.
Why? When it takes two writers 30 minutes to locate the USB and power sockets on the seat – there’s a problem. Yes, whilst were in the bulkhead row, things are configured a little differently – like smaller IFE screens, and equipment placed differently.
In terms of legroom, there was a reasonable about – but this comes at the expense of the having items on the floor during take=off and landing – something I actually wanted this time, as I wanted the laptop to write and watch the flying lab with.
At seat was an amenity kit that converts into a bag. Inside the kit is all the expected items
Menus were handed out too.
As for a window view … this was my window view.
Those of you with keen eyes will notice the odd amount of cabling that isn’t exactly standard on the plane. Indeed, the plane would be fitted with two Wi-Fi systems, the standard FlyNet and the Flying Lab powered by Lufthansa Systems BoardConnect system, as well as a broadcasting and mixing deck system.
But more on that in a bit.
With the plane more in a party mood, presenters and staff were going up and down the plane to prep for departure. Certainly, I’m not sure the crew were prepared for the amount of disruption to normal service would be going on to the flight.
With everyone settling down, our plane prepared for departure and the safety video played. I would comment on it – except I couldn’t see it – as no screen was placed on the middle bulkhead.
What is it I said earlier… details matter!
The video played (and me watching it through the sight divider between business and premium economy, LH424 pushed back, and begun a short taxi to the runway.
With a quiet roar, the twin Rolls Royce Trent XWB’s came to life to lift LH424 off the ground and into the air.
With LH424 in the air, It was time to inspect the IFE system. This system is a variant of the Panasonic ex3 system that is a pretty solid platform to watch and enjoy content on.
Except the content selection was… eclectic That’s the polite version. The curation behind it wasn’t particularly organised or strong, with some hit movies, some German content, and a weak comedy portfolio.
So, not a portfolio tuned to my tastes, to say the least.
Headphones were handed out too. And the term “Yes… Well… Why?” comes to mind.
A hot towel service followed (paper tower), and the drinks and blue package cheesy snacks.
At least the FlyNet Wi-Fi System worked a treat on LH424. The system is a Panasonic Ku system – with connectivity available from 10,000ft to pretty much to 10,000ft on decent. Pricing is reasonable – not excessive, and also – no visible data caps, split into:
- A Chat plan for $10
- 1 Hour browsing for $10
- 4 Hours browsing for $15.50
- Full flight for $19.
You could pay in Euros, US Dollars, Chinese Yen or Miles and More Miles depending what currency you want to use.
In the end – I went for a classic in entertainment terms…. 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There was also a hot towel service.
A dinner service then followed, with a choice of pasta or Swiss style beef. I went for the beef.
Not a bad tray – but you’ll notice my drinks glass is empty. And it seems each set of the crew thought I had a drink. And I wish this only happened once.
What did I say about attention to detail? It took another drinks pass to get the glass filled.
With the meal service cleared down, it was time for the Flying Lab. John, Mary-Ann and myself were cleared to go into the rear business class cabin – which had been transformed into a mixture of a studio, a mixing system and a presentation area. Very different from the usual business class cabin (with the majority of “paid” Business class passengers in the front cabin, eschewed away).
With the cabin all set up, the press were invited to stay in business class for the presentations.
And yes – there’s a video. Play “Spot the Writer” and win Kudos!
I’ll cover them with a little bit of surface detail
Anaïs Marzo of Airbus was first covering its Airspace by Airbus concept. I’ve talked about it on this blog a few times, but it was good to see some of the practical applications in it (for example – the flat floor in an A350 cabin and how it is achieved, and how Airpsace is showing up not just in wide-body aircraft, but in narrow-body ones too)
Daniel Schultz of T-Mobile was next talking about connectivity and the drive of users wanting to be connected, with focus on its partnership with Inmarsat and it’s European Aviation Network – as well a the path to 5G communication technologies
Klaus Steinmeyer of Recaro talked about elevating the passenger seat to the next level, focusing on both the airline demand as well as the passenger expectation – and how to achieve this via digitisation, customisation and Health & Fitness elements, and how it’s iStar seating concept can help.
iStar is actually very interesting – as it puts intelligence in the seat in terms of knowing the seat position, safety status, if the life vest has been tampered with (allowing for cabin management). It can also be used as a maintenance tool to identify items that need replacing or maintenance work carried out to it.
Cabin flexibility was touched on too, as well as the concept of passenger space, and some concepts on how space could be used better.
Anish Chand of Star Alliance talked about the passenger journey, the touchpoints as well as the possibility to personalise the journey (or tailor it) to the customer requirements. As well as touching on the data side that would drive this, it also covered the privacy and can airlines afford to stay still in this space – or innovate.
Andrew Mohr of Panasonic moved into the biometric touchpoints that we can use and that are becoming prevalent (one need only look at the number of devices that use either a facial recognition or fingerprint recognition), and where biometrics are being used (and these days, security is becoming the least used thing). With the growing use of it in terminals and in the travel experience, with an expectation that biometrics will start to reach the seat within 5 years.
Dr. Achim Leder of JetLite showed off its research into lighting and how lighting affects the passenger in the cabin (as well as demonstrating lighting in-cabin), and how its lighting works (as well as the deployment aboard Lufthansa’s A350 and Boeing 747-8 fleet
Finally, Juha Jarvinen of Finnair discussed the impact of the Asian traveller on the In-Flight Passenger experience, and what changes need to be made or adjusted to improve the experience for the customer, and how the airline adapted.
With the presentations over there were of course celebrations.
Least of all from the presenters, but also the press who could catch up with the contacts and presenters.
However, turbulence came into play, so we retired back to the economy cabin. And with me and the phone tired out, I crashed out for an hour or so. Others did other things, but it was nice to crash after a period (and yes, I had 2001 playing in the background. It falls into films that I can fall asleep to.
With the flight closing in on Boston, the lights came up – indicating the readiness of the second service.
US Customs Forms were handed out.
And oh dear.
I never thought I’d say this – but I would have preferred a Monty’s Hot Box, an AA style Pizza This… was… laughable. A bit of cheese, gherkin, meat and a cherry tomato, served with a pretzel roll and fruit.
And it didn’t help the crew missed me again when it came to the drinks service. Until John kindly prompted them to a bit of embarrassment on the crew side.
Remember what I also said about bad seat design? I had a glass of cola on the cocktail table trying to stay awake enough to get through the USA. Alas, when John tried to close the tray table – the drink decided it would look a lot better on me than in a glass.
A hot towel service followed again – and the hand out of arrival chocolate wafers. In traditional colours.
With the plane being prepared for landing, headphones were collected, and the IFE system was put away. What a wonderful way to spend more than forty minutes. I say more than 40 minutes for a simple reason – ATC was taking us the long way into Boston, looping up, down and around until Boston had a slot for us.
At least the Panasonic Ku system held up – so I could watch some Youtube videos in peace.
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Singing “Teenage Dirtbag“.
By the time we had lined up for arrival, we were a good 30 minutes down.
At least the window views are acceptable – even if you’re stuck in the middle seat
Landing in Boston was a reasonably quick affair, with LH424 making light work of the landing.
With the Airbus A350 down safely, the plane begun the short taxi to the gate .
Pulling into Gate E10, the engines shut down – their job done, and the passengers released. I said by “see you later” to those who I had met – as we would be going in all different directions on landing.
I gathered my items (or what I thought was all my items), and headed off the plane
I thanked the crew and headed off LH424 into Boston Airport.
The Flying Lab is a great concept. There are many ideas and concepts in the world – that sometime need a lot better explanation or exposure. Combining the Aviation Industry and the Suppliers, whilst presenting information in a format that is accessible to all makes a Flying Lab like this indispensable.
The Flight itself – Whilst the seat isn’t the best – it did the job. However, the bigger problem is the soft touches seemingly not visible in Lufthansa Premium Economy. There seems to be a lack of attention to detail (with crew forgetting drinks twice), and the provisioned catering… I’ve had better in Premium Economy experiences. Maybe with the Flying Lab aboard, the crew of LH424 had their minds elsewhere.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Recaro Aircraft Seating kindly invited Economy Class and Beyond, as a guest on the Lufthansa Flying Lab, as well as paying for the flights as part of this.
Economy Class and Beyond attended Apex Expo and Aircraft Interiors Expo North America’s as a media delegate
All opinions and thoughts are the author’s own, and are not directed by Recaro Aircraft Systems, Lufthansa Systems, APEX or Aircraft Interiors Expo.
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