At the end of last year, we found out that KLM was planning to introduce a premium economy product. The inclusion of this class of service is an ongoing trend that has continued to gain momentum in recent years, with Emirates being one of the latest airlines to add it. Seeking to be the next major carrier to follow, the CEO of KLM noted in an interview that his airline had accelerated the introduction of the new class in its long-haul aircraft even before the global health crisis.
KLM and premium economy class
In December 2020, we first reported on KLM’s premium economy plans. The airline hopes to have class on long-haul jets by mid-2022. While we only found out about KLM’s PE ambition in December, the airline seems to have been thinking about class for some time, with its CEO noting in a CAPA Live interview that even before the global health crisis, there was a plan for the product:
“We decided, before COVID, to accelerate the introduction of premium economy class as a class. Today we only have it as an ancillary service. -Pieter Elbers, CEO of KLM
In fact, KLM’s current long-haul configuration only provides for two classes of service: business and economy. The airline offers an Economy Comfort subclass, which offers economy class service with more spacious seats placed in the front of the cabin section, behind the business class.
Although no details have been released on the appearance of the class, Premium Economy Class generally offers wider seats with more legroom and more recline than Economy Class. Many airlines have also included “pop-out” legrests with their premium seats. Larger IFE screens, early boarding as well as an elevated dining experience are traditionally additional aspects of this cabin.
Below is an overview of what the “other half” of KLM, Air France, offers in terms of premium economy.
Focus on the 777 and 787
Simple Flying had also announced that the first planes to benefit from the premium economy class would be the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the 777-300ER. This plan was reaffirmed on Wednesday by the CEO of KLM, Elbers saying: “We are reconfiguring the majority of our widebody flights, focusing on the 777 and 787.”
Those familiar with KLM’s fleet will understand that this simply means that the airline’s Airbus A330s will be left out, at least in the initial reconfigurations. The carrier has 11 A330s, six of which are the shortest -200 and the other five are the longest -300. The -200 fleet has an average age of 15 years, while the -300 have an average age of eight and a half. It is also possible that the A330s will not be reconfigured at all if the airline does such an early retirement.
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For upgrades and downgrades
One of the more interesting notes Elbers shared about the premium economy was that it wouldn’t just be for economy travelers who are hoping for an improved level of service. On the contrary, the CEO admits that this new class could turn travelers away from the more profitable business class, saying:
“This can accommodate both business travelers not returning in business class and economy class (travelers) by ensuring that there is a little more room and a little more space, which could start after COVID to be of value to our consumers. “
While most airlines would certainly accommodate traditional economy class passengers by paying more for the in-service upgrade, downgrading from business class would be much less desirable. However, it looks like the CEO of KLM is acknowledging that this is a phenomenon that can indeed happen – a pragmatic view of an industry that has changed a lot with the pandemic.
With about a year to go, are you looking forward to KLM’s premium economy class? Let us know by leaving a comment!