Tried & Tested

KLM B747-400 (Combi) Economy Comfort

30 Aug 2010 by Tom Otley

BACKGROUND KLM launched its Economy Comfort product last year, offering up to four inches extra legroom (34in-35in/86cm-89cm compared with 31in/79cm for economy) and up to twice the recline (6in-7in/15cm-18cm) in a zone, though not a separate cabin, behind business class. Unlike the premium economy product offered by its partner Air France, the seat is the same as in economy, as is the service and catering.

What’s interesting – and a little confusing at first – is that passengers must book an economy ticket first and only after that is confirmed can they select one of these seats (from 90 days until 48 hours before departure) and pay extra. This is done by visiting the “Manage my booking” section of the website or when checking in online.
An Economy Comfort seat costs e80-e150 each way on top of the economy fare depending on the duration of the flight. Flying Blue platinum members or those travelling on a fully flexible economy ticket can get one free. Flying Blue gold and Skyteam Elite Plus members get a 50 per cent discount, while Flying Blue silver members pay 25 per cent less.

Note that in the main economy cabin there is also the option of buying an exit row seat with up to 23in/58cm extra legroom. These are available for e20-e70 per flight (online or kiosk check-in only). Platinum and gold Flying Blue members can get one for free.

CHECK IN I checked in for my 2305 departure (KL890) to Amsterdam from Hong Kong online the day before, selecting seat 11E. I used the KLM bag-drop at the Airport Express station in Central district at about 1800 and made my way to the airport later, at 2100. There were no queues at security and I was quickly airside.

BOARDING This commenced from Gate 35 at 2230 with two lines, one for business class passengers and frequent flyer members of Flying Blue or Skyteam partner airlines, and the other for those in economy or Economy Comfort. Boarding began at 2245 and I was quickly on board.

THE SEAT Business seating on the B747-400 Combi is in the nose of the aircraft across rows one to three (A-B, J-K) and four (A-B, E-F, J-K), a total of 18 seats, plus the whole of the upper deck in a staggered arrangement of 24 seats (configured A-B, J-K). Downstairs, on the main deck, there are 197 economy and 36 Economy Comfort seats, making a total of 275 across both decks – low for a B747-400 but the “Combi” indicates it has freight capacity. The Economy Comfort offering is across rows nine to 17 in a 3-2 (A-B-C, D-E) arrangement, and is at the front of the economy section – with the addition of a rear wall, it feels like a separate cabin. To see the seat plan, click here.

Economy Comfort featured seat-back screens that showed a good selection of audio-video on-demand (AVOD) entertainment – the same as in business class outbound. Economy class on the B747s is being fitted with AVOD systems throughout the rest of this year.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Legroom was impressive for all the Economy Comfort seats, but 9A-B-C and 11D-E have the greatest pitch as they are at the front of the cabin. Of these, 11E would be best, and then 12E, 14E, 15E and so on because of the space along the right-hand side between the wall and the seat, where you can place belongings and stretch out your legs.

THE FLIGHT The departure was on time and the 11-hour flight uneventful. The food and drink service comprised two hot meals – the first, dinner, was a choice of chicken or beef, the latter of which was Chinese-style and quite good. The second, breakfast, was an omelette, which I enjoyed. A choice of beverages including alcohol was served, and during the journey the crew brought around soft drinks at least once (orange/apple juice or water). I watched a film and then slept for about five hours, helped by the fact that I had a lot of legroom.

We were given blankets but the plane was quite cold and most people were huddled up, though this may have been because we were towards the front. There is a washroom shared with economy immediately to the rear of Economy Comfort, but despite a sign saying the business class restroom at the front was reserved for these travellers, many Comfort passengers used this one instead.

ARRIVAL We arrived 20 minutes early at 0455 local time for my 0715 connecting flight to Heathrow.

VERDICT Excellent value and cleverly priced. It’s still economy but with extra legroom and in a separate zone.

Tom Otley

FACT FILE

  • CONFIGURATION 3-2
  • SEAT WIDTH 17.5in/44.5cm
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return Economy Comfort flight from London to Hong Kong via Amsterdam in October started from £905 (for economy) plus EUR150.
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