Until now, Dubai-based Emirates has been the only big airline to feature ten-across (3-4-3) economy class seating for its B777 fleet. Rival B777 operators offer nine-across seating in a 3-3-3 configuration, or sometimes a 2-5-2 layout.
But now Air France and Dutch carrier KLM have followed suit. Both have put in one extra economy class seat per row on their new B777-300ERs, upping the number of seats from nine, to the denser ten-across layout.
At first, both carriers are only fitting this seating to their newish B777-300ER crafts. Air France says this configuration is limited for the time being to flights between Paris, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean.
KLM’s first B777-300ER arrived in Amsterdam fresh from the factory yesterday (February 13). It, and the other five B777-300ERs joining KLM’s fleet, will all have ten-across seating, and these will be used to main destinations.
Adding more seats enables an airline to carry more passengers per flight, which in turn reduces the seat mile cost. Air France’s three-class B777-300ERs will accommodate a maximum of 472 passengers. The mammoth economy cabin alone on one of KLM’s two-class B777-300ERs contains 393 seats, so it can carry over 100 more passengers than on one of KLM’s older B777 versions.
To appease passengers, Emirates offers an extra inch or so of legroom on its converted craft. It’s not clear if Air France or KLM will do likewise.
Both KLM and Air France haven’t yet decided whether or not to retrofit their older B777s (these have the normal nine-across 3-3-3 layout).
This new configuration for the B777 is controversial, because although the B747 and the Airbus A380 also feature ten-across seating, they have wider cabins. A B777 has a width of 5.86 metres, whereas the B747 is 6.10 metres wide. On that basis, the A380’s cabin is positively luxurious, with a width of 6.58 metres.
What it means is that passengers occupying a ten-across layout on the B777 will find they have less elbowroom and narrower aisles. Indeed it means that it will be almost impossible for two people to pass each other when moving along the aisle. Readers have also complained about the messy boarding and deplaning process on fully booked Emirates B777 flights.
KLM is not wasting its time introducing its first B777-300ER into service. Christened “National Park De Hoge Veluwe”, its maiden flight is today (February 14) on the popular Amsterdam-Dubai route. The planes in the small fleet will all be named after Dutch national parks.
Report by Alex McWhirter