Over the last year, more and more airline passengers have been booking premium economy seats. Carriers around the world have been responding in kind, rolling out new premium economy cabins at a steady rate. The latest to do so is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, which launched its inaugural flight featuring its brand new Premium Comfort cabin on its route from Amsterdam to New York City’s JFK airport on August 31.
“We looked around carefully at other airlines, especially our partners, to see what they do and what their experiences are,” says Paul Terstegge, the airline’s executive vice president of in-flight services. “Thats not the only driving force–the design of Premium Comfort is certainly our own customer research, our own identity, and our own brand that we put into this product. But of course, it helps to have a few examples; in our case, to have the experience of [our partners] Delta and Air France. We used it to our advantage, for sure.”
As I boarded the Boeing 787-10, the first—and so far only—aircraft with the distinct new cabin, the differentiation from economy was clear from the start.
The shiny new seats, arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration in a deep shade of KLM’s trademark blue, felt like a gigantic leap beyond its economy class with 3-3-3 seating. With an additional seven-inches of pitch—38 inches compared to 31—it made such a spacious difference that I didn’t even have to get up from my aisle seat for the middle-seat passenger to exit the row. Also a major point of difference: eight inches of seat recline, compared to the five to seven inches in economy—a slight difference that feels significant, especially paired with the leg rest and adjustable foot rest. It reclines the body at just the right angle to feel like a low lounge chair. (Though mid-way through the flight, at 5-foot-6, my legs preferred hanging off the leg rest without the foot rest, which started to feel cramped.)
The mix-and-match of amenities between the economy and World Business classes is a bit of a hodgepodge, yet—for the most part—makes sense. The noise-canceling headphones were so effective that they added a layer of privacy as I breezed through two movies and an episode of Saturday Night Live, oblivious to the rest of the action on the plane. I found the Hella Jongerius–designed duvet so warm I didn’t even need to pull out the extra layer I always stash in my carry-on. These are both elegant touches from business class, while the pillow is from economy, but has an upgraded pillowcase. The restroom, however, is shared with economy—perhaps the most humbling part of the experience.
With curtains on each end separating the very private middle-tier cabin with only 28 seats, it was a bit of a jarring reality to duck through and stand in line for the lavatory that’s shared by 252 economy passengers. That said, compared to other trans-Atlantic flights, the facility remained relatively clean during my three visits throughout the flight and was roomy enough that it didn’t require any sort of Jenga movements to open the door.
There are also plenty of amenities designed just for Premium Comfort—a name that was given to the class based on passenger input. The 13.3-inch iPad-like screens, which tilt upward to match the angle of the recline of the seat in front of you, are just the right size between economy’s 9- to 11-inch screens and business’ 16- to 18-inch ones (which I also experienced, and felt a little too large, even in a private full-flat compartment).
Also hitting the “just right” middle ground are the food and beverage offerings. A tangible menu provided a touch of business service, but the options were presented while the cart was being wheeled down the aisle, like in economy. After an initial beverage offering along with mixed nuts, we were served a main meal. The menu itself is exclusive to Premium Comfort, always with options for a meat, fish, or vegetable entree. On my flight, the appetizer was a grilled chicken salad with nuts and mango hummus, along with a side dish of goat cheese and blue cheese paired with grapes. I opted for the cold entree, featuring salmon alongside potato salad and vegetables, while the meat dish was a chicken tom kha kai and the vegetable featured beluga lentils in harissa sauce.
Served separately after our trays were collected was stroopwafel ice cream, a lovely touch of combining the trademark Dutch syrup cookies that has been popularized aboard flights since United started serving them in 2015 with a cool treat. Luckily for me, my innovative flight attendant suggested using it to make iced coffee, giving me an extra cup to scoop the ice cream into and then pour my hot coffee over—a true highlight of the flight.
Another highlight was the much-buzzed-about Bols Espresso Martini, only served in Premium Comfort—and that, of course, comes shaken, not stirred, with just the right amount of foam. Just before landing, there was another light meal service that lived up to its name featuring a beet and tomato salad, along with a hot side dish of four falafel bites with sweet pepper compote and topped off with another of my favorite offerings, a pastel de nata custard treat.
Sustainability shines at mealtime, not only in the menu curation, but also with the lightweight reusable tableware. The company’s dedication is truly showcased in its amenity kit, which was handed out by attendants shortly after take off. The mesh drawstring back, decorated with Premium Comfort’s own trademark artwork of the Dutch landscape from above, is upcycled from plastic bottles in partnership with Repreve Our Ocean, with suggestions for passengers to reuse it for washing clothes, grocery shopping, or storing clothes and shoes.Trending Stories
The contents are sparse, but meaningful. In addition to a fairly standard-issue eye mask, mini pen, and ear plugs, there’s a bamboo toothbrush from The Bamboovement and toothpaste tablets from Happy Tabs to cut down on packaging and waste.
On the other end, technological improvements are also top of mind. While economy has USB plugs, Premium Comfort has 110V plugs, as well as both USB-A and USB-C ports (I tried out the latter, and it was a super quick charge compared to other flights). There’s also the option to purchase Wi-Fi—while low-data sites and apps worked fairly easily, there was a definite lag time on more photo-heavy sites (I never got Instagram to load quite right). That said, KLM is committed to improving in-flight connection, citing one of its current projects as testing out streaming services on board. Little touches also go a long way in the cabin. The pull-out tray table has a phone stand that can be used when opened up to both its half and full sizes, and there’s an additional netted seat-back pocket to hold devices. The aisle seats have a built-in step to help reach overhead compartments (a feature added based on flight attendant feedback) and the sidewall of the seats can also be lowered completely for full accessibility to the seats.
Premium Comfort tickets also include a mix of perks to use before even boarding the flight—passengers are entitled to two checked bags and two carry-ons, plus a personal item, the same allotment as business class. It also comes with Sky Priority check-in access, which allowed us to bypass the often-lengthy lines at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, as staffing shortages continue to plague the terminal (it took me about an hour to get through immigration and exit the airport upon arrival). But the lounge access to the Non-Schengen Crown Lounge—a stunning nearly 73,000-square-foot space that opened in 2019—is accessible for a fee. (But well worth it for the variety of seating from private nooks to a stadium-style theater, and an open-kitchen buffet plus several bars, including a Heineken one, an ode to the Amsterdam original.)
While the aircraft I was on is the only one with the Premium Comfort class at the moment, other aircraft are in the process of being retrofitted, an approximate eight-day process per plane. The priority now is on north Atlantic routes, though KLM anticipates its full fleet of 777 and 787 aircrafts will have the new class by the beginning of 2024. Booking is currently offered as an upgrade from economy when seats are available, but as inventory opens up, passengers will be able to book the cabins seats directly, with approximate pricing being twice that of economy (business is about four times).
“We’d like customers to walk away with a ‘wow’ experience, where it is really something different,” Terstegge says. “We hope our Premium Comfort product stands out from premium products from our competitors—and most importantly, that the value for money is worth the extra investment in terms of what you get back in luxury comfort and a memorable experience.”
Share this release KLM Is Ready For SkyPriority
Sky Priority passengers also have access to a priority security lane, which can make for a shorter wait to get to the gate area. In Europe, travelers dont typically need to take off their shoes or remove liquids or electronics from their luggage.
This 57″ reporter appreciated the addition of a little step tucked into the seats armrest (seen in the bottom right of this sections first photo), which helps us short people access the overhead bins.
Similarly, Terstegge said, the plastic trays in Premium Comfort are reusable and recyclable. They are washed and reused until they show signs of wear, he said, and then they are broken down into pellets and re-molded into new trays.
The airline also put an emphasis on accessibility in the seats design. The aisle armrests can all be lowered, which can make it easier for those with mobility difficulties to get in and out of the seat.
Hedwig Sietsma, KLMs director of climate policy told USA TODAY ahead of the flight that the airline closely evaluates the overall climate impact of everything it brings aboard. She said that in the economy cabin especially, plastic cutlery is actually more environmentally-friendly than heavier reusable options, because the lightweight plastic means planes burn less fuel than they would otherwise.
Is economy Comfort Sky Priority?
What is the difference between economy and economy Comfort on KLM?
Who is considered Sky Priority?
Does Delta Sky Priority work on KLM?