European service incomparable to Asian

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  • Anonymous


    Living in Manila and working mainly in Australia, I fly Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas, Virgin and Philippine Airlines (PAL) frequently. While PAL’s service is pathetic at all stages of the process (reservations, airport check in, lounge facilities and service, on board service, etc), CX, SQ and EK are generally very good.

    When I lived in Paris and worked across Europe in 2001-2003, I flew Air France, KLM, BA etc a lot and found them to be quite OK.

    So when my wife and I flew KLM business class from Manila to AMS recently, I was surprised how poor the overall experience was. It’s not that anything was terrible, just that there is a yawning gap between the regular business class service standard on the Asian airlines I fly vs KLM. Examples:

    1) Lounges: The Crown Lounge at Amsterdam (there are two) which would be the airlines flagship lounge compares unfavorably with Emirates Singapore lounge, any of the SQ lounges at Singapore and any of the CX lounges at HKIA. It even compares unfavorably with the Qantas lounges at Sydney and QF is no benchmark in the airline industry. Specifics: food choice were ham, cheese and bread rolls for most of the day with some cold pizza and limited salad around lunchtime, dirty plates and glasses from vacated seats took 20-30 minutes to clear leaving a sea of dirty dishes across the lounge, the magazine/newspaper shelves were almost bare and had no english language options,….

    2) Boarding. Curiously, there is a separate line for business class at gate checkin just for the scanning of the boarding pass. After that, all business class passengers get put through same security and same long painful wait in the poorly lit skyway before getting onto the plane. This contrasts with SQ who have separate check in at gate and separate skyway entrance onto plane

    3) Seats on plane. On neither the MNL-AMS or AMS-MNL flights did the seats recline into flat beds. On the MNL-AMS flight, the plus for the headphones was located far into the recess of the arm well back to the right where I was unable to plug in the headphones and the flight attendant, after complaining about the stupid location of the plug, had to try several times before getting the plug in.

    4) In flight entertainment options. Simply far below both Emirates (who are the benchmark in my experience) and Cathay/SQ in terms of: number of choices, speed with which entertainment system is available after takeoff and size/clarity of screen

    To be fair:

    a) the gentleman who served us on the AMS-MNL flight was good; almost on standard with the average SQ, Emirates or CX person and far above the lady on the MNL-AMS service and light years ahead of probably anyone on an American airline or Luthansa

    b) the one lady (out of four people) staffing the service desk in the Crown Lounge was cheerful, helpful and efficient

    But why is there such a HUGE service gap at most steps of the process between a leading European and most of the leading airlines serving the S E Asia to/from Australia routes?


    I think you make some interesting points here and I would not argue with the differences you highlight between KLM (which I use frequently for longhaul travel) and many Middle East and Asian carriers.

    An important point which you neglect to mention is one of price. I travel alot between the UK and Asia/ Australia in a mix of Business, Premium Economy and Economy. I VERY rarely use Asian carriers (except Thai) because they usually offer fares at about 50% more than European options such as KL, LH or AY. This is universally true of Business Class where BA, QF and NZ (to Hong Kong) are also out of my realistic reach. KLM and AF are generally the best value options in C to Asia. In Economy, Emirates are usually competitive and BA offer good fares. This is rarely the case with SQ or CX.

    So, basically, you pay for what you get. Incidentally, I am not sure you should moan about a lack of flat beds in KL WBC – nowhere does the airline claim to offer this product so you should have known what to expect.


    “So, basically, you pay for what you get”.

    Interesting. Customer Service in Asia far exceeds what you get in Europe and the cost is far less. So by paying more in Europe, you do not always get a better service.

    Besides lower wages in Asia, the main factor why C/S is better in Asia is that the employees are grateful for having a job and want to serve their customers.

    The general attitude in Europe is how do I as an employee do as little as possible, and am able to “screw” (excuse the use of the word) my employer for as much as possible.

    (Rant over)


    Glad the rant is over, Martyn. I think you misrepresent my answer. My point is to agree that KLM offer an inferior product to SQ, CX etc BUT to point out that they also charge a whole lot less for their service, even though labour costs in Europe are much higher. I can do Scotland – Hong Kong return in C with KLM/AF for about £1850 – £2,000 most of the time. BA is usually between £2,800 – £3,000 and CX a tad more than that. The Singapore scenario is similar with SQ about £1,000 – £1,200 more than KLM/AF. Hence “So, basically, you pay for what you get” by which statement I stand!!


    Martyn: Spot on and you said it for me!

    I have been refrained making from such comments as I am so used to superior service on mostly Asian/Gulf airlines and any remarks I make on Western airlines would only make me sound like a critical and spoiled Asian traveller.

    It is best for me to leave to the other western travellers in the know to express their dis-satifaction.


    Hi TominScotland

    I did realise, but still couldnt resist the rant given the topic!

    It is similar to buying a car. A Mercedes stands prouder than a Ford, but different markets, different prices, different service standards, different technicians!

    A perfect world would provide perfect and standardised travel solutions, but wouldnt life be a bore – certainly no need for the BT forum.

    Off to a wedding in the West End today. Need a travel solution to get to 2 venues in Kensington and parking at both for less than a tenner!

    Happy days!

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