Heights of hedonism

Heights of hedonism

Dutch airline KLM's new World Business Class has taken travel comfort to new heights

Venky Vembu
April 21 , 2014
02 Min Read

In Greek mythology, the story is told of Procrustes, a quirky innkeeper who offered a peculiarly ghoulish sleeping facility for his wayfaring guests. His one-size-fits-all bed did not, of course, match the bodily dimensions of every one of his guests: some visitors would be too small for the bistar (causing them to lie shrivelled up like prunes), others too big (who would, therefore, have their legs sticking out of the bedspace). But Procrustes, evidently inspired by a questionable notion of ‘perfection’, worked out an arrangement wherein he would physically stretch out his small-made guests so as to get them to fill out the bed — and, more cruelly, chop off the extremities of tall visitors to make them fit.


In an earlier time, Procrustes’ bed would have served as a working metaphor for the real-world experience of getting a bit of shut-eye on long-haul flights, particularly in the cattle-class section.  And even given the absence of stewards wielding hatchets, airlines’ propensity to pack it in makes for maximisation of passengers’ discomfort.

Up-front, where the well-heeled ‘other half’ travels, of course, flat-beds have opened up new worlds of comfort. But even by those elevated standards of luxury, Dutch airline KLM’s new World Business Class — which it unveiled on its flights from India to Amsterdam in October (and which I had occasion to savour at the airline’s invitation) — has taken travel comfort to new heights.

Conceptualised by design icon Hella Jongerius, and done up in the soothing blue colours that define the airline, the new World Business Class is a multi-sensory Dutch delight from start to finish. Everything about it — from the meals on board to the wines on offer to the stylish tableware to the aesthetic amenity kits to the famed Dutch hospitality — is calculated to heighten your sense of gratification. But it’s the full-flat bed — which, at 2.07m, is among the longest that any airline offers — that truly elevates your travel experience. Whatever your bodily dimensions, the beds appear to envelope you in a miraculously malleable fashion in a cocoon of comfort that feels just right.

Jongerius says she intended to convert the business class into a feel-at-home class, in a way that maximised privacy and personal comfort. Going by the state of heavenly horizontality that I maintained for much of the eight-hour-plus of travel time, it’s fair to say that her exertions have not been in vain. KLM has raised the bar for on-board hospitality.


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