Flight Review: KLM International Business Class
For my summer trip to Spain and Mauritius, I used 120,000 Delta miles to fly business class on a mix of Air Europa, Air Mauritius and Air France. However, on my last day in Mauritius, I saw KLM open up a bunch of award space so I decided to route through Amsterdam instead, because it would allow me to try out KLM's business class product, which I had never flown before (I did fly their Economy Comfort in April and was thoroughly impressed). I would still keep my Mauritius-Paris flight, but instead of doing Paris-Newark like originally planned, I built in Paris-Amsterdam (5 hours :-)), Amsterdam-JFK. I live much closer to JFK, so this plan was a win-win all around. However, since I took this flight in July, Delta has instituted a new stupid 72 hour rule for all award changes, so I can no longer change my routing within 72 hours of departure.
Just like my Economy Comfort experience, I flew aboard one of the airline’s 747-400’s. Onboard there are 42 World Business Class seats—the highest class of service on the airline—18 in the front nose section of the main deck, and 24 on the top deck, all in a 2x2 configuration (except the last row of the main deck section, which is 2x2x2). I was seated on the upper deck on the right side of the aircraft. What it lacked in overhead storage, it made up for in sideboard compartments, though if I’d had a wheelie bag, I would have had to stow it in a wardrobe closet up front.
As you can see from the photos, there’s not much new about the business class seats. They are sleeper measuring up to 190 cm (75 inches) when fully reclined, so just shy of my being able to stretch my 6 foot 7 inch frame stretched all the way out, and a mere 20 inches wide, so no guzzling too many Dutch chocolates or cheeses before flying on these! The seats were angled lie flat, which means they were not completely horizontal, instead only reclining to 175 degrees, and equipped with a massage unit, which I didn’t have much use for. They claim to have a privacy canopy, but that’s really just the plastic molding at the top of the seat, which looks sort of old-school, that stays up above the headrest when you’re fully reclined. It’s also not one of the hard-shell pod-like business class seats that are taking over these days, but actually reclines, so unless you’re in the front row, someone will be reclining into your space. The personal entertainment system was a 10.4-inch screen that popped out of the armrest and was controlled by a handheld remote attached to the seat with over 60 movies on order plus television shows, music, games etc. I also took advantage of the in-seat power port (European plugs) that was in the armrest and the seat-mounted reading lamp.
I’ve posted a picture in the gallery below of the scant amenities kit by Dutch designers Viktor & Rolf. It included the usuals: toothbrush, toothpaste, sleeping mask, ear plugs, etc. They served a three-course dinner menu designed by the airline's executive chef, Johnny Boer, which I’ve also outlined below in the gallery, so if you’re a foodie, be sure to check it out. And, of course, the signature KLM business class amenity, which they’ve been giving out since the 1950’s, a Delft Blue miniature traditional Dutch house based on a real building filled with the famous Dutch genever gin. Definitely a treat to walk off the plane with one of those. Who knows, maybe I’ll collect the whole set of 90 (so far) eventually!
All in all, I wasn’t too impressed with the actual hard product—the seats already seem outdated and overused, but the soft aspects—great service, delicious food and nice touches like the Delft Blue gin all made for a really lovely in-flight experience. So in comparing to Delta and Air France:
Seat: Delta's 767-400 lie flats beat out both Air France and KLM by a mile. Delta's 757 and 767-300 recliner seats are probably behind Air France/KLM, though that depends on preference (it's like comparing a leather lazy boy vs. a small, angled cot)
Food: KLM blew Air France and Delta away. Delta and Air France are tied- Air France often has really good first course items, but bland entrees. I find Delta food to be consistently good, but never really amazing.
Service: KLM's service was impeccable and proud. Delta would be a close second, followed by Air France, which is known to be cold and dismissive (though my experience has always been satisfactory at worst).