An A330 as a flying superyacht with its own spacious terrace and entertainment area? That’s how Lufthansa Technik sees its latest VIP cabin concept, soon to be unveiled at the Dubai airshow. 

The ‘EXPLORER’ concept is based on the superyachts that enable their wealthy owners to travel wherever they want in luxurious style, Wieland Timm, head of sales VIP and Special Mission Aircraft Services at Lufthansa Technik, tells AeroTime. 

“It’s not only a boutique hotel, but a base camp for further exploration.”

Lufthansa Technik business, part of Lufthansa Group, is mainly known for its maintenance, repair and overhaul work.The VIP and Special Mission division, based in Hamburg, installs luxury cabins on board jet planes, starting from the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 family aircraft and moving to larger aircraft such as A350s or even 747s. 

“We’ve taken all the gimmicks which are available to us and put them into this one concept,” Timm explains of the EXPLORER designs. 

It might seem a strange time to be launching such a concept, but Timm says that the market to install VIP cabins on private jets is actually very stable. The VIP division’s revenue has been increasing each of the last three years and it has taken on more staff. Along with wealthy individuals, the company’s Special Mission division fits out jets for governments, such as new A350s for the German government.

“We are sold out of production, there’s no shortage of money in the market,” Timm declares. “We are negotiating contracts with delivery dates out to 2025.”

EXPLORER CONCEPT 

lufthansa technik explorer balcony

Image credit: Lufthansa Technik

The EXPLORER concept foresees a dramatic conversion for a wide-body jet. Lufthansa Technik’s proposal is based on an Airbus A330, ensuring there’s plenty of space for 12 VIP passengers on board. 

The aircraft’s first selling point may not sound especially luxurious. It’s a cargo door. But, open it downwards and it is no longer a cargo door, but a spacious verandah. 

“It’s a big balcony for an aircraft. You can sit out there with a drink and enjoy the views,” Timm says. 

The second big draw is the entertainment area, which can be used as a dining area, yoga studio or dance floor. “If you are in an aircraft for two weeks, flying around the world, you probably also want to party at some point,” Timm laughs.

What makes this area stand out is a system, designed by German firm Diehl, of 20-30 inbuilt projectors. These make it possible to project images on the ceiling and sides of the fuselage and create impressive scenery. For example, clouds can be projected, giving the impression of being in an aircraft with a glass ceiling. In another example, fish and sea creatures can be shown swimming overhead, creating the feeling of being underwater. There are thousands of different patterns to choose from, Timm boasts. 

lufthansa technik explorer virtual aquarium

Image credit: Lufthansa Technik

The EXPLORER also offers a garage on the lower deck, which can be viewed through a glass window from the main deck, so that people can store “their toys”. It also includes four bedroom suites, plus a spa and a small gym room that can fit a treadmill or a bike. An intensive care unit can also be installed if required. 

Lufthansa Technik first teased the EXPLORER concept at the Monaco Yacht Show in September 2021. The company sees two different customers for the EXPLORER plane. The first is private individuals, who could use it themselves but also rent it out for charter. The second is investors offering specialized luxury round-the-world trips. 

“This concept is missing from the market, people are looking for it,” Timm states. “People are paying $100,000-$200,000 per person per week for luxury tailor-made trips. And if they are spending so much, they want some entertainment.”

Timm says Lufthansa Technik is ready to receive orders for the product. However, it will take at least 16-17 months to build the cabin, plus time to find the aircraft, so realistically, work could only start at the end of 2022. 

“So it will take between two and three years for the final product to be ready. But this is normal and not COVID-19 related,” Timm says. 

While the concept is based on an A330, Lufthansa Technik could also adapt it to other wide-bodies, including the Boeing 777 (which does have a cargo door for that balcony), or the A350 or 787. 

SMALLER PLANS

This isn’t the only unusual cabin concept that the Lufthansa Technik VIP team will be touting at the Dubai airshow. 

Timm also has an intriguing gimmick for the Airbus ACJTwoTwenty business jet, based on the A220 passenger airliner. 

The ACJTwoTwenty, due to come to market in 2025, will be the smallest cabin that Lufthansa Technik offers in its VIP business. 

Lufthansa Technik has received approval for an “extended cockpit” that allows passengers to sit behind the pilots and get a closer look at the view from the pointy end. The wall that normally separates the flight deck has moved further back into the main cabin area, leaving space for a lounge area for a couple of passengers to sit in. Of course, there is still a door between the flight deck and the cabin that can be locked, a requirement for charter flights, Timm explains.

lufthansa technik a220 cockpit lounge

Image credit: Lufthansa Technik

Overall, Lufthansa Technik is promoting a fresh, modern style for its ACJTwoTwenty cabin design. Timm says he expects it will appeal to a younger customer base than the typical 50 to 70-year-olds who can afford their own private plane. 

“We’re trying to attract our first customers. We expect it will appeal to younger customers, especially in Asia, who want to fly with their friends,” Timm explains, adding that these customers could even be below the age of 30.  

The company is also keen to showcase its “Made in Germany” credentials.

“Everybody loves ‘Made in Germany’. We’re the Mercedes of the aircraft world,” Timm declares.  

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