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What it’s like flying KLM’s business class on the Dreamliner — on a 709-mile South American route

July 03, 2022
11 min read
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While the Boeing 787 is designed to fly more than 8,000 miles without stopping, I got to experience this jet on a short, 709-mile flight from Santiago, Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

No, there wasn’t a diversion or a mechanical issue — this was a regularly scheduled daily commercial service on a 787 between the two capitals.

The thrill of flying on a wide-body jet for a 90-minute hop would have been enough for this aviation enthusiast to specifically book this flight. It gets even better, though.

This wasn’t a Dreamliner operated by the flag carrier of Chile, LATAM Airlines. It was a 787 operated by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines as part of a once-daily service between Chile and Argentina that connects Amsterdam with both countries.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The jet leaves Amsterdam bound for Buenos Aires. After landing in Argentina, it flies to Santiago and then retraces its steps along the same route.

Not only can KLM carry passengers to and from Amsterdam, it also has permission to sell the fifth-freedom route between Buenos Aires and Santiago as its own ticket. Fifth-freedom rights give you an opportunity to try a foreign carrier on a unique route, possibly very far away from the airline’s headquarters.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

When I found myself in Santiago recently after flying Delta’s first “new” Airbus A350, this route immediately came to mind.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I did some quick research and realized that it would work with my schedule and there was saver business-class award availability through Flying Blue. I could even ticket my Delta flight on the same award (which totaled 104,000 miles), making for a seamless connection in Santiago.

I didn’t hesitate to book — and I’m so glad I did because it was a highlight of my recent travels.

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Starting with SkyTeam

My time with KLM began on the ground in Santiago with a visit to the new SkyTeam Lounge, which opened earlier this year.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Flying Blue (and SkyTeam partner) elites, as well as those ticketed in business class, can access this lounge. Priority Pass members who are flying on a Skyteam carrier from Santiago can also enter the space.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I “rope dropped” at this lounge, arriving at the ground-level entrance just minutes before the posted 8 a.m. opening time.

Once inside, I had the space all to myself. I sampled some of the seating options and found them all to be quite comfortable.

The lounge isn't massive. It’s designed in an L-shape, with most of the seating area occupying a long, rectangular corridor.

I caught up on some emails and uploaded my Delta pictures during my hour-long visit. I then made my way to the gate, which I noticed was already filling up with passengers.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Minutes after arriving, my name was paged. The gate agent needed to verify my Argentina entry documents. (I had received my boarding pass on Delta stock during check-in in Atlanta.)

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Once verified, I received a boarding pass in KLM stock. Business-class passengers were invited to pre-board nearly 55 minutes before our scheduled 10:40 a.m. departure.

Pods for the hop

I was the first passenger on the six-year-old 787-9 Dreamliner (registered PH-BHD), and I was welcomed with a smile and “hallo” from the purser waiting just inside door 2L.

I turned left into the eight-row World Business Class cabin and immediately started taking pictures of the product. (The best cabin pictures are those without other passengers in them.)

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

KLM’s business class on the Dreamliner is arranged in a reverse-herringbone 1-2-1 configuration, with direct aisle access for each of the 30 passengers. The color scheme with blue paneling and navy seat covers exuded quiet elegance.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Of course, a lie-flat pod for a 90-minute flight isn’t necessary, but it’s definitely a novelty and thrill that I appreciated as an aviation enthusiast.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I only reclined my seat into bed mode for the pictures. The 78-inch-long bed certainly looked comfortable, especially with the open footwell area. TPG reviewed the product in great detail on a long-haul flight just before the pandemic, so be sure to check out our story for more details. More recently, TPG's Clint Henderson flew on KLM's Dreamliner business class earlier this year. You can check out his take on it here.

There was a plush pillow waiting at each pod, but the airline reserves duvets for long-haul flights.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I didn’t have time to watch TV, but the crisp 15.4-inch touchscreen was loaded with a handful of new releases and TV shows. I especially appreciated that the screen swiveled upwards and downwards, making it easy to watch from every angle (including while in bed).

I spent most of the flight catching up on some work — after all, I was traveling during the work day in New York.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

KLM’s Dreamliners feature Wi-Fi, which was available for purchase once we reached 10,000 feet. A single flight pass costs 18 euros ($19), which was definitely expensive for such a short flight. (The airline's Wi-Fi pricing on long-haul jets is fixed and doesn't take into account flight distance.)

Download and upload speeds hovered around 2 Mbps throughout the flight, which was good enough for light web browsing.

The bi-fold tray table popped out from the side of the seat. It wasn’t big (measuring 11 inches long and 19 inches wide), but at least it moved on its track, making it easy to get up and use the restroom while eating or working.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

One perk of flying on a plane designed for long-haul travel is the availability of power ports and USB outlets.

Though this was just a short flight, I appreciated that each business-class seat had a universal power outlet and USB-A port. Had I instead been flying on a LATAM Airbus A320, I likely wouldn’t have had access to power.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

There were two lavatories for the business-class passengers, both located at the front of the cabin. Each was standard-sized, but I especially appreciated the Dutch design motifs, including the Delft house wallpaper and orange tulips.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

It’s these small touches that make fifth-freedom routes so unique and fun.

A uniquely Dutch experience

Speaking of unique, I was particularly curious about the onboard service. Would I be served a full meal? (No.) Would I receive the signature Delft Blue house? (Yes!)

The service flow began on the ground with a choice of predeparture beverages. Though I was offered a glass of juice or pre-poured Champagne, I instead asked for a cup of water, which was delivered just moments later.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Boarding was efficient. While the economy cabin filled up, just 10 of the business-class pods were occupied — a few of which were taken by last-minute operational upgrades.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Once I settled into my seat, the incredibly friendly flight attendant, Bouke Van Den Oever, came by to ask (politely) why I was taking so many pictures. I explained that I'm an aviation enthusiast, and he immediately asked the captain if he could take me to the flight deck. That certainly wasn't the gruff reply I was expecting.

After my visit to the cockpit, I returned to my seat only to find the airline's two long-haul amenity kits waiting at my seat (one for departures from Amsterdam and one for flights to the airline's hub).

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Though the airline doesn't proactively distribute them to passengers on this flight, Bouke wanted me to "get a sense for the real experience."

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The kits themselves are branded in partnership with popular skincare line Rituals. The bag design is inspired by the famous Delft Blue vase on display in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Once airborne, I kept my eyes peeled to the windows for a view of the Andes mountains, but unfortunately, the thick cloud cover got in the way. I instead spotted a glory, which is an optical phenomenon in which the plane's shadow is cast onto a cloud, and the shadow is surrounded by a circle of light.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

When we crossed through 10,000 feet, I had the option to choose a light snack, consisting of either a ham and cheese or a Caprese sandwich. I wasn't especially hungry, so I passed.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Minutes later, Bouke was back with a "taste of Amsterdam," as he described it — a stroopwafel and a bag of Noble chocolate clusters, a popular brand based in Belgium.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The snacks were served alongside a drink of choice. I stuck to water, which came in the airline's signature glassware designed by Marcel Wanders, a famous Amsterdam-based designer.

The best part of the onboard service happened just as we were descending into Buenos Aires. Bouke passed through the aisle with a tray of the airline's signature Delft Blue houses.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Each year on its birthday (Oct. 7), KLM unveils a new gin-filled miniature Delft house portraying a Dutch house that is historically or architecturally significant. (There are 102 houses in the series, with some of the rarest going for thousands of dollars on the second-hand market.) The houses are filled with Bols Jenever gin, and they're offered to business-class passengers on intercontinental routes.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I didn't expect to receive one on my short journey, but I was pleasantly surprised to bring home a memento from the unique flight. It now sits on my bookstand as a reminder of this special experience.

Tot ziens, KLM

All good things must come to an end, and this flight definitely wrapped up way too quickly.

Before long, we were descending into Buenos Aires. I took one more look outside the window and caught a shot of us passing over the city's suburbs with the Dreamliner's GEnx-1B engine bearing the KLM logo.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

As we pulled up to the gate, I looked back at that photo and reminded myself how cool it was that I had just flown between two South American countries on a European carrier.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Then, I went back to the list of top fifth-freedom routes and started planning how I'll fly the next one.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees