In January, the Amsterdam-based airline, KLM reached a landmark agreement with cabin crew unions to reduce the number of flight attendants on its longest intercontinental flights. The deal put to an end a bitter dispute between the two sides which had seen cabin crew lead strike action against the airline.
The two cabin crew unions – the VNC and FNV Cabine had initially been bitterly opposed to removing one of the Economy Class cabin attendants which was a central part of KLM’s new cost reduction plans. In the end, the two sides reached a pragmatic compromise which would see staff numbers reduced on certain longhaul flights without making the workload of the remaining cabin crew unbearable.
As part of the deal, KLM agreed that no individual member of cabin crew would be expected to serve more than 52 Economy Class passengers – which works out to about a quarter of the Economy cabin on KLM’s Boeing 777-300 fleet. If the number of passengers went above that quota, then the airline would be expected to provide an additional crew member.
One of the points that the unions made at the time was that they didn’t want to see cabin attendants going back and forth between the galley and cabin with trolley after trolley. They said the old process saw cabin crew wasting time and energy fighting with lots of so-called ‘half carts’
At the same time, the unions also won an additional concession from KLM to guarantee minimum in-flight rest for cabin crew which went above and beyond the legal requirements set by European aviation regulators.
In order to win the support of its cabin crew community and get its cost-cutting plan approved, KLM, therefore, had to think of a way to make its onboard service far more efficient but without compromising the quality of the experience that passengers enjoyed.
And now we know what changes KLM plan to make. Starting on a select number of flights from July 1st and expected to be rolled-out across the airline’s route network by October, KLM will now load smaller trays into double carts. Each cabin attendant will be expected to use just one double cart to complete the service.
The airline is keen to stress that the amount of food will remain the same – and in fact, in some areas will actually be improved. The smaller tray concept has already been successfully used by a number of other airlines and KLM points out that they expect CO² emissions to be reduced by using lighter trays and service ware.
On top of that, passengers will be welcomed with a bottle of water, a cold refreshing towel and earphones. During the flight, KLM will copy competitors by offering an ice cream treat, as well as sweets and snacks which will be available in the galley.
“The new collective labour agreement for our cabin crew includes a clause that one less crewmember will be assigned on many intercontinental flights,” KLM explained in a statement.
“Consequently, a more efficient Economy Class service is required,” the airline continued.
“The new service is also more in line with passengers’ wishes, in that the amount of food and drinks served remains the same, while the quality of the service improves.”
The service will first be trialled on flights to Bonaire (via Aruba), Entebbe (via Kigali), Fortaleza, Osaka, Hong Kong, Vancouver, Seoul, Rio de Janeiro and Houston in July.