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KLM Launches 'Economy Comfort' Class On Flights

December 16, 2009 at 5:29 PM | by | Comments (0)

Dutch airline KLM is launching a new class of seats, following British Airways in making a kind of "coach-plus" option available to passengers. With British Airways the class is "World Traveler Plus," buying customers no pre-boarding perks but scoring them nicer seats and a little extra attention. It sounds like KLM's new Economy Comfort zone will basically be the same, albeit with a bunch of complicated upgrade conditions at various rewards levels. Here are a few more details about the seats:

A seat in the new Economy Comfort zone offers passengers up to 10 cm more legroom and allows them to recline twice as far as a standard seat. Economy Comfort passengers will also be able to disembark first, because the zone is in the front section of the Economy Class cabin. The service and meals in Economy Comfort are the same as those in Economy Class... This new alternative reflects KLM’s pledge to fulfil the changing needs of its customers, one of which was the call for more comfort options in Economy Class

As is always and universally the case, the promise of "more options" should have us looking for what an airline's really up to. And indeed there's a pretty brazen underside behind these new offerings. Setting up a class between coach and business wouldn't make any sense if airlines hadn't already removed so many basic amenities from coach. It's the growing gap between first class, business class, and coach class that gives rise to these business-plus and coach-plus bookings. So the trick is to take away benefits, then create a new class with those restored benefits, then announce that you're giving your customers more options. Clever!

In one sense there's nothing wrong with any of that. More than almost any other service industry, the airline industry thrives on precise price discrimination. Nonetheless, there's something unsettling about seeing perks taken away as "unrealistic," only to have them get reinstated at higher price points shortly thereafter. It's not that the move makes no sense, since the higher prices could be critical to covering the perks' costs. It's just that, under this scheme, airlines almost have an incentive to let prices spiral just a little in coach, the better to make amenities exclusive to higher classes.

[Photo: Deepak / Wiki Commons]

Related Stories:
· KLM launches Economy Comfort Zone [Asia Travel Tips]
· KLM Coverage [Jaunted]
· Airline News [Jaunted]

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