Passengers packed despite open seats

KLM seatsA reader of our website who is a platinum member of Flying Blue, Air France/KLM’s frequent flyer program, shares his experience with a European flight operated by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

While the passengers are already on board, the purser moves the curtain separating business and economy class from behind row 3 to behind row 2. From row 3 all seats but one are taken. However, nobody is sitting in the first 2 rows (business class).

While moving the curtain the purser tells the passengers in row 3 they would need to pay €200 ($222) for the privilege to continue sitting in front of the curtain. They would be seated in exactly the same seat as in economy class, but with an open seat next to them.

The economy class is packed with just 1 open seat. It reminds our reader to quite different experiences with other airlines. In similar situations the crew invited elite members of the carrier’s frequent flyer program to take seats in the first rows while leaving the middle seat open.

Had KLM followed this example, 8 passengers would have moved to the first 2 rows, while the passengers in rows 3-7 also would have enjoyed more space with an open seat next to them. Our reader wonders whether the purser’s action was consistent with KLM policy or just a personal interpretation of his job.

KLM-cabineAn interesting question, so we asked KLM for their comments. However, they did not want to reply. Thus, we can only present our own interpretation of the reason why KLM let all passengers - including Flying Blue elite members - sitting packed even though there was no need for it.

Our impression is not only based on this case, but also on other cases of readers who shared their experiences even though we could not always publish their stories.

KLM used to be a full-service airline, but has lowered its service level close to that of low-cost carriers. The airline failed to adjust its prices to the lower service level, but it did introduce fees for checked bags.

We assume that the purser’s behavior was consistent with KLM policies. We do have some understanding for KLM’s reluctance to respond to our reader’s question, for what could the response be? If they say it is consistent with KLM’s corporate policy they would openly show disdain for their customers. If they say it is not consistent they would imply that their purser did a lousy job. A difficult choice, indeed.

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