KLM Continues Plan To Reconfigure Aircraft For Premium Economy

Late last year we found out that KLM had plans to introduce a premium economy product. Including this class of service has been an ongoing trend that has continued to gain momentum in recent years, with Emirates being one of the latest airlines to add it. Looking to be the next major carrier to follow, KLM’s CEO noted in an interview that his airline had accelerated the introduction of the new class to its long-haul aircraft even prior to the global health crisis.

KLM’s oldest 787s are only around six years old, first delivered to the airline in 2015. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

KLM and premium economy class

In December 2020, we first reported on KLM’s plans for premium economy. The airline hopes to have the class on long-haul aircraft in mid-2022. While we only discovered KLM’s PE ambition in December, the airline seems to have been mulling the class for some time, with its CEO noting during a CAPA Live interview that even prior to the global health crisis, there was a plan for the product:

“We’ve decided, prior to COVID, to accelerate the introduction of premium economy as a class. Today we only have it as an ancillary service.” -Pieter Elbers, CEO, KLM

Indeed, KLM’s current long-haul setup sees just two classes of service: business and economy. The airline does offer an Economy Comfort sub-class, which features economy class service with more spacious seats positioned at the front of the cabin section, behind business class.

While no details have been shared about what the class will look like, Premium economy typically offers wider seats with more legroom and more recline than economy. Many airlines have included ‘pop-out’ legrests with their premium seats as well. Larger IFE screens, early boarding, as well as an elevated dining experience are traditionally additional aspects of this cabin.

Below is a look at what KLM’s ‘other half,’ Air France, is offering in terms of premium economy.

A focus on the 777 and 787

Simple Flying had also reported that the first aircraft to receive premium economy would be Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 777-300ERs. This plan was reaffirmed by KLM’s CEO on Wednesday, with Elbers saying, “We are reconfiguring the majority of our widebody flight, concentrating around the 777 and 787.”

Those familiar with the KLM fleet will pick up on the fact 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 shorter -200 and the other five being the longer -300. The -200 fleet is an average of 15 years old, while the -300s have an average age of eight and a half. It’s also possible the A330s won’t be reconfigured at all, if the airline goes ahead with an early retirement of the type.

The airline’s 787-10s are some of the newest widebodies in the KLM fleet. Most of these were delivered in 2019. Photo: KLM

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For upgrades- and downgrades

One of the more interesting notes Elbers shared about premium economy was that it would not just be for economy class travelers hoping to experience an improved level of service. Rather, the CEO admits that this new class could steal travelers away from the more profitable business class, saying:

“This can both accommodate business travelers not coming back to business class, and economy class (travelers) making sure there’s a little bit more room and a little more space, which could begin post-COVID to be a value-element for our consumers.”

The airline’s Boeing 777s and 787s will be the main target of a reconfiguration for premium economy, leaving the airline’s Airbus A330s in the initial roll-out. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

While most airlines would certainly welcome traditional economy class passengers paying more for the upgrade in service, a downgrading from business class would be far less desirable. However, it looks like KLM’s CEO is acknowledging that this is a phenomenon that may indeed happen- a pragmatic outlook on an industry that has changed greatly with the pandemic.

With about one year left to go, are you looking forward to KLM’s premium economy class? Let us know by leaving a comment!

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