Pros: 747, Amsterdam airport, meals, friendly flight attendants, WorldPerks program
Cons: 767 aircraft are extremely crowded and uncomfortable, lounges could use facelift
I travel often to London and in many cases I will travel Northwest or KLM (despite the connection) because I have upgrade certificates valid for use on both airlines. I am also an elite member in Northwest Airlines WorldPerks program (KLM is a partner) so for mileage purposes it is beneficial for me to fly them. This trip from New York to London was planned in July 2003 for travel in November 2003.
I purchased the tickets from the Northwest Airlines website. I found out that since Northwest and KLM share revenue on all flights across the Atlantic, North American travelers cannot purchase their tickets directly from KLM they must use Northwest. The Northwest website has recently been updated and is now very sleek and easy to navigate. Northwest now also offers E-ticket capabilities for KLM flights (this was not the case just 6 months ago). I also got 1,000 bonus miles for booking online. I did call the Elite reservations line to confirm my upgrade. The agent was very helpful and the upgrade was available on all flights. This is seldom the case with other airlines.
My departure was from Newark airport where Northwest handles the ground services for KLM. Terminal B in Newark has always been very cramped and check-in was chaotic in the economy line. Since I was traveling on an e-ticket I tried to check myself in on the internet and at the e-service machines only to find out that this is not available with KLM. I proceeded to the elite line and was on my way in a few minutes. I stopped off at the World Club on my way to the gate. The lounge at Newark could use an update. It was also very small. The boarding area was a zoo since Northwest had 3 flights leaving at the same time and KLM had a flight as well. While boarding, I showed my boarding pass to the flight attendant who showed me my seat in 3C. The cabin was so cramped and the seat so small that I actually thought I was in economy. I told the flight attendant that there must be a mistake. Then she replied, Im sorry sir, but this is business class!
I usually am very comfortable on any airline while flying across the Atlantic on a 767, however KLM really needs to re-design their cabin and seats. Most airlines have a 2-1-2 configuration in business class. KLM feels that its adequate to cram 35 seats into a cabin with a 2-2-2 configuration. This means that the aisles are narrower, the seats are narrower and the recline is greatly reduced. If you have a choice please avoid the KLM 767 in business class.
Before departure I was offered a choice of champagne, orange juice or water. The flight attendants also came around with sleek silver amenity kits. This is a nice change from the typical toiletry bag that most airlines distribute in their premium cabins. The menus have a modern minimalist look and I was surprised that KL658 Newark-Amsterdam was imprinted on the menu. After takeoff the flight attendants served warm nuts with a drink. They then served a salad and appetizer along with bread. There were three choices for the main course. I chose the beef tenderloin which was served with boursin and smoked bacon, gratin potatoes topped with Swiss Parmesan cheese and haricots verts. For desert I had a chocolate mouse cheesecake. The food was decent however I hate when airlines serve their premium class passengers from the big ugly bar cart, just as they do in economy. I mean how hard is it to take the tray out of the cart and walk it down the aisle to the passenger? KLM needs to work on this. After the meal service bottles of mineral water were distributed.
Because of the limited recline of the seats (as compared to KLMs 747 and MD11 aircraft) I did not get a very nice rest. When I awoke the crew was serving a breakfast of fruit, yogurt, and hot breakfast rolls. Before landing I was presented with a miniature porcelain Dutch house filled with gin. KLM has nearly 90 different designs. A very nice added touch.
Amsterdam is really a great airport to make a connection in Europe. Most gates are within 10 minutes of each other and KLM really seems to cater toward the many Americans that connect there. Since I had a few hours until my next flight I spent some time in the KLM Business Class Lounge. The lounge was very simple. I feel that KLM should upgrade their lounges to be on par with the other European airlines. KLM should at least have shower facilities available for passengers. My connecting flight to London City was on KLM Cityhopper (turboprop aircraft) and was uneventful.
On my return flight I flew from London Heathrow to Amsterdam to New York JFK. When I arrived London I was told that my flight to Amsterdam was cancelled due to weather conditions. The agent efficiently put me on an earlier flight.
What a huge difference in aircraft on the Amsterdam to New York JFK portion of the trip. I was seated on the upper deck of the 747. The seats were wider and had a very nice recline. For dinner I chose the chicken and fish curry which was very nice (I flew KLM over two months ago and had they same menu, however). Before landing we were served a club sandwich with a crab cake and a large dessert. One thing Ive noticed is that KLM loves to serve deserts. They do it with every meal even when one is not needed. Maybe this is a Dutch thing.
I do not recommend the 767s on KLM. They are very uncomfortable in World Business Class and the cabins seem very cramped. The 747s are much nicer and roomier however they are not as nice as Virgin, British Airways or Continental. The food is decent and the flight attendants are always very friendly and courteous. I hear that KLM has upgraded World Business Class on its new Boeing 777 aircraft. I hope to give a review on this in the future. Stay tuned .