A cautionary tale – KLMBack to Forum
Anonymous24 May 2014
I don’t know why, but I thought I would treat myself when checking in online on Monday for my regular EDI-LUX commute on KLM. ‘Upgrade to Business Class for £65’, it said, for the EDI-AMS part of the trip. I have done this trip far more times than I would care to count and this was the first time I have ever been offered this by KLM (upgrade offers from BA at check-in are not unusual, as we know). I paid my money with certain qualms about whether I was not in truth indulging myself in bothering to upgrade for a 1 hour 25 minute flight. But I was tempted by the thought of a guaranteed free seat next to me and a ‘proper’ in-flight meal, with maybe a glass of wine.
Anyway, I needn’t have bothered about my conscience pricking me, as KLM have discovered a way to make that not happen. If you’re travelling on an upgrade they don’t indulge you. Out of the 8 seats in the business class section of the Embraer, 6 were taken. No guaranteed free seat next to you, then. When the time came for the meal, I and the other two passengers in cabin travelling on upgrades were told that since the caterers had only loaded enough meals for the full-fare passengers we would have to make do with the economy class sandwich. There was no question of an apology. It was made clear that the only way passengers travelling on an upgrade would get themselves a business class meal would be if the caterers had, for whatever reason, loaded too many meals.
I cannot remember when I last felt so ripped off. I realise that there is a question of whether it is ever worth paying for an upgrade in European business class, You are never going to get an awful lot for your money, in other words. At least if you do it on BA, though, you get what it says on the tin. But this time, I calculated when I got off the plane that all my £65 had got me was a drink of water in a proper glass (I didn’t bother having wine with my economy class sandwich – there isn’t any point really). I was a mug in other words. If you see one of these offers, do not waste your money!24 May 2014
According to the KLM website:
“After buying an upgrade, you can enjoy the same benefits as any Business Class passenger!”
May be worth a short e-mail, especially if you have a premium status with Flying Blue.24 May 2014
I’d also insist on a refund or else lodge a complaint with whichever body it is in Luxembourg. If they advertised it they have to deliver it. They will,no doubt have a get out somewhere though!24 May 2014
Shouldn’t you lodge a formal complaint with KLM itself? KLM have a reputation of being reasonably fair in their dealings with customers over service disputes. I’s suggest you use their social media website or call them in the Netherlands.
It would also be a nice test of what the preferences of MarcusUK are based on.
If KLM fail to respond you can always lodge a complaint with another, local, institute to resolve this.25 May 2014
I agree actually.
I also took a flight back from EDI a month ago with 4 of us, and we were all upgraded to Business Class (2 Gold card holders), but this was on the KLM 738.
KLM have good Business seats and service on the 737 fleet within Europe, keeping the Middle seat free, 33-35 seat pitch. A Nice box of well presented food or hot meal at meal times, and the usual higher quality drinks. Being a Gold member, it offers little to me for just the meal, but strangely they will not give you the Business Miles for the upgrade. I think that is unfair and wrong, as most other Airlines do.
But for £6.20 from AMS-LHR (more for longer miles destinations), you can choose an “Economy Comfort “, right behind Business Class, and can be from 1 row to 6 as my flight on Friday into LHR. This gives the same business seat pitch. It is very comfortable, you still get the economy service, but on n off quickly and served first.. My flight a few days ago, had 6 rows on a 739, and i had all 3 seats to myself.
The Fokker 70’s are not comfortable with 2-3 across, and cramped but are being replaced with Embraer 190’s of which half have been renewed already. I also fully agree that the E190’s are not worth upgrading to Business Class, as you can see from the seat plan it is only 2-2 across, though you will have better seat pitch there, and in the EC zone. The food is not the same as KLM. Some airports you need a bus ride, certainly at Amsterdam. If you want a business upgrade then for the priority Luggage, immigration, security, lounge access, is worth it, if you are not getting these already with a FFP Card. They are a very pleasant and comfortable, spacious aircraft as indeed BA use from LCY .
The reason being for these differences iis on the outside of the plane and on your ticket.: KLM CityHopper.
They are a different division of KLM, and so the service you get will be different., as the aircraft. Currently, these are only F 70’s and also Embraer 190’s.
I avoid the F-70 flights as they have lessened capacity into LHR with a very weird mix of 737-7/8/9’s, F70’s and also Emb’s, when they used to all be 737-8/9’s. So i especially book only the 737’s.
The long term plan of the new KLM CEO, is to transfer ALL European flights into the CityHopper Model and branch of KLM, as they operate on a less costly model. This will be over a period of 5 years.
I fully agree that the F 70 and Emb. for Business is little difference and the food and beverages are far less acceptable than the good C on KLM Europe.
If you make en email complaint, use the Netherlands / English site to log in , then it will be handled by KLM and the Dutch team. They Always call you back and discuss it within a few days, and are excellent in their response, if you have a fair point. Either Miles or an MCO is the usual response, and within a week for me as a FFP matters are settled. Other Managers responsible whom things have been referred too, usually also call you to say what they will do to correct the problems and also discuss it with you. I know of only a few Airlines in the world that do this, and None in Europe.
if you do this from the UK, unfortunately Air France will deal with it, and the response is slow, poor and not helpful or productive.
You have a fair argument, but look out for what type of Aircraft, as with any Airline these days, it makes the travel better or not. But also, do not expect “CityHopper” flights to be the same as KLM, as they are and will not be, now or in the future.
BA are abolishing the BC space to the same as Economy class, so at least we have 3 options with KLM in Europe to choose from. Hence the debate to abolish CE, so KLM travellers are very fortunate still to have these remaining.
KLM is not cheap in BC, but i think that middle ground of the EC zone is great, with your Gold card you have all the other benefits apart from the meal on board.25 May 2014
Looks like a similar situation to what one of our Sydney-sider readers experienced with BA when flying BUD-LHR.
The differene is that she was informed about the catering situation before boarding the flight and given the opportunity to either downgrade (and get a refund for the class difference) or else make do with economy catering.
By the way, not all airlines guantee to block off adjacent business class seats on the Embraer.
KLM does not (and so does BA). See entry in seatplans.com
But Lufthansa does:25 May 2014
Luxembourger – it sounds as if the upgrade was offered while you were in Edinburgh, in which case if KLM refuse to refund you I’d raise the chargeback with your credit card company and also make a complaint to Edinburgh trading standards and also the Advertising Standards Authority.
Hope you get something back from this – very shoddy behaviour by KLM – almost classic bait and switch tactics.
1F26 May 2014
Thanks to all for their advice. In fairness to KLM, they tried to ring me but I wasn’t able to take the call. Here is the email they sent:
‘I write further to your recent correspondence and have read your concerns with attention. I had also tried to call you and regret I was unable to leave a message.
I was very sorry to learn that you did not receive a meal when travelling on KL1290 from Edinburgh to Amsterdam on 19 May. Having paid for an upgrade I can fully understand your disappointment and am very sorry we let you down.
We plan the final number of meals required per flight and per cabin and our ground staff should have communicated this to you during boarding. I apologise again for the negative impression you were left with on this occasion.
… could I also clarify that on our the Boeing 737 and Fokker 70 in rows with three seats, we will block the middle seat. As the Embraer have a two by two configuration, we do not block the adjacent seat.
We value you as a customer and sincerely appreciate your support. To demonstrate our commitment to service excellence, as a gesture of apology I have arranged to refund the GBP65 fee. This will be credited electronically to your Mastercard account.
Clearly, we would not wish this situation to be your lasting impression of our company and therefore I would also like to offer you a bonus of 10,000 miles as a gesture of goodwill and as a tangible expression of our concern and regret.
It is our goal to provide exceptional service on every occasion, and I hope you will provide us with an opportunity to restore your confidence. Your support is important to Air France, KLM and our SkyTeam partners. We look forward to your continued patronage and the privilege of serving your air travel needs again soon.’
So, I get my £65 back plus 10,000 miles. I confess I’m still baflled as to whether this was a one off – the suggestion that ground staff at EDI should have alerted me before boarding raises more questions than it answers. The fundamental point, it seems to me is ‘don’t offer something unless you fully expect (acts of God apart) to be able to provide it’.
What I didn’t say in my original posting is that it can be fashionable to say that meals on short European flights are an unnecessary luxury. So they may be, but the view is London (or Paris or Frankfurt or whatever)-centric. For those who need to catch connecting flights, you inter-European trip can actuall be rather long. In my case, I left home in EDI at around 16.00 and arrived at my place in LUX at around 23.00. You have to eat sometime and if the connection is short you may well not have time at that point. Nor do you want to scoff your dinner (in the form of a sandwich) at your departure airport. On the day in question, I decided to use my gold card and squeeze something in in the KLM Schengen lounge at AMS. But when I got there at 20.30 all hot food service had stopped. I had a roll which, in the absence of any knives or sign of knives ever coming, I had to cut open with a fork.
Unlike Marcus UK, I do not think KLM are especially good but nor, in the desperately uninspiring field of European air travel nowadays, are they particularly bad. They do, in other words. The trouble is, for my regular commute at least, is that since Cityjet stopped flying through LCY (both LUX and EDI) they have you over a barrel. The BA transiting experience through TI and T5 at LHR is too gruesome to do regularly. I keep hoping BA will decide to replace Cityjet on LUX-LCY, because I could start connecting there again but for the moment there is no sign of this.27 May 2014
Hello Luxembourger –
Thank you for letting us know the outcome. I feel it’s the least KL could have offered.
I wonder if the trend towards back-to-back catering and lack of communication (about the number of meals loaded at the outward station in relation to the passenger load are behind this mix up).
It was a similar scenario for our Sydney-based reader flying Budapest-London but BA staff did inform her (of the lack of business class catering) in the gate before departure.27 May 2014