Fox – sly.   Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.   Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance. 

2006 January 20

Lufthansa. Flying backwards

Poor vision 

Inflight entertainment on Lufthansa A340-600s takes passengers on a flashback to the 1960s. But not in the music or black-and-white films – but in the airline’s video system.  

The airline has done away with seatback screens in favour of all-cabin screens. This enables all passengers to watch the same movie at the same time. And on a long flight (as usual for A340s), a second movie at a time determined by the cabin crew – which may, of course, also match the wishes of some passengers.  

Lufthansa’s system does away with the time-consuming possibility of choosing from a selection of around 10 movies – as on most other airlines concentrating on passenger demands suited to the 21st century. And some – such as Singapore Airlines – even allow passengers to determine for themselves the times they want to start the shows and movies.  

The other advantage on Lufthansa is that children do not need to spend their time on board playing video games, watching cartoons, or other programs. So they can fill their time playing around the seat. Unfortunately, Lufthansa’s new seats no longer have ashtrays, so children cannot play opening and closing them. But a glass-holder has been added, and this keeps children occupied for as long as five minutes, but many times in the flight, or until they break it – whichever comes first.  

My point is that Lufthansa has presumably decided that in the new world of airline business, costs must be cut, particularly in economy class. But passengers accept no-frills if fares are low, but on Lufthansa they are not low.  

The airline has made a strategic mistake. It will either have to refit* seatback screens in the next refurbishing or go the way of low-fare-airlines and reduce fares substantially (and take out other service elements if it wants, like seat pockets, cushions, blankets – but keep the seats). 

* A useless space in the back of seats seems to have been created for this purpose. If so, we expect Lufthansa to start equipping its seats with screens before this summer.

Service not included 

Notes from another longhaul Lufthansa flight, and written up because to me these indicate some institutional problems at the airline. 

– In the first 10” I asked a stewardess for a specific magazine. She suggested I go to other section of the cabin and ask there. 

– In the first 10” I asked a steward for the inflight magazine as there was not one in my seat-pocket. He replied that my neighbour (not a travelling companion) had one, implying I could use that. I responded saying that was hers. Well, he replied, ask to borrow it then. (!) When I then complained to him about his attitude, he said he would get one for me, and did. 

– Later, after meal service, a stewardess came around offering coffee top-up. I accepted, and asked for sugar and milk. She pointed to the steward elsewhere in the cabin with the trolley, and said I could ask him. When she passed again, I complained, saying my coffee would be cold by the time the steward arrived. She answered with an explanation (saying she was speaking to a passenger), but this was irrelevant and disingenuous; it seems she just wanted to answer back. She brought the milk and sugar. 

– Steward served breakfast trays any way (right angles, wrong way round, etc, leaving passengers to straighten them). This was not ‘service’; it was ‘delivery’. 

– On this (admittedly long) flight, a short video about pandas was shown three times on the main cabin screens; I had already missed it on my outbound flight, and I don’t know if it was also shown three times on that flight. I know pandas are an endangered species, but this seems to be overkill.