VANCOUVER — KLM Royal Dutch Airlines moved deeper into its fleet refurbishing program as it rolled one of its make-over aircrafts into the Vancouver market, aimed at attracting a greater slice of the business class market with its added passenger comfort features.
At a Vancouver luncheon, media and travel agents were able to view a refurbished B747-200 series plane, the second step in a five-stage revamp of KLM aircraft to bring them up to World Business Class features.
The first move was the upgrading of its 747-400 series aircraft which now has the two-by-two seating in business class and started appearing on routes in three years ago.
The second leap forward with revamped business features has been the B747-200 series viewed in Vancouver with the two-by-two-by-two business class seating. The B777-200 is equipped with 34 World Business Class seats and 282 economy seats.
Work is now in progress on the airline’s B777-300 series, which will be complete by year end and also features the two-by-two-by-two business class seating.
The fourth step will be upgrading the 787 Dreamliner’s interior plus adding new aircraft with the business class featuring a one-by-two-by-one seating plan. The A330s will be the last to be retrofitted in 2017 with the business class configuration still to be announced.
KLM launched its new design for its business class in 2013 using Dutch designer Hella Jongerius, who developed a design aimed at providing more personal space for passengers.
When Jongerius was approached by KLM in 2011, she looked at what has changed in air travel and how the business class could reflect that. In the past, business class air travel focused on creating a mini-office so that work could continue. Jongerius, on her website, said she took the opposite view and while individuals still have functional work space, she attempted to create an atmosphere that focused on rest and relaxation during flights and a sense of private space.
The seats now reflect that with an armchair feel when upright. The seats convert to a flat bed and measure 207 cm long (81.5”) when reclined and abut to a footrest providing an elongated sleeping area. The seats are slightly angled with partitions to provide more privacy, and the entertainment system provides for a 17” screen. She also has departed from the uniform colour used in cabin design and used up to seven colours to create an individual feel to the seats.
KLM’s Marketing Manager for Western Canada, Floria Sjer, who provided the Vancouver presentation, said one of the innovations is a seat-check application on the seat’s touchscreen television where individuals can connect to their fellow passengers if they want. Names are not displayed but individuals can connect based on seat number. “But you have to opt in,” he said.
Passengers travelling in World Business Class have access to the SkyPriority services and are greeted in a dedicated area of the Premium Plaza lounge.
Sjer said sustainability features have been considered too, including the B777-200 seen in Vancouver. The carpet, dark blue with royal blue flecks, uses fibres from recycled flight crew uniforms. And the economy class seats have been reduced in weight to save on fuel consumption and CO2 output.
Sjer said that as well as the new 777-200 retrofits flying KLM routes, the airline has introduced new destinations. They include England’s Southampton and Inverness, Genoa Italy, Alicante, Ibiza (seasonal), and Valencia in Spain, Salt Lake City (seasonal), Dresden in Germany and Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.
This summer the carrier flies daily between Vancouver and Amsterdam departing at 3:45 pm and landing at 10:20 a.m. From Amsterdam the flight leaves at 1 p.m. and touches down at 1:55 p.m. Vancouver time.
Five Canadian cities get a total of 37 weekly flights to Amsterdam: Vancouver (7), Toronto (12), Calgary (7), Edmonton (4) and Montreal (7). A shuttle bus service between Ottawa and Montréal-Trudeau connects passengers travelling to or from the nation’s capital with KLM flights every day.
Plus KLM’s partnership with WestJet makes it possible for Canadians from numerous cities to connect with KLM flights. Air France-KLM and its partners Delta Air Lines and Alitalia operate the biggest transatlantic joint venture with 270 daily flights.