Economy 101: Should I fly KLM or Air France?
Often, a stopover is the perfect way to score a low-cost ticket in economy class. For example, flying to Asia directly from London will easily cost you £600 ($751) or more, but flying with a stopover can bring the ticket price down to £300 ($376). Two of the U.K.'s favorite airlines to use for a stopover are KLM, with a stop at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS), and Air France, with a stopover at Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG). The airlines work together so closely that they will often share not just codeshares, but also fare bases. This means you can choose between KLM and Air France around the same price point. Which one is better, though? Let's take a look.
If you are a TPG reader, you will probably guess why this point is at the top of the list — you fly to earn miles! (Okay, maybe also to get to your destination. And a little bit of plane spotting, maybe?)
Conveniently, for Air France and KLM, the earning possibilities are very similar. Your best bet is to credit to the shared Flying Blue program, which often gives you the most miles. Keep in mind though, that mileage earning is based on revenue in this mileage program. If you are flying a long-distance itinerary that you got at an unbelievably low price, it might be more lucrative to credit to a partner, like Delta. Find out your optimal earnings using the WhereToCredit calculator.
Related reading: Dutch Treat: KLM (787-9) in Economy From New York to Amsterdam
There are some minor differences between KLM and Air France earning at partner airlines. For example, Air France flights can still be credited to China Southern (CZ), despite the fact that the airline recently left the SkyTeam alliance. KLM offers crediting to COPA. Check out the table below, comparing earning possibilities for the V fare bucket, the most-occurring type of discounted economy (courtesy of WhereToCredit).
KLM has a considerably newer fleet than Air France. The KLM and KLM Cityhopper combination have an average fleet age of 10.2 years, while Air France's fleet is an average of 13.8 years old. In comparison, British Airways' fleet is also an average of 13.8 years old, according to Airfleets.net.
The KLM fleet is loaded with Boeing and Embraer jets, while Air France mainly operates Airbus airplanes. Not surprising, since the most important Airbus facilities are located in France. On KLM, you can still fly the Queen of the Skies, whereas on Air France you might get an A380.
KLM tends to have modern, slimline seating with up-to-date in flight entertainment, while Air France mostly has older seats offering a bit more padding and space, with outdated IFE systems. Here's a comparative list of KLM and Air France planes with their respective seat sizes in inches:
Both stopover airports are among the five largest in Europe, so there is no shortage of entertainment or options in the food and beverage department. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is considered to be an easy transfer airport because of the single-terminal concept: no matter where you arrive, you can always simply walk to your next gate. For Paris Charles de Gaulle, this is a little bit more complicated. There are lots of terminals, linked by buses, meaning you need more transfer time — unless you leave from the same terminal you arrive at. With passport checks sometimes in between gates, that means unpredictable transfers. For that reason, travelers generally like transferring in Amsterdam better.
If you hold status with Flying Blue, you might have complimentary access to the airline lounges. Amsterdam has a rather large single KLM lounge that offers great tarmac views and quality food options. Paris Charles de Gaulle has multiple terminals and therefore multiple Air France lounges, which are all quite comparable. The lounges at CDG tend to offer slightly larger buffets and more diverse food, while the KLM lounge has better views and a more modern feel.
There is a noticeable difference between KLM and Air France in terms of onboard service. KLM service is clean and efficient, while Air France leans more toward traditional hospitality. Neither is good or bad. The KLM food service is fast and without bells and whistles, while Air France service will offer a menu, Champagne and more elaborate table setting. It's all minor differences, but based on what suits you best, you might like one more than the other.
Depending on your preferences, you'll find a flight with KLM or Air France in economy to be the more attractive option. Both carriers have upsides and downsides to their service, fleet, onboard offering and more. Be sure to do your research before booking, such as catching up on TPG reviews of both products.