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As you might have noticed, KLM has announced a new zone for it’s passengers a few months ago: Economy Comfort. And from december 2009, the new seats will be available in the entire KLM intercontinental fleet. KLM just officially announced the official start of “Economy Comfort”. I was invited to check the Economy Comfort Zone and test some of the seats. So what to expect?

 

Economy Comfort

Economy Comfort

Economy Comfort class in 777

Economy Comfort zone in 777

 

Why Economy Comfort?

KLM has started the Economy Comfort zone like a cross-over between Economy Class and Business Class (but based in the Economy Class section of the plane). Depending on the type of aircraft, there will be 34 to 40 seats to choose from. Economy Class passengers can book an Economy Comfort seat for an additional fee between 80-150 euro (depending on the length of the flight).  Due to the economic climate many people and companies have less money to spend on flying. The Dutch airline hopes that the Economy Comfort will serve some of these passengers a better balance of cost and comfort.

What’s different at the seats in Economy Comfort?
KLM explains: “Economy Comfort features seats with up to 89cm (35 inches) of legroom – over 12% (10 cm/4 inches) more than standard Economy Class seats.  You can look forward to even more relaxation, as the seats in Economy Comfort also recline up to twice as far. In addition to this extra space, Economy Comfort passengers enjoy faster disembarkation.”

In short: you got quite alot more space which can make a significant difference for passengers on long flights, especially when you’re quite tall (like the Dutch people haha). It also makes sleeping alot more comfortable. KLM invited me to check the seats in Economy Comfort Zone  in the KLM hangars. They were just building this in a 747, so this was an excellent opportunity to check out the newly build seats. When I sat down I could stretch my legs and the recline made it quite nice and easy to lie back. It was amazing to see the technical crew (re)building the inside of this airplane so quickly. Within 48 hours the new zone was build into the plane.

Below you can check some pictures of the Economy Comfort zone in a Boeing 747:

Economy Comfort Class

Economy Comfort Zone

Economy Comfort Class

Economy Comfort Zone

For who?
The Economy Comfort Zone is for everybody, but customers with Flying Blue Platinum Status can use these seats free of charge. KLM also states: “Passengers who have purchased a fully flexible Economy Class fare (X, S or B booking class) may also reserve a seat in Economy Comfort for free.” You can book through KLM.com or through the usual ticket agents or the reservation phonenumber.

Conclusion
So will the new Economy Comfort seats be a succes? I can imagine that passengers that fly for business will be happy to see a cheaper alternative for the business class and will use “Comfort Zone”quite frequently. It’s great and comfortable enough for longer flights without being overly luxury. I’m not sure if many leisure passengers will use this “Comfort Zone” instantly, as for alot of people the price is one of the most important factors in chosing a seat, but we will see how the seats are divided within a few months. Still, it’s very cool to see KLM has made this step and build this new seat option in the fleet in such a short time. Looking forward to hear your experiences in the Economy Comfort Zone, please tell them to me on Twitter through my @klmfan account.

For more info: http://www.klm.com

Extra
By walking through the KLM hangars I had the chance to shoot some nice pictures and vids with my iPhone, see the result below. Check out the beautiful 777 in the Skyteam colours and the beautiful sights of the hangars.

KLM plane

KLM plane

Plane Skyteam colours

Plane Skyteam colours

Hangars KLM

Hangars KLM

Thanx Elleke Berkhof and the rest of the crew @KLM for having me over.

Monday the 23th of November I was invited by KLM to attend the special event regarding the first partly “bio-fueled” flight with passengers on board. The flight would take off on Schiphol, Amsterdam Airport and fly around the Netherlands for approximately one hour. It’s a demonstration flight with one engine running on a mixture of 50% traditional kerosene and 50% biofuel. The biofuel is not yet certified, but this might be an important step towards a “greener” aviation future. The biofuel is made from Camelina, for more info about this plant click here. The flight would be attended by VIP’s like Peter Hartman (CEO of KLM), Maria van der Hoeven (Minister of Economic Affairs) and many others. In total around 40 people would attend the flight. Armed with just my iPhone I covered the event through my KLM Fan Twitter account, but below here you can read my experiences in sentences longer than 140 characters..

KLM biofuel plane
The plane from a distance

Bad weather

Before I would attend the “biofuel event” I first had a little trip around Schiphol East in some hangars. I will write down my experiences later on this blog, but it was really fun to check out the amazing hangars at Schiphol. More of that later. The weather was pretty much horrible: rain, some wind and not a single bit of sunshine made this quite a grey day. But that’s typically the autumn weather you can expect in The Netherlands. Due to my early arrival at Schiphol I was also very early in the KLM Jet Centre, where the press that would attend the event was welcomed.


The Boeing 747 close-up.

Jet Centre

I was there too early and saw the flight crew get their briefing for the flight. After a bit of walking around and the usual “where should I register and get my press pass”-hassle I found the area where the press could eat and drink. After a nice bit of small talk with some “colleagues” (and an interview) we saw some familiar faces like Peter Hartman, Maria van der Hoeven, but also Wim Kuijken (Secretary-General of Public Works and Water Management) and André Kuijpers (Dutch astronaut). I also spoke with a woman from Honeywell, the company that made the biofuel that was used for the flight.

After refusing at least 10 glasses of juice/wine/water and 20 slices of bread (catering was great), it was time for some speeching. Peter Hartman officially welcomed Maria van der Hoeven and talked about the importance of this flight and the future of aviation. Next we (the press that did not attend the flight itself) was directed to a bus that took us to the plane to make some pics and cover the boarding process.

Peter Hartman & Maria van der Hoeven
Peter Hartman & Maria van der Hoeven are preparing for boarding the flight

For a cool explanation about KLM and biofuel, check this awesome and informative video about everything regarding KLM and biofuel.

Boarding

Luckily it was all dry now, so we could take some excellent pics of the Boeing 747 that would be used for the flight. The Boeing had a special livery with some “eco” messages on it and ofcourse thanks from the WWF (which were also involved in the process). We could walk all around the plane and enjoy the overwhelming sight of the blue & white plane, while the attendees boarded the flight. The plane left to take-off and the press was taken back to the Jet Center.

In-flight

After arriving most of the press left, however there was still the opportunity to cover a flight moment and the arrival of the 747. I decided to stay and we were taken next to a runway were the plane would do a so called “lowpass”. The airplane would pass the runway on a low altitude to make a nice shot. Unfortunately the rain really started to pour at that moment, which made it a true “survival adventure” outside. Luckily after twenty minutes the plane flew really close over our heads, which was just an amazing experience.

Arrival

We hopped back in the bus and drove through the rain back to the place where the passengers would leave. The airplane landed safely and everybody seemed to have enjoyed the flight. Despite the heavy rain and the fierce winds while leaving the plane, most of the VIP’s haircuts remained in good condition. The event would continue in a hangar nearby, but I decided to go home (as my iPhone was empty as well due to all the live covering). So back to the Jet Centre to take the bus to Schiphol Plaza.


The rain poured from the sky when the plane landed

And now?

The event and the flight were both very succesfull and it was great to see the big Boeing take off, knowing that one engine was running on biofuel. Let’s hope this idea is developed further and that we might see more of these flights in the near future. It was great that KLM launched this initiative and that in the future we can look back at this day and state it was the start of a global change in aviation.

For the full press release from KLM, click here.

Thanks to the KLM Crew for making this report possible. If you want to keep up to date about KLM on Twitter, follow my Twitter account KLMfan

The VIPS
A biofueled smile

777 Black & White

777 Black & White

Written by: Tim van Waard
Pictures by: Esther van der Holst
You can request high-res pictures by contacting me.

There are days that you will not easily forget in your life. The 24th of september was such a day, because that was the day we (yours truly and my girlfriend Esther) were invited for a guided tour by the KLM. The KLM is one of the most famous airline companies in the world. KLM was founded on 7 October1919 making it the oldest carrier in the world still operating under its original name. At the time I’m writing this, KLM is almost 90 years old. KLM’s main hub is Schiphol, usually named Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Schiphol is one of the largest and most important airports in Europe (and the world).  We would first get a tour through Schiphol-Oost (in English: Schiphol-East) for a tour through Hangar 14, the biggest maintenance area at Schiphol. The second part of the tour took place inside Schiphol Centre, probably known well as every passenger departs or arrives there.

Sideview 777

Sideview 777

Arrival at Schiphol Oost

Departing early as we had to make our way through the usual Dutch traffic jams, we just made it in time at 9.45 at the main gate to enter Schiphol East. This area has strict security measures, so at the gate we had to meet up with our guide, mister Van Aken. After a truly warm welcome and a little meeting with some of the KLM-staff, it was time for us to head to the first part of the tour: Hangar 14.  With our visitors badge firmly attached to our clothes, we were ready to explore the exceptionally big maintenance area.

777 open nose

Hangar 14

When you enter Hangar 14, you are immediatly impressed of the sheer size of this building. There are three “bays” in the hangar, each bay is used for maintenance of aircrafts. Both KLM aircrafts as well as aircrafts from other companies are being sent to these bays to get their check-up after a specific amount of “flight hours”. Maintance work goes on for 24 hours a day, both in daytime and nighttime. KLM is known for it’s excellent expertise regarding maintenance of aircrafts. The quality and speed of these check-ups is of a supreme level. We found ourselves impressed walking through the corridors heading for the three bays.

Cockpit 777

Cockpit 777

We could only take pictures of the KLM objects, as security measures are very strict nowadays in the aviation industry, for obvious reasons. While entering the middle bay we found an aircraft of the Saudi Arabian cargo arrier Midex. It was great to check the aircraft while the crew was working on the nose of this airplane. On average 100 people work on an airplane to get the things fixed, with every crewmember having an expertise.

In the next bay we found a Boeing 777 from KLM in the beautiful blue and white coating. A great sight and we were invited by our guide to enter the aircraft. He showed us the cockpit (which was heavily under maintenance) and the rest of the airplane. Also we found ourselves checking out the rooms where the cabin crew sleeps during a flight. Big respect to this crew to sleep in such tiny spaces and still be happy to serve your drinks with a smile :).

Cabin Crew sleeping place

Cabin Crew sleeping place

New livery

When we visited the third bay we saw the fantastic sight of an airplane being painted in a new livery. It’s amazing to see such a gigantic aircraft in a way, you never really see them. We could not take pictures ofcourse, due to the security. After some final walking around through the hangar we encountered a General Electric engine on the floor. KLM uses General Electric engines for all their aircrafts. This engine is huge and has an unimaginable amount of parts.

777 Engine close-up

777 Engine close-up

Our guide

I really have to make a special mention for our guide, mr van Aken, in this blog. He works now more than 30 years for KLM, as a purser, but also in different other roles. His knowledge about aviation and especially KLM seemed to be endless. Not only did we hear loads of great little facts about KLM and Schiphol, but also he was willing to answer every question we asked him. Next to that we had some good conversation about the rising amount of agression of passengers that cabin crew have to handle correctly and about the stricter security levels since 9/11. KLM makes no concessions on security and safety is one of the most important things for KLM. The devotion to this security and life of the passengers is great to see for an outsider. The level of thoughtfullness in every aspect of aviation (environment, materials, laws) amazed us.

Inside the 777

Inside the 777

Schiphol centre

We made our way to Schiphol centre and parked our car at a very cheap parking garage (3,5 hours parking, 16 euro’s, ouch) to get ready for the second part, the guide through Schiphol Centre. After meeting up again with our guide mr van Aken, he showed us the KLM Crown lounge. This is a brandnew lounge for World Business Class passengers or Premium Members. Here we were offered some nice sandwiches and some fresh juice. They also offer exclusive wines and champagne, but we decided to stay sober 🙂

Need we say more?

Need we say more?

Walking through Schiphol

We then were guided through Schiphol, checking out some beautiful decorations on some walls. Decorations you usually walk by in a hurry. But when you take the time to wander around Schiphol, you just see so much more things you would not have noticed. We also made a quick visit to the KLM “unaccompanied minor service” area. Children under the age of 12 sometimes travel alone by plane. KLM supports these young kids and looks after them. They have a special area where the kids can play and have fun. KLM staff watches them and makes sure they are delivered on the flight safe and sound.  We also came across the annex of the Dutch Rijksmuseum, where highly acclaimed art can be viewed by visitors of Schiphol for free. Every few months, the paintings get substituted for new ones. It was fun to see that our guide, mr van Aken, was helping people along the way that came to him with questions about where to go. You’re a purser 24 hours a day 😉

Schiphol wall decoration

Schiphol wall decoration

The crew area at Schiphol

Then we entered the so called  “crew center”, where all the cabin crew and airline pilots gather to meet-up, relax and prepare for their flights. Blue uniforms everywhere ofcourse. We went into a briefing room, pretending to be cabin crew. We watched a fun DVD which explained the cultural do’s and don’ts while serving Japanese people. KLM has many DVD’s for cabin crew to understand the cultural differences between people from different country’s. We found it very entertaining and usefull. We now know that we should never point a finger at someone who is Japanese :). After this, our guide mr van Aken had to leave us to do other work, but he by then invested more than 4 hours time in guiding us, which was truly remarkable!

Seat adjustment business class

Seat adjustment business class

After a long day we went home, amazed by everything we had seen and heard. We would like to thank mr van Aken, mr van Kanten and the other KLM staff we met that day. We could have written up ten times more about everything we learned that day, but this a good overview of the tour. It was a wonderfull experience!

Since a couple of months I handle a Twitter account called KLMfan, an account that has risen out of general interest for Twitter in combination with the famous Dutch airline KLM. During the months the amount of followers has now risen to almost 29o0 followers, after around 300 tweets. I am an avid fan of social media and have been checking out other airlines to see if they are succesfull on Twitter and why they are succesfull on Twitter. The biggest winner on Twitter in the airline industry seems to be JetBlue from the USA with over a million followers. Also SouthWestAir has more than half a million. The succes of these and some other airlines on Twitter is simply  “because they have a real person answering replies and direct messages.”

The Dutch airline KLM is currently “breeding” what to do with social media. They have claimed the KLM Twitter and they will probably start tweeting with it soon. There are multiple KLM accounts, like KLM 90 Years (celebrating 90 years of KLM and all of it’s festivities) and also the KLMOPEN account, covering the KLM Open Golf Tournament. The problem is, these accounts are pretty much “push” accounts. They push information to the followers, but there’s no replying and/or interacting with the followers… and now that’s just what Twitter is about. Many other airlines tend to do the same thing, push your offers and news, but no interaction. I would be bored as a follower. Twitter is not an easy RSS-feed!

To get succes on Twitter for your airline, here’s some good advice:

  • start following your followers
  • interact with them
  • search on Twitter for your brandname via http://search.twitter.com
  • start following people that tweet about you (positive or negative)
  • remember that your followers are real people (except bots)
  • don’t only push your offers and news, but also put some personal replies on there
  • introduce the people handling the Twitter account

Also read this still valid post from FlyingwithFish about airlines embracing Twitter. I am looking forward to see how other airlines will develop their use of Twitter and other social media in the future. More over that in a new blog.

Follow my personal account on: http://www.twitter.com/timvanwaard or my KLMfan account at http://www.twitter.com/klmfan