CHECK-IN As I was staying at the Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 4 (click here for a recent review), which is connected by a walkway, it only took me ten minutes to get from my bedroom at the hotel to check-in at Zone E. I arrived at 0500 but had to wait until 0515 for the bag-drop desks to open.
As I had already checked in online the day before (online check-in can be done 30 hours prior to departure but is 24 hours prior to departure if travelling to the US), changed my seat selection to 1A, and printed my boarding pass, all I needed to do was drop my bag off, but there was a bit of a wait for this as well, even once the desks had opened. There also seemed to be a lot of confused people waiting in line who were attempting to check in at the bag-drop desk. They were all sent away to do use one of the nearby self-service check-in machines, print a boarding pass and then queue up again to drop their bags off.
As I was flying the first leg of a business class flight to San Francisco, I was free to check two pieces of luggage in with a combined weight of 30kg, but I only checked in one, which was through-checked to my final destination. I was then given a new boarding pass and directed to the Holideck lounge, through security in the main departures hall, which was quick and painless, and then five minutes’ walk towards Gate 15.
THE LOUNGE Both the terminal and the lounge were quiet on this Friday morning at 0535. After showing the attendant behind the reception desk my boarding card and passport, I was given a printout detailing how to connect to the internet (wifi is free throughout the lounge). The Holideck lounge is also used by passengers flying with carriers including Sri Lankan Airlines, TAM, Air Malta, Delta and Continental – that is until the new Skyteam lounge opens at T4 this summer, when all the Skyteam alliance carriers will move there. (All other passengers are allowed to use the Holideck lounge for £20 per adult and £10 per child.)
There are various seating areas in the Main Deck with low tables and chairs upholstered in red, green or blue faux leather, a snooze zone and porthole windows on the wall facing the corridor. A dual bar area had a good selection of alcoholic and soft drinks, coffee, crisps and biscuits. Had I had a little more time, I would have explored the lounge further, as according to holideck.co.uk, it also has a sports lounge and bar on the Upper Deck and access to a glazed observatory on the Flight Deck on the roof of T4 with views of the runway and airfield.
BOARDING At 0600, after checking my emails and finishing an orange juice, I noticed that the screens showed boarding for my 0630 flight – KL1000 to Amsterdam – had begun at Gate 20, a short walk away. While there was a bit of a wait to board, I was in my seat by 0620, my jacket taken, and a newspaper offered (The Times).
THE SEAT KLM’s short-haul business class product is known as Europe Select, and on this B737-900 it was configured 3-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F) across four rows, with row one composed of only three seats (D-E-F). (Middle seats are kept free.) I was sitting in window seat 2A – note that seats A and C in row two and seats D and F in row one do not have under-seat storage as there is no seat in front. They do, however, have a little more legroom. Europe Select seats, which are upholstered in royal blue nylon with a burgundy seatbelt, have an average pitch of 33 inches (84cm), a width of 17.5 inches (44cm) and a recline of five inches (13cm).
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? As this is such a short flight (about one hour) choosing your seat really comes down to whether you want to be next to the window or the aisle. If you want under-seat storage for a laptop or bag, then avoid 1D, 1F, 2A or 2C. (Click here to see the seat plan.)
THE FLIGHT The flight appeared almost full in both economy and business, and once everyone was on board, the plane started taxiing and took off at 0635. Food was served shortly after in a navy blue Europe Select-branded box containing: a plastic dish of cream cheese piadina (flatbread), salted veal and asparagus served with walnut cream; pumpkin compote on mango kheer topped with cranberries; and a hot bread roll. (As I am vegetarian I didn’t try the savoury course but the sweet was fine, if not a little sickly.) Coffee, tea and fresh orange juice were also offered.
ARRIVAL The flight landed 35 minutes earlier than scheduled at Amsterdam Schiphol airport at 0830, and we were disembarked efficiently. As my connecting flight KL605 to San Francisco was at 1110, I had time to go to the intercontinental KLM Crown lounge (number 52) about ten minutes’ walk away. (To read the KLM Amsterdam-San Francisco review, click here.)
VERDICT A stress-free journey with chatty, friendly cabin crew and a perfectly adequate seat for such a short journey.
PRICE Return business class flights from London to Amsterdam started from £415 in mid May.
By Jenny Southan