Earlier this year, KLM brought Dutch designer Hella Jongerius onboard to upgrade its World Business Class interior. Instead of discarding the materials of the previous design, KLM invited a group of 14 students from the Design Academy of Eindhoven to salvage and repurpose the old materials into imaginative new travel items. The project, titled Plane to Product, began in February at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport this year.

Once disassembled, the old business class interiors were relocated to a large hangar where the young designers, suited up in KLM coveralls, were invited to grab anything they wanted, from upholstery and carpet, to food trays and in-flight entertainment screens. Once they were back in Eindhoven, the students had 12 weeks to conceptualize, craft and present their prototypes made of a minimum of 70 percent recycled material.


Students of the Design Academy of Eindhoven repurposed old KLM business class seats into passenger comfort accessories.

The results showcased a diverse range of high-quality travel items: universal-sized drawstring slippers, a pillow that doubles as a bag, a child’s backpack and an in-flight exercise kit aimed at increasing blood circulation. The designs reflected an understanding of passenger needs, focusing largely on improving comfort and promoting health in-flight. Aesthetically, the items were minimal and stylish, displaying ingenuity and a mastery of their craft. With contemporary design education focusing largely on sustainable practices, partnerships like these provide young designers with invaluable opportunities for learning and experience. KLM gets a tip of the hat for transforming their would-be-waste into an opportunity for education.

Out of the 14 projects yielded by the Design Academy students, eight were chosen to be displayed in the window of de Bijenkorf department store in Amsterdam from June 1–15.