I flew KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for the first time this past August, when my fiance and I took a short trip to Amsterdam.
As we were going from New York City to Amsterdam, and were interested in a direct flight, our options were largely limited to American, United, Delta and KLM. Our airline preference is to avoid US-based carriers at all opportunities, so we went with KLM. Plus, they had the cheapest price of everyone.
KLM only flies out of New York’s JFK International Airport, so we booked a late Friday afternoon flight out to Schiphol.
We’re not FlyingBlue members, nor do we have status on Delta, so we weren’t able to use any sort of points to get an upgraded experience, so we opted to purchase seats in Economy Comfort both ways.
Purchasing Economy Comfort was easy, despite KLM’s atrocious website. We wanted the extra leg room on our flight, and we also wanted the ability to board earlier than general economy, as we were traveling just with carry-on luggage and didn’t want to lose out on the overhead bins.
Our outbound flight to Amsterdam Schiphol was on a Boeing 777, and the aircraft was already sitting and waiting when we arrived at the gate at JFK. KLM is part of the Delta and AirFrance alliance, so unfortunately, Delta’s ground staff and agents handle the plane while it’s at JFK. I had been concerned that we weren’t going to be able to pre-board as part of Economy Comfort (especially since on Delta, EC doesn’t board earlier), but we boarded before general economy. We got ourselves ample space in the overhead bin, and settled in for the flight.
I don’t recall a safety demonstration in the aisles as we pushed back from the gate exactly on time. It seemed like only a few short moments of taxiing and then we were on the runway for takeoff. Once we were airborne, it wasn’t that long before the friendly but efficient inflight crew began service.
Forgive me, but I forget the order in which things came, but I do recall a preliminary drink of water/soda/beer, hot towels, meal service, more water/soda/beer, coffee and tea, and additional water/soda/beer and snacks later in the flight. Alcohol is complimentary in KLM’s long haul economy class, so it was great to have a few beers and not be charged an arm and a leg. I recall the entree choices being a chicken or pasta, and I chose pasta. The food was piping hot, and pretty good for airline food.
The seat-back entertainment system was great, and I found it loaded with content I was actually interested in. I got to watch The Hobbit at 35,000 feet, so I was a happy guy. Sitting in Economy Comfort also gave us extra leg room, so I was genuinely able to stretch out and get some sleep on our way across the pond.
Our return flight from Schiphol to JFK was on a Boeing 747-400 Combi, which is a hybrid passenger and cargo plane. Essentially, there’s a wall halfway through the cabin and behind said wall is cargo. Rumor has it that KLM uses these Combi aircraft to transport cargo like horses, live animals, flowers, and other things that benefit from being in the pressurized upper deck of a 747. The cool thing about flying on this aircraft is that it meant a much smaller passenger count, so it seemed like boarding was done in all of ten minutes.
Again, we were in Economy Comfort for this flight. The unique thing about the 747 Combi is that the Economy Comfort section is like it’s own separate cabin, located just behind first class on the main deck. There’s a galley on the right side of the aircraft, so Economy Comfort is a row of three seats along the left side of the plane, an aisle, and then rows of two seats. Given that there were maybe 10 rows of this, there was a real “private plane” feeling to the flight. We had our own dedicated inflight crew member, and what seemed like our own dedicated lavatory. I highly recommend flying in this section if you get the opportunity. Another fun fact about this section is that there are overhead bins above the left and the center sections of seats, and there’s more than enough space for everyone’s bag. In fact, I was able to put my “under the seat” bag up in the bin, along with my carry-on luggage, and had nothing preventing me from stretching out my legs and relaxing.
Service was, once again, excellent. The crew was friendly and efficient, and came around multiple times with water, drinks, snacks, etc. Given that the flight departed Amsterdam in the late afternoon, many of us stayed awake, and I enjoyed the seat-back entertainment system very much. I caught up on a number of TV episodes, and watched the better part of a full movie.
Overall, we enjoyed our experience on KLM very much. I really do prefer flying on foreign carriers when I go abroad from the US, and KLM gave us a great trip on both of our flights. I’m not entirely sure when I’d fly them again, however, as from the US, the only opportunity to fly them is heading to Amsterdam. However, KLM has an extensive network in both Europe, Africa, and Asia, so they might be a good fit for me if I need to travel to points beyond and need to make a connection at Schiphol.