KLM Unveils New Business Class Lie Flat Seats

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Overall I like KLM as an airline and have had some great experiences flying their World Business Class and Economy Comfort to and from Europe. However, one of the things that usually holds me back from booking award tickets on the airline – apart from the fact that finding saver level availability using Delta miles was downright impossible for a good chunk of 2012 – is the fact that their old business class seats are angled lie-flats rather than fully horizontal, and the product has begun to look dated.

A first look at KLM's new business class.
A first look at KLM’s new business class.

However, the airline has been telling flyers since back in 2011 that it plans to introduce fully lie-flat business class seats designed by  to keep up with the competition, though it would not begin installing the new seats – which were designed by Hella Jongerius (you’d probably recognize her modular aesthetic from her famous “Polder” sofa) – until June 2013.

Yesterday, KLM released pictures of its new business class, and the cabin looks a lot fresher than when I last flew them, however they are far from industry-leading.

The seating resembles United's BusinessFirst.
The seating resembles United’s BusinessFirst.

The airline will first be refurbishing its fleet of 22 747-400’s with work scheduled to be completed by April 2014, followed by its 777-200’s before work begins on its Airbus aircraft.

You might recognize the seat from United’s BusinessFirst cabin, which are slightly staggered but in pairs, and instead of being slightly angled, these will all be parallel and forward facing. Each will recline to a full 2.07 meters (just enough to accommodate me!) and will have 17-inch seatback flatscreen IFE systems. All those customizations will take KLM’s current seating down from 42 to 35, likely making award availability even harder to find.

The seats will feature 17-inch flatscreens.
The seats will feature 17-inch flatscreens.

One of the newest trends in premium business class cabins is aisle access at every seat – airlines like Cathay Pacific and Delta are offering this in new 1 x 2 x 1 configurations aboard their 777’s.  With this 2x 2 x 2 configuration, the seats along the walls do not have direct aisle access so you need to either disturb the person sleeping next to you or be really limber to get out when the aisle seat is in lie-flat position. Even though I have long legs, I hate having to step over someone in the middle of the night in order to get to the lav.

While these aren’t super impressive, it beats most of SkyTeam’s longhaul business class products – especially Air France, whose cramped angled business class seats need a major revamping.

Taking advantage of Flying Blue’s half-price Promo Awards where you can get to/from Europe from North America for as few as 25,000 miles each way in business class could be a great way to test out the new product, and also keep an eye out for Amex transfer bonuses as well as future buy miles bonuses so you don’t break the miles bank redeeming for an award flight.

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