“KLM was founded by seven businessmen who raised a total of 1.2 million guilders,” KLM CEO Pieter Elbers told a group of international journalists in the boardroom of a small hotel near Schiphol airport. “That’s about half a million euros today, or the price of a very small component you put in an aircraft, but at that time it was enough to found an airline.”
It was enough, as it turned out, to found what on October 7th became the first airline to reach 100 years operating under the same name (airlines that became parts of Lufthansa and Air France were founded a little earlier).
PAX was on location at the celebrations at Schiphol’s Hangar 10, where they unveiled the 100th KLM Delft house -- a much-loved business class perk since 1952 -- and showcased everything this progressive airline has in the works.
The huge hangar was hung with big inflatable clouds, and organized into more than a dozen kiosks, including a scale mock-up of a newly-designed interior for the first entirely new plane design since the Concorde, which researchers at the Dutch Technical University of Delft, who have been funded by KLM and Airbus, hope to see become a reality by 2040.
Cabin designs of the future
The interior, which debuted at the celebration, displayed four kinds of seating, which industrial design researcher Thomas Rotte said the team envisions sharing the same cabin.
There’s group seating around a table, staggered individual seats that give each passenger access to both armrests, inclined seats designed to optimize blood flow and reduce joint stress, and 190 cm-long capsule beds.
The idea, Rotte said, would be to allow passengers to book multiple sorts of seats by the hour, so they could sleep in a bed for, say, five hours, and then sit upright for the rest of the flight.
And Rotte said we may not have to wait until 2040 to take advantage of some of these innovations.
“Some of the principles we hope to uncover with our comfort research might be applicable sooner,” he said.
Team leader, Professor Pieter Vink, who sits on the prestigious Crystal Cabin Award jury that recognizes excellence in airline cabin design, said this approach could eliminate the need for multi-class flight, offering everyone access to what is now only available in business class.
The university will be conducting the first flight test of a miniature model of the plane this month.
Later in the day, after some special centennial KLM cocktails by Bols based on the negroni (which also turns 100 this year), and tiny raspberry tarts festooned with sugary KLM 100-stamped clouds, members of the press were taken to This Is Holland, a sort of indoor theme park on a canal in Amsterdam, where Arlette van der Veer and Francesco de Fazio, members of KLM’s Radical Innovation team, explained how KLM has begun recycling its plastic waste, including the water bottles used during cabin service, into 3D-printed tools and accessories needed to engineer and maintain KLM’s fleet.
“Looking back is nice,” Elbers said, “but looking forward is much more relevant.”
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