KLM is the latest member of the Boeing 787 club, having taken delivery of is first Dreamliner on 13 November 2015. The carrier wasted little time pressing the aircraft into service, with the inaugural commercial service (Abu Dhabi is the first destination) coming just a day after a series of test flights took aficionados out for hour-long joy rides over the Dutch coastline; I was a guest of KLM on behalf of Airways News on one of these tour flights. And, while the entry into service was delayed a bit from initial projections, KLM is very excited about the potential the new type brings.
Speaking on board the aircraft during one of tour flights KLM’s Chief Operating Officer René de Groot expressed optimism about the 787 and what it means for the carrier overall.
For us, it means a new phase of the company. Investing in new technology. Investing in new products for our customers. We had some tough times over the last couple of years. We’re now getting into the new phase and we’re not only looking back at the history but building on a future again.
The 787 has played a similar role at many other airlines. Whether fueling the massive international expansion of LCC Norwegian Air Shuttle or allowing more new routes to be added, growth is one of the key plays the 787 enables. For KLM, however, that is secondary. The initial plan is to replace the aging 747-400 fleet, with expansion coming further down the line. Which is not to say that the company is shying away from such discussions; de Groot mentioned the success of the recently added Edmonton service as an example of a market which will benefit from having the 787 in the fleet. KLM has 15 of the –9 variant on order and another 6 of the –10 set to join the fleet.
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From a passenger perspective the 787 offers an all-new business class product, featuring private, fully-flat beds with direct aisle access for each of the 32 customers in the cabin. In economy class the layout is 3-3-3, matching nearly all other 787 configurations. KLM does offer an Economy Comfort section with increased pitch and larger in-seat IFE screens than its other aircraft. The 787s are also the first of KLM’s subfleets to be equipped with in-flight internet service; the carrier is using Panasonic Avionics‘ Ku-band kit, installed at the Boeing factory, for connectivity. These improvements should result in a more comfortable passenger experience for all on board.
As for the celebratory flights to launch service, KLM clearly understands the AvGeek nature of its customers. Passengers gift bags included copies of the in-flight safety cards, for example, knowing that many would otherwise have disappeared off the plane anyways. Speaking with others on board the reasons for participating varied as much as the demographics of the travelers. Young and old alike expressed excitement for KLM’s acquisition of the new plane and getting to try out the experience on the special flights.
And the part where I came in from NYC for the trip was also a bit of the story. The Gate Agent made a special announcement just for me, which was the first time I think I’ve had that happen.
The hour-long flight was nothing short of a party in the sky. Very few passengers seemed to be in their seats for the duration. Many were up in the aisles, meeting the others on board and trading stories. It was also an opportunity for those seated in the economy cabin to explore World Business Class and vice versa, though more were moving forward on the plane than to the back. The carrier even hosted a trivia contest on board, awarding the winner a model of the 787-9. The flight stayed low – around 2500 feet – for the duration which meant no opportunity to test out the in-flight internet service, though it did offer up some spectacular views of Holland as we flew about.
And then, all too soon, the plane returned to Schiphol and the party was over. KLM was smart in blocking extra time for the boarding and disembarkation portions of the event; it took much longer than a typical flight but with good reason. Unlike most trips this one it was all about the flight, not the start or end.
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So business class is 1-2-1?
Nice shirt, Seth!
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