When it comes to premium luxury, KLM doesn’t swim in the same league as Etihad, Swiss, or Singapore Airlines. In fact, it hasn’t offered first class since the mid-1990s. However, it knows it’s target market, and it’s home market, and as such, has developed a business class that is affordable and comfortable.
Right now thought, they are in the process of receiving new aircraft with a completely new business class, and are also updating current aircraft that will remain in the fleet in the long term. The bad news, however, is that the Airbus 330, which is used to cover most routes to the Gulf, as well as a number of points in North America, will be phased out in the next few years, and so will not receive the new business class. For me, alas, this isn’t such a huge inconvenience, as the route to Amsterdam from Kuwait barely reaches 6 hours, and their entertainment system is quite good to keep me entertained for that period of time. What’s more, the seat is really comfortable, and easy to sleep in, despite the fact that the seat isn’t completely parallel to the ground when reclined to “bed” mode. This means that you’re sleeping at a slight incline. This issue has been addressed, and KLM will soon feature fully flat (and parallel to the ground) seats on their new aircraft.
My journey started at Helsinki Airport, which although isn’t a mega-hub of the world, is the home to Finnair, an airline which is a major Europe-Asia player. As with most airports in the Nordic countries, the design was light, airy, with lots of natural light and wood. I had arrived a bit too early for check in, so I wandered a bit around the terminal snapping pictures until it was time.
KLM doesn’t operate its own lounge in Helsinki, but the one it has contracted isn’t bad – there were a few breakfast items on offer (this was an early morning flight), and there was a good selection of international magazines and newspapers.
I also like how there were some nice Finnish touches infused – such as the hanging clear sphere chairs – an icon of Finnish design, originally created by Eero Aarnio. I also loved the faux fire place. Although everything was ultra modern, it wasn’t “cold”, and the place felt cosy and inviting.
I hadn’t gotten anything to eat since the previous night, and although I knew we would be served a snack on the plane, my stomach was insistent that I eat something, so I decided on getting a smoothie from one of the airport cafes – as I was waiting in line, I could see our plane pull up to the gate. Today, the flight would be operated by its subsidiary, KLM Cityhopper, which flies Embraer jets – slightly smaller than the Boeing 737, yet just as comfortable. Just as a point of comparison, the 737 usually has a seating arrangement of 3-3, the Embraer has a narrower fuselage, and so the arrangement is 2-2.
Although this is a KLM Cityhopper flight, to the average traveller, this is pure KLM, and as predicted, a nice light snack was served on this short flight to Amsterdam.
Once we landed, we parked at one of the hard stands, which meant we deboarded by stairs and were taken by bus to the terminal. From here, I made a beeline to the lounge, KLM’s flaghship “Crown Lounge”.
As you can see from the images above, the lounge is quite big (KLM operates two – this one is for non-Schengen flights, and there is another one for Schengen flights). There were plenty of seats for the large number of travellers that pass through their Amsterdam hub, as well as a vast selection of drinks. Food, on the other hand, was a but scant, but then again I guess they keep you hungry to enjoy their in-flight meals.
Once it was time to board, I made my way to the gate where our A330 was waiting to take us to Kuwait.
Another reason I love flying with the Dutch flag carrier, is their crew – they love their job and it shows. Although not as glamourous as their counterparts in the Middle East, they enjoy their roles, and understand that they are ambassadors not only for their company, but also their country (the vast majority of crew at KLM are Dutch, as Dutch is a language requirement, except those who have been recruited as native speakers for specific routes to China, Japan, and India). In short, they exude a charm and confidence that is rarely found, and carry out their jobs effortlessly which in turn leaves one feeling secure that they can handle any difficult situation.
What’s more, I’ve noticed a real improvement on the catering front. As we all know, the way a meal is presented oftentimes plays tricks on how tasty we perceive a meal to be, and here KLM has banked on its “Dutchness”, and uses beautiful blue and white delftware for their dishes. This presentation was beautiful, and really left me impressed. However, as we all know, the way the food looks isnt enough – it actually tasted quite good, and I was impressed that there wasn’t just one simple starter, but it was more of a “tasting” menu, which consisted of a soup, and three smaller amuse-bouches – all of which were quite tasty.
After that, I decided on the fish for my main course – although not as beautifully presented as the previous dishes, it was still delicious, and the portion size was also better than most airlines that give you a sliver of meat with a side of carrots and a squirt of mashed potatoes…
As KLM calls Holland it’s home, I had to go with the cheese plate, which was a great way to round up an excellent dish.
Unfortunately, Europe – Kuwait flights aren’t so long, and so aren’t really conductive to getting much sleep, nonetheless I reclined my seat and watched a movie and a few episodes of my favourite TV series to pass the time as we slowly neared our destination.
Once again, a great flight with this aviation pioneer, and one I would never hesitate to book with again!