NORTHWEST Airlines and its strategic alliance partner, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, yesterday launched their first joint international business-class service - World Business Class - which they claim has the roomiest business-class seats.
There is also a host of amenities and in-flight entertainment to enhance customers' comfort.
The move by the Dutch and Americans to boost their business class and cut back on first-class services reflects a growing international trend.
The world economic slump has made it difficult for many companies to sell first-class tickets.
Cathay Pacific Airways recently announced that it would be doing away with its first-class cabins on some of its regional services in Asia.
John Watkins, Northwest's managing director for Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, said Northwest and KLM were now trying to provide a first-class service at business-class prices.
World Business Class customers will travel in cabins offering 48 inches of seat pitch and a gap between seats of 10 inches more than typical business-class seats, providing additional leg room. The seats recline 50 per cent more than regular ones.
KLM scrapped first-class seats on Boeing 747-400s servicing its Amsterdam-Hong Kong route last October and now offers 238 economy and 52 business-class seats per aircraft.
Northwest is still in the process of configuring its 747 fleet and should have this completed by March.
It has retained a token eight first-class seats on its aircraft servicing Hong Kong and cut its business class down from 96 to 85 passengers because of the extra space required to accommodate the larger seats.
A joint marketing campaign to promote the new service is due to begin in Hong Kong on February 28.