2022 will be a big year for KLM as it plans a debut for a premium economy cabin. The airline’s CEO, Pieter Elbers, confirmed this in an interview. The new premium economy product will help standardize offerings across KLM and its major partners.
KLM is adding premium economy
In mid-2022, the first KLM aircraft with premium economy will debut, according to CEO Pieter Elbers in an interview with Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. The Dutch carrier is finally adding a cabin that has become more ubiquitous on airlines over the last few years.
The first aircraft to receive premium economy will be Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 777-300ERs. These are some of KLM’s flagship international aircraft and fly some of the airline’s most important routes.
KLM currently does not offer a premium economy cabin. It only offers extra-legroom economy, which is not the same as premium economy.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
What will the new premium economy product look like?
Premium economy is pretty standard across most airlines. They are essentially recliner-style premium products that could be found in some domestic first class cabins in the United States.
KLM’s sister, Air France, already has a premium economy product. The seats are wider, offer more pitch, and have greater recline than standard economy seats. For example, on a 787-9, Air France’s economy class is in a 3-3-3 configuration, while in premium economy, it is a 2-3-2 configuration.
Delta Air Lines is another KLM partner that has a premium economy cabin onboard select aircraft. Premium Select, Delta’s name for the product, meets much of the same criteria as Air France’s product, as it is wider and offers more recline.
KLM will likely choose a similar product. There is not a lot of variation in premium economy in the world. And, while Emirates was looking like it might break the trend and really introduce something new for premium economy, that is now looking highly unlikely.
Like other airlines, KLM has to walk a fine line between getting people to buy up from economy but not downgrade from business class. In addition to the hard product, KLM will also need to upgrade its soft product to differentiate between economy and premium economy.
Business class will not be left out
KLM’s business class will also undergo a “metamorphosis”. KLM’s Airbus A330s and Boeing 777s have a 2-2-2 configuration in business class, with no direct-aisle access. However, the Boeing 787s feature a reverse-herringbone 1-2-1 configuration.
The 2-2-2 configuration is no longer competitive. The hype these days is all about direct-aisle access in business class, and some are even going as far as to put doors in business class.
Like premium economy, it is not certain what KLM will be doing with its business class. Reverse herringbone business class is still common across most airlines, including KLM’s partners in Delta and some Air France aircraft. A reverse herringbone product would also help standardize KLM’s product across aircraft. However, given the recent retrofit of the Airbus A330s, it is unlikely that KLM will have a standard business class product across its aircraft for some time to come.
Air France, however, took a different direction with their new Airbus A350s. Rather than outfit them with the same reverse herringbone business class cabin on the carrier’s 787s, the airline went for a highly-efficient business class layout that offers every passenger direct aisle access. KLM could go with a similar product to keep a relatively large business class cabin while adding a new premium economy section.
Time will tell what KLM will do. However, for frequent fliers who like the Dutch carrier, 2022 could start an exciting new era for KLM.
Are you glad to see KLM adding premium economy to its planes? Let us know in the comments!