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I’ve flown international First, Business and Economy many times in my life, but I’ve never done premium economy. I’ve been meaning to check it out, but I’ve never really been presented with the option to purchase it, since I usually fly on cheap international coach (mileage run) fares or redeem my miles for premium cabins. However, when I booked the crazy $150 Copenhagen fare and chose routing on KLM through Amsterdam, I was automatically assigned a seat in KLM’s Economy Comfort cabin. These seats are the same as in coach, but with 4 extra inches of legroom. It was a nice surprise because I had always read that SkyTeam Elite Plus (Delta Platinum/Medallion/Gold) have to pay extra to get those seats. Even when I called to change our seats, the phone rep questioned me about whether I had actually paid to be in the cabin – to which I said yes, because I didn’t want her to boot us out of our seats :-).
For this trip, I actually built in a 6 hour layover in Amsterdam since it’s so easy to train into the city center from the airport. Amsterdam also has huge day lockers you can rent for 8 euros, so we dropped our bags and headed into town to spend the day taking in all Amsterdam had to offer. And sure enough, after some Heineken Colds, epic french fries and Dutch ice cream cones, we headed back to Schiphol for the last AMS-JFK flight of the day – on their baby blue 747. We did have 30 minutes to kill, so we checked out the KLM lounge, which was large, clean and modern looking. The food offerings were decent, though nothing spectacular. My biggest pet peeve of the lounge was the lack of power outlets – there was only one in my entire section, so I had to wait until someone was done using it before I could sneak in. Don’t the people who make business lounges know that people will need power outlets? Especially in international airports.
After the quick lounge trip, getting to the gate was a breeze and there was no security line to go through because they have individual security lanes at each gate. So in order to enter the gatehouse area, you went though a crammed x-ray area, where you were allowed to wait for the plane. I suppose it’s better than going through security twice, but it just seemed terribly inefficient.
Once through the gate, I had about 5 minutes to admire the beauty of our aircraft- a 747 Combi. Even though 747s are no longer the most cutting edge planes, I still love flying them. To me, they are iconic and seem to quintessentially represent international travel. While I’m not a huge airplane geek, I love watching videos of 747s landing, like this KLM 747 landing at the famous St. Maarten beachside runway.
Boarding was a zoo, even though they tried to board business class and SkyTeam Elite Plus first, everyone bumrushed boarding and there was little the gate agents could do to enforce priority boarding. We were towards the front of the line, so we got on relatively quickly and had no issues claiming our space in the Economy Comfort cabin.
The 747-Combi is an interesting jet, because its converted to have a much larger cargo section in the rear, therefore it holds less passengers. This means the layout of the plane is different than your usual jet, because they need to house things like the rear galley, all towards the front of the plane. The huge front galley takes up the right half the plane for a decent sections, so on the other side of it is a mini-cabin of Economy Comfort, which is a row of 3 and 2. If this is making no sense, check out the Seat Guru Seat Map – we were in seats 17D and 17E. One of the most interesting things about our seats was the extra mini-aisle which can be used for storage during the flight.
Everything about boarding and takeoff was smooth and since it was a 5:45pm departure, dinner service began quickly once we were in the air. Beverages were served first and we were given a choice of sweet or savory pre-dinner snacks. I chose the savory and they were cheddar-herb biscuits that were quite tasty.
Dinner was a choice of chicken or vegetarian pasta, so I went with chicken- not expecting a lot, especially since Delta’s transatlantic chicken dishes are barebones.
However, KLM took pride in the product and I found the presentation to be well-put together and neat. The meal was actually decent- a tagine chicken with rice, couscous with feta cheese, Camembert cheese & crackers, fresh bread and then a unidentified fruit sauce afterwards.
Dessert was a caramel crunch ice-cream, which was decent.
About an two hours before landing, we had our choice of sweet or savory snack again. I went with the latter, which was a pizza roll, which had no sauce. It was interesting, though I have to say I like Delta’s transatlantic pesto pizza better.
Unlike Delta, KLM had personal TVs at each seat and there were a ton of new releases, like True Grit, The Fighter, The King’s Speech and Black Swan. Between a much needed nap and movie, time flew and we were back in NY before I knew it. I have to say, while KLM doesn’t use special seats for Premium Economy like Air France or British Airways, the extra 4 inches of legroom and extra recline was all I really needed. I remember thinking to myself “I would be fine going to Asia in this if I had to.”
I took a picture of the really tall guy across the aisle- you can see that even with the seat reclined, legroom is sufficient.
The crew was extremely attentive, professional and nice. There was not one service flaw that I could pick out – everything was solid and I really appreciated how quickly they began drink and meal service.
In summary, I was very impressed with KLM’s Economy Comfort product, which is great news because Delta is using their model and rolling out their own Economy Comfort this summer. While I normally get the exit row, Economy Comfort is better because the seats have more padding and they recline further, which makes a huge difference on long-haul flights.
Overall, a nice way to cap off a great weekend in Copenhagen and Amsterdam. I look forward to flying KLM again in the future – though hopefully next time in Business Class!