For a month at the end of 2020 passengers traveling between Frankfurt and Sao Paulo had the opportunity to buy a pillow, blanket, and the adjacent empty seats on board Lufthansa flights. The offering was sufficiently compelling that the carrier will expand it to dozens of routes as of this week. The new “Sleeper’s Row” offering officially took flight on Monday.
For between 159 and 229 euro a (very) limited number of travelers receive three to four adjacent seats, for the duration of the flight. Passengers in the Sleeper’s Row also receive a comfortable pillow, blanket, and mattress topper of Business Class quality.
A maximum of three Sleeper Row’s are sold on any given flight and securing one will require a bit of luck and smart timing. The option can only be purchased at the airport, either at the check-in counter or at the gate. Moreover, Lufthansa will not guarantee that the Sleeper’s Row will be available. If travelers buy all the seats on board then the upsell option goes away.
It is also not available on all long-haul routes. Lufthansa says the Sleeper’s Row will be offered in markets where flight time is roughly 11hours or more. This includes the west coast of the USA, South America, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, and South Africa.
It is less clear if the nearly 11 hours daytime routes (e.g. Frankfurt to Miami or Dallas) will also receive the option as the eastbound flights fall below the threshold.
Lufthansa describes the offer as a “further step towards more product diversity in Economy Class to meet passengers’ wishes for more comfort and individuality.” But the carrier also does not want to cannibalize its premium economy offering.
Offering the purchase at the airport and only in very limited numbers is a creative way to generate a bit of extra revenue and great margins on the cost of the extra pillow and blanket loaded for the flight, and without eroding yields in general.
Of course, the value of a couple block seats and a pillow is challenging to put a number on. This is not the the SkyCouch concept that Air New Zealand patented in that there is no flip-up portion of the seats to provide a wider bed area. Good news for the airline, but not great for travelers hoping that lie-flat coach delivers a truly comfortable experience on board.
It will also be interesting to see how the carrier implements the Sleeper’s Row from a seat assignment perspective. Presumably all seats in the rows would be blocked from assignment before getting to the airport to limit displacing others as the upsell is processed. But if no one buys that could presents an opportunity for a lucky few passengers to snag an empty middle seat for free. Very much worth keeping an eye on this, both from a business and passenger comfort perspective.
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