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The big picture: KLM unveils first fully-flat business class seat

Published: 19/03/2013 - Filed under: News »

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KLM has unveiled its new long haul fully-flat seat today, at an aircraft hanger at Amsterdam Schiphol airport.

As previously reported on Business Traveller (see online news, November 10, 2011 and April 25, 2012), KLM will launch its first fully-flat business class seat in July this year.

The carrier's Boeing 747-400s will be converted first; a total of 22 aircraft, with the work scheduled to be completed by April 2014.

The seat is the Diamond seat from BEAerospace, similar to that of United BusinessFirst.

The fully-flat seat includes storage spaces under the TV screens, and features five key colours - aubergine, dark brown, midnight blue, cobalt and dark grey.

The number of seats in the revamped B747 business class cabin will be reduced from 42 to 35, with three 'solo' seats being created in 1A, 4A and 4E. A comparison of the current and new seating layouts can be seen here.

As had been widely leaked (Tom Otley reports), KLM’s new World Business Class seat is the Diamond Seat manufactured by B/E Aerospace, but as with all airlines which have taken the seat, a fair amount of customisation has taken place, including the configuration, as KLM board member and managing director Erik Varwijk was keen to point out.

“It is true that other airlines have the Diamond seat, but our new seat is not the same. Our seat is better than Lufthansa’s, for instance. Lufthansa’s seat is 1.98m long, while ours is 2.07m. Our seats are parallel, not in a “v” position, and our seat back screens are 17 inches, not 15 inches.”

The new seats will be fitted to the first of KLM’s 22 B747-400 fleet in June 2013, with the inaugural flight of the first KLM aircraft with the new interior including the new seat in July 2013.

Over the course of the following 12 months, the rollout will see the rest of the fleet completed by summer 2014. This is a very quick retrofit, at least partly because there is some regulatory issue with the old business class seat, I understand, which means it would have to be phased out.

Once the B747 fleet have been retrofitted, then the B777-200 fleet will be fitted, though with a slight adaptation of the seat. Meanwhile economy class, although it will have a “soft” refit of the fabrics, will not see new seating.

The IFE system on the B747-400 aircraft will also remain the same as it is now – a Panasonic 3000 system. Although CEO Peter Hartman said that the cost of the new World Business Class seats being fitted is large “about the same as buying two new planes” in his phrase, the cost of installing a new IFE system would add considerably to it.

The intention is for the B747-400 aircraft to be gradually retired from KLM’s fleet starting in three to four years’ time, replaced by B787-900 aircraft, with AF-KLM having already placed a large order, though Erik Varwijk  said that some of the B747-400s will continue to fly until 2020.

There are plenty of pictures of the seat, and we hope to get a seatmap to see the configuration, though it is clear that the puzzle of where to put the passengers feet has been solved by having a slight staggered configuration, with the fully flat bed being achieved by the footrest being to one side of the seat in front.

As expected, the fully flat seat takes up more room on the aircraft than the existing seat, and so the number of business class seats has been reduced, from 42 to 35 aboard the Boeing 747-400. KLM is keen to emphasise the length of the bed, not least as Peter Hartman pointed out, the “Dutch are very tall people”.

The seat was unveiled by having a "passenger" sit in it for an imaginary day time flight from Amsterdam to New York. A giant screen behind showed various aspects of the journey, from boarding the aircraft, to having a meal service, to watching IFE, and even dozing while sitting up in the seat, images of those dreams appearing on the screen. To see some videos of that (similar to the one at the top of this piece), click here.

There was then a presentation in several parts concerning the food (Jonnie & Therese Boer), the wine, the cutlery and tableware (Marcel Wanders) and lastly, Hella Jongerius. 

Visit klm.com, and to have your say on the new seat on our forum, click here.

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COMMENTS » 

Biarritzsurf15 - 20/03/2013 11:50

Looks very smart indeed. Well done KLM. How to leapfrog BA in one go. Well done!

goldenhands - 20/03/2013 12:05

This is all too little too late.. KLM are so behind..they also need to improve their lounges at schiphol... compared with all other airline lounges they are a disgrace... too full... with a sad choice of food... when are KLM going to get it right????

VintageKrug - 20/03/2013 12:56

It's a welcome improvement to a previously dire wedgy-bed lie flat at an angle product offering.

The screen looks a lot bigger than many I've experienced; let's hope the content is worthy of it.

The problem with this layout and larger screens is that you're constantly distracted by whatever you're neighbour is watching; particularly annoying at night.

Not sure the pictures do it justice, but the materials used look rather more "dentist's chair" than perhaps they were aiming for.

Good to see this once excellent airline upping its game.

GregCook - 20/03/2013 20:09

Not before time! The current seat is poor.
Direct isle access for all i wonder?
Next, sort out the lounge F+B please.

Vertrek - 21/03/2013 10:56

A big leap indeed! KLM can easily claim to have the Best Business class offering from an European company with this new seat, the great food and the great service! The designer seat is much refreshing then the usual mass-produced and overly-dense grey and dark blue seat.

Well done KLM! =)

brianba - 21/03/2013 14:34

Hardly a leapfrog over BA! BA are on their 2nd flat bed seat in business class & this KLM one is not a huge improvement on BA's first

MarkCymru - 21/03/2013 15:35

I think you've linked to a review of the wrong type of seat. The review is of the seating used on the old UA trans-Atlantic routes. The new KL offering looks to me like the seat offered on the old CO trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific routes (IMHO, the latter is much better than the former although neither are perfect). The big difference is that your review if a layout in which some seats are forward facing and some are backward. This not the layout offered on the old CO equipment or, as I understand it, to be offered by KL

SiteAdministrator - 21/03/2013 15:58

Yes, quite right - I looked for a review of the seat, didn't find it and then forgot to delete the link to the review, so thank you for pointing that out and I've changed the copy.

trident3 - 22/03/2013 16:34

"KLM has unveiled its new long haul fully-flat seat today, at an aircraft hanger at Amsterdam Schiphol airport."

'I MUST LEARN TO SPELL HANGAR CORRECTLY' 500 times please !

SiteAdministrator - 22/03/2013 17:01

But you already know how to spell hanger....

Albert15 - 01/04/2013 22:26

This is about 6 years to late. If KLM wants to do it right the arrogant attitude of the flight attendants, the ground crew and the lousy quality of the food that is being served has to drastically improve.

They will never be able to become serious competition to Triple A airlines like Lufthansa, Swiss or BA. The whole airline is a reflection of the misplaced Dutch superiority complex and the partnering with horror airlines Delta and Aeroflot serves them right. Even worse than flying with them is trying to find a seat in their dirty and nasty smelling lounges with a couple of KLM prison guards at the entrance that treat you like if you just ruined their day by having the guts to come in.

A passenger is the worst enemy in the life of a KLM employee! Whatever seats that are being put in their 24 year old 747 fleet, won't be able to chance that.

Annoyedalso - 26/10/2013 21:28

The comment below say it all. Read it KLM! Stingy b######s. No airline flouts their hatred of pasengers more than klm:
Written by Albert15
""This is about 6 years to late. If KLM wants to do it right the arrogant attitude of the flight attendants, the ground crew and the lousy quality of the food that is being served has to drastically improve.

They will never be able to become serious competition to Triple A airlines like Lufthansa, Swiss or BA. The whole airline is a reflection of the misplaced Dutch superiority complex and the partnering with horror airlines Delta and Aeroflot serves them right. Even worse than flying with them is trying to find a seat in their dirty and nasty smelling lounges with a couple of KLM prison guards at the entrance that treat you like if you just ruined their day by having the guts to come in.

A passenger is the worst enemy in the life of a KLM employee! Whatever seats that are being put in their 24 year old 747 fleet, won't be able to chance that.""

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