Flying KLM for the first time was already a treat, but flying on KLM’s 787-9 in business class turned me into the child eagerly waiting for Christmas morning.
KLM World Business Class Flight Preview Email
After checking in online, KLM sent me a link with very detailed info about my flight and even let me choose seats on my two connecting flights on China Airlines.
KLM World Business Class Check-In
I had flown up from Burbank earlier in the day and already checked in for the KLM flight on my phone, but stopped by the ticket counter to pick up boarding passes for the two China Airlines flights.
The business class check-in counter was deserted when I arrived (about an hour before departure) and a cheerful agent wearing an Air France uniform checked me in and wished me a pleasant journey, directing me to the security checkpoint in the international terminal.
I had spent the morning in the American Express Lounge and did not stop by the Air France lounge prior to the flight. Boarding began 45 minutes prior to departure with the elderly, disabled and children boarding first followed by business class.
San Francisco (SFO) – Amsterdam (AMS)
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 5A (Business Class)
KLM World Business Class Service
Here’s my sense of service on KLM: not surprisingly, it is very Dutch. As an outsider looking in, the Dutch society appears quite egalitarian, with none of the pretentious class status that lingers on in places like Great Britain. That shows in the onboard service.
FAs were middle aged Dutch men and women, attractive and polite. They acknowledged you with a nod and smile as you entered the plane and were happy to direct you to your seat. Pre-departure beverages, menus, and amenity kits were promptly disturbed after boarding. Throughout the flight, the crew took turns monitoring the cabin. In other words, the crew did their jobs exactly as they were trained.
Yet it was crystal clear that business class passengers were seen as peers that did not require babying or mothering. Put another way, the service on this flight was about as far from Singapore Airlines or even my connecting flight on China Airlines as possible. There was no pretense of subservience: we are just here to serve your food, but don’t think you’re any better than us.
And I have no problem with that style of service. Indeed, I would never consider myself “better” than any FA. But I hope you understand what I am trying to convey—this is not the sort of airline where they kneel down at your seat to speak to you or make your bed. They’ll talk to you like you are a colleague, not a guest.
KLM 787-9 World Business Class Seat + Bed
KLM chose a reverse-herringbone configuration for its 787-9, the first aircraft type in its fleet to have this style of business class seat. The seat, arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, offers direct aisle access to each passenger and is spacious and comfortable. A number of nooks and crannies provide ample personal storage.
World Business Class is located between doors 1 and 2, with 32 seats and a galley in front and behind. The cabin is brightly colored with a blue and brown motif not as loud as the livery of the aircraft. Mood lighting kicked in as the sun set about 90 minutes into the flight.
In the lie-flat mode, the bed is 6’5”. A plush white pillow and single down blanket, very similar to what United used to have in BusinessFirst prior to Polaris, is the only bedding available. That does put KLM at a competitive disadvantage over some of its rivals, yet it did not bother me. The aircraft does feature air nozzles at each seat, though they were not necessary – the cabin never really warmed up.
Sadly, I slept horribly: two hours at the most. Departing from California at 2pm and arriving around midnight California time just does not lead to much sleep for me. But I don’t blame KLM for this.
A couple additional notes. First, there were some crumbs around the seat so the SFO clean-up crew needs to do a better job.
Second, my seat (5A) was missing a window, which was a big bummer. Avoid 5K for the same reason if you want a window seat.
KLM 787-9 World Business Class Amenity Kit
KLM offers a very basic amenity kit that contains only the essentials. The bag is designed by Jan Taminiau, a Dutch clothes designer, and bears his Jantaminiau name. Inside was a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, socks, ear plugs, and eye mask.
KLM 787-9 World Business Class Food
Main courses are often a letdown in business class. The logistics of heating a pre-cooked meal often results in dry and overcooked food. Not so on KLM.
But let’s take a step back first.
Upon boarding, FAs circled the cabin with trays of beverages. Choices were water, champagne, or fresh squeezed orange juice. If you know how much I love fresh-squeezed juices, you know exactly what I chose.
A Great Cocktail
After takeoff, FAs offered warmed mixed nuts served in Delftware. For my first beverage, I chose KLM’s signature “Flying Dutchman” cocktail, featuring Damark gin, Bois blackberry liqueur, fresh lemon juice, and sugar syrup. It was very sweet but I prefer sweet cocktails. Wanting to avoid dehydration and jet lag, I just had one.
While some airlines recycle menus for months, KLM prints new menus for every flight. On the back of the menu was the date and flight number.
Dinner began with a choice of crab salad or carrot soup. I chose soup. It arrived on a tray with a green salad and a warm sourdough roll. Best of all was the high-quality olive oil poured into a small ramekin. Wow, it makes my mouth water just recalling it…
FAs did not bother to remove the plastic covers from the salad or croutons.
The cutlery is so Dutch. I loved it!
For my main course I chose “beef stew with balsamic sauce, potato au gratin and roasted vegetables”. Beef stew on an airplane…what was I thinking? I am so glad I took the risk because the main course exceeded all expectations. It was tender, flavorful, and served at the perfect temperature. Even the vegetables were lovely. I enjoyed the main course more than any other main course on the trip, even my rack of lamb in Garuda First Class.
For dessert I had a pecan tartlet and two fruit skewers. Filter coffee is available, but no espresso-based beverages. I had green tea, served with a chocolate truffle.
Bottles of Dutch water were distributed after the meal service and complemented the bottle already found in the seat during boarding.
No mid-flight snack is printed on the menu nor were any snacks laid out in either of the galleys. But halfway through the flight a FA did come around with a basket of goodies including nuts, chips, crackers and stroopwaffels.
Precisely 90 minutes prior to landing breakfast service began, with a tray containing fruit, yogurt, granola, cheese, and a croissant. At the same time, FAs offered either a hot apple pie cake (I understand this used to be a dessert after the main meal) or a sweet potato quiche. I chose the quiche, which arrived wrapped in tinfoil.
The meal went down quickly, delicious once again.
KLM 787-9 Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi is available for purchase on the KLM 787-9, though I found prices uncompetitive. It did not matter though: the internet did not work the entire flight. I started with a $5 / 20MB package and was able to refresh my e-mail only a couple times over the course of the flight. I tried to load a webpage and not only did it fail to load, but I received an alert that it ate up my 20MB trying! Plus, trying to establish a connection is a pain. You first choose the package and pay, then are sent a voucher code you must use to login. But you must also create an account to login and apply the voucher code. Far too arduous…
KLM should consider a different Wi-Fi partner.
KLM 787-9 IFE
I’ll first mention the safety video — I thought the illustrated Delft Blue tiles was clever. Reflecting the high level of English education in the Netherlands, it was only played in English (with Dutch subtitles).
The IFE system contained a surprisingly limited number of movies, but I ended up only watching one, The Girl On The Train, which was fascinating and highly-recommended. Headphones are noise cancelling, but not of great quality.
KLM 787-9 World Business Lavatories
The lavatories are clean and brightly lit, with Zenology amenities. No cloth towels, just paper.
The wall also contains pictures of the KLM miniature houses.
Speaking of houses…
KLM World Business Miniature Houses
Shortly before landing, a FA circled the cabin offering a tray of miniature houses, a signature of KLM since the 1950s. I wrote about it here and ended up with three houses!
Overall, I really enjoyed my experience on KLM. It was not a perfect flight, but the imperfections I noted above do not even come close to dissuading me from flying KLM again, especially on the Dreamliner. KLM even has a special website for its new plane!
We landed 10 minutes ahead of schedule in AMS.