Flying KLM Business Class is something I’ve grown accustomed to for more than a dozen years. My most recent experience was a little eye opening as the cabin for World Business Class was completely refitted compared to what I’ve been used to. More space, a little more privacy and now claims of on board wifi; this is looking good.
The new KLM Business Class
I started getting used to the KLM Business Class experience in the summer of 2000 when I was seconded overseas in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I’ve been travelling most months since so there is often a chance to fly with the KLM Royal Dutch Airline. I’m also a member of the KLM frequent flyer program Flying Blue. It used to be called “The Flying Dutchman” until the AirFrance/KLM merger and then KLM became part of SkyTeam (and the programme merged with the Air France scheme).
In fact KLM Dutch Airlines serve my local airport in the north east of England. It is quite surprising to me that it is not possible to get a direct flight from my local airport to any of the London airports. When you think about the London airports (Heathrow, City, Gatwick, Stansted and London Luton airport) this seems a bit crazy. However the Amsterdam based Royal Dutch Airline fills this void for access to long haul destinations via Schipol Airport. I believe this came about in the 1990s when KLM acquired Air UK.
KLM Business Class is only really a worthwhile experience going long distance. On board a Boeing 747-400 (labelled Combi for some reason) there is a fully fitted out aircraft with two decks to host passengers. My trip was on only one of 5 newly refurbished KLM Business Class cabins according to a Purser I spoke to. Apparently flights to New York and to Shanghai are some of the first to be fitted out.
Moving from the lounge to my gate was relatively straight forward. The KLM Crown Lounge flight screen monitors estimated it would be a 9 minute walk to Gate E9 which seems to be a reasonable estimate.
On arriving at the gate it is only fair that my KLM Business Class review recognises the ability to try to avoid the crowds at the security line. Amsterdam Schipol Airport has been applying security checks at all gates for a number of years now. Thankfully by either flying KLM Business Class or by being a high ranking Flying Blue card holder (I am Platinum Elite) you can join a fast track style lane to speed through.
With the security check over it was clear that boarding would begin soon so people were already queuing up. The Sky Priority sign was up yet somehow the queue for Priority was much longer than the one for general boarding. A mish mash of genuine “Priority” or KLM Business Class passengers were in the queue along with some families including small children.
Boarding announcements were made that Sky Priority would board before families (this is unusual compared to most long haul flights I take, irrespective of airline). Yet as is typical of KLM Boarding Procedures (in my experience) this was hardly adhered to.
Once boarding was announced as open there was a surge of people moving forward and even the general boarding line (the extent to which one existed at that stage) merged with the queue I was in and many of them seemed to board before I did.
There was one token KLM Dutch Airlines team member at the front of the boarding tunnel checking boarding cards yet in my view he seemed to be of little deterrent to anyone. Combine this with the further annoying situation of people just wandering by with a deliberate intention to suddenly merge into the line and queue jump and you soon find me in frustration mode.
Anyway, after the all too frequent poorly managed boarding process I proceeded to the front of the KLM Business Class cabin to find my seat 1k. I was pleasantly surprised to see a refitted craft compared to my prior experiences and what I expected to be part of my KLM Business Class review.
The seats seem more spacious than I remember, refurbished and modern. A soft foot rest was in front of me along with a pretty decent sized large screen entertainment system. Pre-take off the screen was advising that wifi is now available on KLM flights. I was flying KLM Royal Dutch Airlines long haul to China yet somehow my computer did not see any connections available so I’ve no idea on the cost.
Underneath the TV screen was a small storage area, limited at best. It was large enough though for me to store earphones, iPod and my kindle. KLM Business Class long haul also came with a power socket to the rear of my seat. The socket accepted a wide range of international plugs so no adaptor needed.
Pre-flight drinks were served, the typical champagne or orange juice. I don’t remember any newspapers being offered around the KLM Business Class cabin however there was a trolley of newspapers to choose from in the boarding tunnel.
The refitted KLM Business Class cabin seating plan had the occasional seat by itself. Unfortunately on check in all these were already allocated. However there was a privacy divider between each seat which could be used if so desired. This was more appropriate for sleeping than being sat up right.
The menu selection was limited however I’d pre-ordered a set menu via the KLM website so no farce like I saw with my recent United Business Class review.
The menu selection was:-
Smoked salmon and an apple and fennel cream garnished with citrus jelly and served with a wasabi yuzu vinaigrette.
Pickled vegetable salad.
-Braised beef tartlet accompanied by mustard sauce, Oud sluis-style lentils and pumpkin mash, baby potatoes and sautéed mushrooms.
-Miso-marinated chicken complemented by black bean sauce, roasted pumpkin compote, ramen noodles and vegetables. (My food was a play on this dish).
There was also a Chinese themed option of:-
Appetiser – smoked duck served with spicy Szechuan sauce
Main course – Pan-seared tilapia with a spicy sauce, Chinese broccoli and stir-fried noodles.
Desserts for all consisted of a choice from:-
- chocolate pomegranate gateau (yum yum)
- yoghurt mousse with apple compote
- a cheese plate with St Aubin and Beemster old cheese (let’s face it the Dutch know all about cheese)
- seasonal fruit (whatever they maybe)
In addition to all this the menu stated that “an assortment of refreshments is available on request”.
There was also a serving of breakfast at the end which as well as cereal included a choice between egg roll with Gruyère cheese or Crepes with apple cream.
The drinks selection alcoholic and non-alcoholic seemed pretty good too, although Heineken seemed to be the only beer on offer.
In preparation for the in-flight entertainment we were given KLM branded headsets. These were reasonable for sound quality. I could occasionally hear the child in the seat behind but generally they served their purpose.
The entertainment selection was not too bad, quite a reasonable range of films. I did however think there was quite a strong weighting to action films or those directed by Woody Allen. If neither is to your liking then the range might seem a little limited.
The seats on the newly fitted KLM Business Class were fully reclining. For this type of design it was notable that seats were fully reclined there was a small element of elbow room. So no sleeping with arms permanently fixed by your side.
As I’ve often found the crew were pleasant, courteous and efficient. The particular female crew member serving at my seat was very considerate at all times.
Then of course the flight came towards the end with the unique highlight of long haul flights on KLM Business Class. That is the unique collection of ceramic houses. At the end of the flight each Business Class passenger can choose one to take with them. They are labelled as “Blue Delft’s” exclusively made for KLM Dutch Airlines. It was like old times with mine containing a sample of Bols inside. (With relatively new flight restrictions for carrying liquids on board I’ve often found Bols not being included.)
As we left the plane I was happy to see the KLM crew make sure that the Business Class passengers left before the Economy Class ones.
At the end of my KLM Business Class review I must admit that I enjoyed the overall experience. The new styled cabin was spacious, seats were also reasonably comfortable and had more elbow room than most. Staff as always were effective and polite.
The perennial issue of KLM making a hash of a poorly managed boarding process continues. I don’t know why they can’t resolve this. Overall KLM is a fair way short of the exceptional experience with some Asian carriers yet as far as European carriers they provide a good service. If their plane tickets were not quite so expensive I may be inclined to fly with them more often.