MANILA, November 20, 2003 (MALAYA) NORTHWEST Airlines recently unveiled several major enhancements to its international World Business Class product, providing its premium customers in the Asia/Pacific region with a new lie-flat bed seat and state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment system. In addition, the carrier announced changes to its World Business Class meal service based on customer surveys.

Northwest's product enhancements, which will be offered on its entire Boeing 747-400 and new Airbus A330 fleets, offer several features that exceed what is offered by the airline's U.S. competitors as well as by many of its international rivals.

"When it comes to long-haul international travel, customers have told us that they often choose an airline based on seat comfort and in-flight entertainment," said Phil Haan, executive vice president-international, sales and information services, at a news media conference in Tokyo. "These new investments will catapult Northwest"s World Business Class product ahead of what is offered by our U.S. competitors in comfort and entertainment, and will enable us to offer a superior or competitive choice for customers considering international airlines."

World-class seat

Northwest unveiled its new lie-flat World Business Class seat, allowing customers to recline to 176 degrees, more degrees of recline than what is offered by any other U.S. airline, and many international airlines. Unlike other airlines, whose seats require travelers to conform to one of a few pre-set seat positions, Northwest's new seat offers passengers a virtually infinite number of adjustments so that the seat is able to conform to the position most comfortable for them.

The seat is the result of a three-year effort involving overnight seat testing and discussions with customers, company officials and seat vendors. Northwest studied the best of the business class seats available worldwide, and then worked with outside designers and ergonomicists to adapt them for use at Northwest. In doing so, the design team also added features only found on larger international first class seats, sold at a far higher price, and incorporated some of those into Northwest's World Business Class seat, which is offered at competitive business class fares.

For example, Northwest worked with designers to develop a World Business Class seat that is unique: the new design has a canopy framing the top of the seat, allowing customers a greater degree of personal privacy when the seat is reclined than competing products, and comparable to what is usually found on first class "pod" type seats.

Degrees of comfort

International World Business Class travelers will have an array of features available to them on Northwest's new seat including:

Northwest's seat reclines 176 degrees, essentially converting to a lie-flat position, making sleep during flight far easier than in a partially reclined seat. At 176 degrees, the seat reclines more than its U.S. competitors. At six feet, seven inches, Northwest's new lie-flat World Business Class seat is longer than any other business class seat flown by U.S. carriers. A leather-wrapped privacy canopy provides a more private area of space while 60 inches of space between seats, a seat "pitch" allows for a generous amount of legroom and personal space.

Each seat has: a 110-volt personal computer power, eliminating the need for customers to carry on cumbersome converters or multiple rechargeable batteries; three pre-set locations on the seat control unit, including take-off/landing, flat and cradle, in addition to an infinite number of adjustments travelers can make on their own; cycling lumbar support, mitigating the effects of sitting for longer periods of time; dimmable personal snake reading light, providing softer light for reading that can be positioned closer to a book, magazine, or newspaper than overhead lighting; a six-way adjustable headrest, eliminating the need for customers to "construct" a seat by arranging pillows; a swivel cocktail table gives travelers a place to rest a drink without using their larger tray table; four seatback storage pockets of four different sizes to store items ranging in size from eyeglasses to reading materials.

Each seat is adaptable for the comfort of taller passengers through an extendable seat cushion that can be adjusted to provide additional support for knees and lower thighs.

Great entertainment, meals

Northwest also debuted a new, fully interactive in-flight entertainment system, offering customers a wide variety of music, movies, short subject programs, games, shopping and in-flight information, all "on demand," giving customers the freedom and flexibility to start, pause or stop any of these options at any time.

Northwest is the first airline in North America to equip its aircraft with the newest model of this all-digital in-flight entertainment system. Customers will be able to view any of these features on a 10.4 inch video screen,50 percent larger in size than the screens found in business class seats on other U.S. airlines, and many international airlines.

The gateway to all of these features is a convenient retractable controller, making it easy to access from any sitting position, as opposed to stationary controllers fixed on armrests.

Northwest also announced enhancements to its World Business Class meal service based on customer research and in-flight testing of new product concepts. With the launch of its new World Business Class seat, Northwest will switch from serving mixed nuts during the pre-meal service to assorted cold appetizers. That will be followed by a large salad with seasonal greens and gourmet toppings, quality breads and a choice of dressing. Desserts will also be changed, offering travelers a choice of cheese, assorted fruit and other specialty dessert selections.

Northwest Airlines is the world's fourth largest airline with hubs at Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Memphis, Tokyo and Amsterdam and more than 1,500 daily departures. With its travel partners, Northwest serves nearly 750 cities in almost 120 countries on six continents.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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