KLM Set To Introduce Long Haul Premium Economy Cabin

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines’ CEO has confirmed that the airline will begin to offer premium economy on long-haul flights. Currently, the airline offers economy comfort which allows passengers to pay for extra legroom. The new class will not be available for at least one year.

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KLM will introduce a premium economy class on its long-haul flights starting in 2021. Photo: Getty Images

A new class for a new venture

KLM is finally stepping up and matching its Air France partner in offering a premium economy. CEO Pieter Elbers has said that,

Our North Atlantic partners Air France, Delta and Virgin Atlantic all already have a premium economy product.”

KLM’s joint venture with Air France, Delta and Virgin launched earlier this month.

The new premium economy will bring KLM to the same standard and the same offerings as its partners and will help standardize the customers’ experience when traveling. However, the airline will not be able to offer the new class for at least a year. Before passengers can travel the premium economy, the airline will have to seek certifications and refit its aircraft interiors.

The new venture was the push the airline needed to join most other airlines in offering a premium economy class. KLM is one of the last major airlines without a premium economy; British airways launched its version 20 years ago.

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Offering a premium economy class means the aircraft will need to be reconfigured. Photo: KLM

The last airlines

Despite KLM being slower than average when it comes to offering premium economy, there is another surprising airline that has only recently announced it will introduce the class: Emirates.

Emirates is one of the biggest airlines in the world and rumors that it would finally introduce a premium economy have been circulating for several years now. But 2020 could be the year Emirates joins the premium economy party.

Gulf carriers, in general, have been slow to accept premium economy as a financially-viable option. The cost of a business class seat chosen instead of standard economy makes them a lot of money so why would they want to undercut this income?

The premium economy trend

When you consider that premium economy is now the best financial earner for airline, having overtaken business class last year, it does seem remarkable that more of the gulf carriers haven’t added this option earlier.

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The gap between Emirates’ business class (pictured, and economy means there is a demand for a middle offering. Photo: Getty Images

The Financial Times reported that airline cans charge up to 80% more per seat for premium economy than the standard offering. All that extra money for a slightly larger seat and a welcome drink. Apart from the initial set up cost of reconfiguring seating, Premium economy is the aviation industry’s current cash cow.

And it’s only growing. As the gap between business and standard economy grows, there is more and more demand for middle ground. People flying business class ten years ago would find little difference between the modern-day premium economy and the business offering back in the day. Advances in technology mean premium economy costs little to the airline. However, passengers are willing to fork out money for just that extra little bit of space and slightly better food.

But if it is so profitable, why are airlines like KLM and Emirates only introducing it now? Well, there has always been concern that business class passengers would downgrade rather than economy passengers upgrading. In this case, airlines would lose potential income.

However, KLM and Emirates do not need to worry. The trend seems to be that passengers who travel business or first class on business trips are not willing to sit in economy when traveling for leisure.

So long as the business world demands that employees travel the globe and companies are willing to pay for staff to travel in comfort, the demand for premium economy offerings continues.