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Northwest Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, in a first for their industry, will roll out a jointly developed international product called World Business Class.

The global partners in February began the new service on their worldwide route system in a move to attract business fliers whose travel budgets cannot accommodate first class fares.

A global advertising and promotion campaign to support the introduction marks the first time a U.S. and European carrier have collaborated on a marketing program of this scope. The estimated $30 million effort combines the work of Northwest agencies Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, and Foote, Cone & Belding and the Lane Agency, bothNew York; plus KLM agency PMSvW/ Young & Rubicam, Amsterdam.

In launching a jointly developed product, the two airlines have taken a giant step toward their goal of creating the first truly global carrier. It's now just a matter of time and government approval before Northwest and KLM try to create a single global brand identity.

In the meantime, World Business Class offers passengers more leg room and seats that partially recline. Service has been upgraded to include more varied menus, personal video entertainment systems and sleep kits with socks, eye shades, earplugs, toothpaste and toothbrush.

`This is probably the most tangible evidence of the alliance from the customer perspective," said a Northwest spokesman. "What really is significant about this is that the two companies have so closely aligned themselves that they developed a joint product and can do a single ad campaign around a single product all across the globe."

The campaign carries the theme "World Business Class service is so good you can sleep through it."

A TV spot, in 30- and 60-second versions, uses a voice-over by actor James Earl Jones to tell viewers about the service's key benefits from the global alliance. The song "Mr. Sandman" plays in the background while passengers prepare to rest. Mr. Jones advises in his resonant voice, "Just go to sleep."

Print and radio executions are also part of the campaign.

Other carriers like Continental Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways offer enhanced business class service on trans-Atlantic routes but they don't compete on too many routes with Northwest and KLM. The real battle may be brewing in the Asia/Pacific against United Airlines, which offers Connoisseur Class, with a little less leg room than Northwest and KLM's World Business Class service.

A United spokesman said the airline is "monitoring the competitive situation" but no decision has been made to reconfigure Connoisseur Class for more leg room.

"United, which has taken a lead in the Pacific with its Connoisseur Class, will now face a tough challenge because of the Northwest/ KLM product superiority," said one airline marketing executive. "Northwest and KLM offer a 48-inch pitch [distance between seats] while United offers a 40- inch pitch. With a greater distance between seats, travelers can recline the seat further and sleep more comfortably.

"The No. 1 objective for international business travelers is sleep."

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