KLM B747-400 (Combi) World Business Class

FIRST IMPRESSIONS I was connecting onto this KL0889 2120 departure from Amsterdam Schiphol to Hong Kong and so was airside having arrived on an on-time connection from London Heathrow’s Terminal 4. Having nearly two hours to spare, I made my way to the KLM Crown Lounge (international) which is by Gate 52.

THE LOUNGE This is a huge lounge, with several different areas in an L shape with windows looking out onto the runway and gates below. There are several different drinks stations and some snacks were available here but perhaps because it was getting late on a Sunday evening, the only warm food was soup. Around 2100 a message came up on the screens saying the departure would be delayed until 2230. At this time I weakened and walked out of the lounge and along to McDonalds and had a meal. Ten minutes later when I passed some screens the flight was showing as Last Call, which certainly didn’t do my digestion any good. I walked quickly to the gate where the last passengers were going through. There was a further security check here (laptops out of bags, but belts and shoes stayed on) and then we were onto the aircraft.

THE SEAT World Business Class seating is in the nose of the aircraft in rows 1-3 (AB-JK) and row 4 (AB–EF–JK) taking a total of 18 passengers on the main deck. I was on the upper deck, which is all business and has a staggered arrangement of rows running from 72-73 (AB-JK) then from 74-79, a total of 24 upstairs and 42 World Business Class altogether on this configuration. Downstairs on the main deck there are another 233 economy and economy comfort passengers making a total of 275, very low for a B747-400 but the Combi indicates it has a lot of freight capacity. For a seat plan click here.

I was in 79A, a window seat with the side bins perfect for storing small items, and overhead lockers suitable for a laptop bag. Unless you have the side bins on the upper deck, there isn’t a huge amount of storage space and passengers with wheelie bags stowed them in the wardrobe area towards the back of the cabin at the top of the stairs down to the main deck. On sitting down my jacket was taken, drinks offered (water, orange juice or sparkling wine) and then the captain apologised for the delay which he said was due to a technical difficulty.

The seats have plenty of room and have three preset positions, for take-off and landing, a lounging position and a lie flat one. The seats recline, so the seat in front of you does impinge into your space, and each seat has a sort of clam shell arrangements that can be lifted up to give the sleeper more privacy from the person behind. Each seat had a power socket (though needing a European plug adaptor if you have UK plugs), and reading lights, as well as AVOD IFE system with a good choice of entertainment.

FOOD AND DRINK This was a choice of a Chinese meal selected by the South Beauty Group (“This much respected chain of restaurants has more than 20 locations in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Hong Kong”) or Western created by Margot Janse, the Dutch-chef of the restaurant The Tasting Room in Le Quartier Francais in Franschoek, South Africa. The appetiser of asparagus panna cotta served with smoked salmon and green asparagus, accompanied by a creamy dill sauce. Main courses were a slow cooked fillet of chicken with pomegranate jus, couscous and apricot tajine or Hake and crayfish cake. The Chinese menu was chicken, mushroom and asparagus salad served with yu xiang sauce and a main course of beef yu xiang with spinach, bamboo shoots and steamed rice. I asked for the beef, was told it was pork and then was left feeling doubtful because it seemed to be beef to me, but it was very pleasant. I passed on the desserts because it was getting late but there was a choice of white chocolate and lime cheese cake, passion fruit caramel mousse, a cheese plate with old Amsterdam and Bresse Blue cheese and seasonal fruit.

SLEEPING We were all handed bottles of water before sleeping and then the lights were turned down. The lie-flat bed is reasonably comfortable, though this is definitely one of the ones where if you lie on your back you gradually slip down the seat, and if you lie on your side eventually your knees complain about the slight difference in angle they are being asked to bear as the footrest is rarely completely at the same angle as the main seat. My main problem was that this version of the lie-flat seat does not allow the arms to drop down to be flush with the seat, and so every hour or so I woke with numb arms from either resting my elbows on the hard arm rests or jamming them inside the armrests. Most others seemed to sleep on their back with their arms crossed across their chests.

We were asked to fill in our breakfast choice before going to sleep, which I had done but then fallen asleep before handing it back. The crew were excellent though and served me a choice of chive omelette (savoury) served with rosemary potatoes, mushrooms and grilled tomato or strawberry pancakes (sweet) offered with vanilla sauce and garnished with mini brownies. We had not made up any time before arrival and so were an hour late landing at Chek Lap Kok in Hong Kong.

VERDICT There’s nothing exciting about KLM’s business class, but the prices make it an attractive alternative for travellers prepared to consider a non-direct flight to and from UK and Asia, and the service is good.

Tom Otley

FACT FILE

  • CONFIGURATION 2-2
  • SEAT WIDTH 20in/51cm
  • SEAT PITCH 61in/155cm
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from London to Hong Kong via Amsterdam in October started from £3,046.
  • CONTACT klm.com

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  • I have flown KLM a couple of times – but generally fly Star Alliance. I agree with what Tom states – but……the biggest problem I have is a lack of staff. On a recent flight from Amsterdam to Manila – I was on a 777 with I believe 54 seats – and only 3 crew in Business Class. The meal and drink service was awful – had finished the meal before even being offered a beverage. They would walk up one aisle- then return to the front and then do the next aisle. My neighbor had received his dinner, drinks and finished everything before I was even offered any water…..Same experience on a flight to Bangkok – not impressive

  • The Lounge – It wasn’t because it was late! 4pm on a Thursday, all we have is cheese, biscuits and soup. No warm food. A very “functional” lounge. Clear-away is very poor with plates and glasses left for long periods and very few staff to do the work

  • It is not because you were late that there was only soup served…the KLM lounge has no hot meals at all only the soup..and very little choice of anything..only sometimes a basic salad. compared with the BA business lounges its pretty pathetic. they dont even have small bottles of water. they have introduced bowls with m&m”s in them, trying to be trendy.. they just dont realise that business people want to have a normal warm meal.

  • I agree with all of you who state that KLM is not more than a 2-star airline. Here is my report about a Business Class flight from Beijing via Amsterdam to Nürnberg, including the scoring (in points). In the end of the day, ever since this happened I never invested money in a KLM ticket anymore.

    Reservation: (50/80)
    Made on 29 January 2007 in KLM office Beijing with Ms Lily Liu. She was friendly but not proactive. I paid full fare Business Class tariff inspite I had serious complaints on my last KLM flights (KL 1776/KL 897 FRA-AMS-PEK on 06 August 2006)! After this bad experience I expected KLM to attempt much more to keep a customer. I invested a lot of money so my expectations may be high, of course.

    Seat Allocation: (60/100)
    Request on 18 May 2007 in KLM office Beijing. For KL 898 I asked for 72A (Upper Deck) and for KL 1887 seat 1A was requested. I was told both seat numbers cannot be allocated. But the clerk could not explain me any reason for that. So I decided to take 73A and 2A with an option to change to my requested seats later. Moreover I asked to file my frequent flyer number.

    Airport Transfer Service:
    Pick up service is not even available for paying Business Class passengers. Details like this make a high standard airline.

    Check in: (100/120)
    Check in for KL 898 at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) on 06 August 2007 at 09:05 hrs. The flight was scheduled for 10:55 hrs. Two separate Business Class counters were available. The waiting time was only about five minutes as the occupancy for C was pretty low. The attitude of ground staff, a young lady, was pretty good. She asked me to confirm my Frequent Flyer number. My preferred seat (72A) was not any more available so I kept 73A. In the end of the check in procedure she mentioned the lounge and explained the way.

    Luggage handling: (70/120)
    Priority tagging and handling was done without further request. The weight of my luggage was 34 kg (30 kg allowance). I was asked to pay 30 EUR per kg. Normally I expected to see the four kilogram as regardless. Not worth to mention that with other airlines (CA, SQ, CX etc.) I would have paid nothing. KLM seems to be very correct in luggage weight. So am I in my service demands. The overweight payment was a little bit problematic. I asked to pay cash and in US Dollars. This brought some complications. The KLM cashier gave me a terrible exchange rate of 1 EUR equal 1,50 USD which is unacceptable. Moreover she was only able to give back the change in the Chinese currency. In the beginning she handed out the change in a plenty of Yuan bills. I asked for bigger nominations. The clerk fulfilled this request with an unwilliness. The whole check in procedure took about ten minutes including the overweight payment. This is still acceptable.

    BGS Lounge PEK: (40/80)
    KLM Business Class passengers are supposed to use the BGS Lounge as there are no KLM or Air France facilities in PEK.
    The Business Lounge offers the standard facilities but is nothing special. The self-service-buffet has an ambiente of a local Chinese 3-star-hotel. The food offered at the buffet is not worth to mention. In the male restroom section only two out of six toilets were in service, the lounge furniture in general was old and not state-of-the-art, the choice of newspapers could be better. At least a BGS staff came inside to inform the passengers about the open gate for my flight.

    Boarding for KL 898: (80/80)
    Priority boarding for Business Class was offered at gate 17 from where flight KL 898 left.

    Welcoming on board: (60/100)
    When I entered the aircraft nobody asked me for my seat number. Fortunately I knew where to go and went directly upstairs to the Upper Deck. The greeting there was acceptable inspite it was not very personal – just a “Good morning”, no “Welcome on board”. I was offered a welcome drink (champagne, water or orange juice). Newspapers were not offered on board, only presented on a table outside the plane door which is just Economy style. In a stand behind the staircase later I found a few magazines. Only one of them was English: a “Newsweek” from last week which obviously had many readers before me.

    Amenity kit: (50/80)
    This set in a small blue bag (labeled both for KLM and SkyTeam alliance partner Northwest) was handed out with the earphones. Inside the kit there are socks, pen, eyeshade, tooth brush and paste as well as lip balm. This is standard for Economy Class on 5-star airlines. For Business Class not outstanding but just enough for a day-flight.

    Seating procedure: (60/80)
    Assistance from FA with cabin luggage was not offered but I could
    manage myself. I asked to store my jacket in the closet and the FA did it without problems. I could have expected a welcome with usage of my name as a Business Class passenger – at least at a low occupancy like on my flight.

    Aircraft impression: (90/100)
    Boeing 747-400 Mixed Configuration PH-BFV “Vancouver”:
    The flight was nearly fully booked in Economy but the occupancy in Business was pretty low, probably less than half. There were only seven of 28 seats occupied on the upper deck.

    Flight attendant: (100/120)
    The flight attendants were friendly but not outstanding. My name was actually only used once by the senior purser when she asked for my choice for the main course. The heartly hospitality which is standard especially with some Asian airlines was missing a bit but I felt well treated. In this point the Business Class is a huge difference to Economy.

    Cleanliness: (100/120)
    The general cleanliness was okay however in the storage box besides my seat there were traces of dried orange juice and a rest of a paper tissue probably from the previous passenger. I inspected the toilet after two hours of flight. The toilet may not be used many times due to the low occupancy upstairs so it was quite clean. Every one to two hours I saw a cabin staff entering the lavatories – apparently for a check.

    Comfort: (100/120)
    The seats are reclineable to 150 °. The ambiente in the business class was acceptable but not outstanding (flowers, newspapers etc. were missing). The provided space was enough, also for storage of hand luggage. If you have a seat at the window you have additional storeroom under the windows. The seat configuration for WBC on the 747 Upper Deck is 2-2. Despite the Upper Deck is comparatively narrow the basic space is enough. A nice detail was the massage system in the Business Class seat although it was more a light vibration in the back than a massage.

    Inflight entertainment: (70/ 80)
    12 programs, personal screen and power supply for the laptop were available (110V). Anyway, you can recharge the batteries of your computer. The inflight magazine “Holland Herald” was used but not worn out like it was on my last KLM Economy flight. Magazines and newspapers were very rare and not actively offered to the passengers (as mentionned before). A telephone is available at every seat. The service is charged USD 5.90 per 30 seconds with a minimum connection of one minute.

    Catering quality, quantity: (80/110)
    Hot towels were provided before serving the meal as well as a table cloth during the meal. The choice of meals was okay (two Western and one Chinese). The lamb I took was good but not high class. The French cheese selection for dessert was a bit dissapointing: Three kinds of the most common cheeses you get in every supermarket (like Camembert and Edamer). For the second meal I have chosen the Chinese menu (alternatively mushroom ravioli). This meal again was good but not outstanding. The wine selection was interesting but definitely not high-class. One thing which was annoying: if you fly Business Class you might expect you can decide yourself the time you want to eat. Some people are working and don´t like the obligatory meal time. The quantity of the three-courses-meal was average.

    Punctuality of flight: (80/80)
    The arrival time was scheduled for 15:00 hrs local time. We reached Amsterdam at around 14:30 hrs.

    Welfare procedure: (70/90)
    Before approach every Business Class passenger got handed out a small Delft house as a gift. This is a nice idea and one of the very few moments I will remenber KLM in a positive way. The welfare was short and not really heartly. Infact, the flight attendants had a long working day but a passenger pays for that.

    KLM Crown Lounge AMS: (60/80)
    Facilities at the KLM Crown Lounge (number 25) in Amsterdam were quite good. The lounge provided many international magazines and newspapers as well as numerous sitting facilities. However the food offers are better in many lounges around the world. Sandwiches, sausages etc. would make a better impression. The common impression is acceptable. At the toilet I missed refreshment towels, shaving kits and other items a passenger may need after a long flight.

    Boarding for KL 1887: (0/80)
    Priority boarding for Europe Select Class (the name of Business Class of inner-European flights) was not offered as the aircraft was parked on an outside position. The flight which was scheduled to leave Amsterdam at 16:55 hrs did not leave before 17:45 hrs.

    Welcoming on board: (50/100)
    The FA friendliness was not too good. When I entered the aircraft I just heard the sentence “Hello, boarding pass!” This is not acceptable.
    Newspapers were distributed to Europe Select passengers but there was only “Süddeutsche Zeitung” in German. I missed the “Welt”, for example. Moreover the staff did not offer magazines like “Der Spiegel”. I asked myself if I am really flying to Germany as there was hardly anything provided in German. At least 60% of the passengers were German.

    Seating procedure: (20/80)
    As the aircraft was parked outside and we were transfered by bus the boarding and seating was totally mixed with the booking class, rows etc.

    Aircraft impression: (60/100)
    Fokker 70, KLM Cityhopper, PH-JCH
    The occupancy on this flight was about 90% in Economy and 20% in Europe Select. I was lucky: the seat next to me (2B) was empty.

    Flight attendant: (70/120)
    The two flight attendants on board, one female and one male were friendly but not outstanding. Later I gave up speaking German. Either they did not want or they just could not speak this language very good. On a connection to Germany you should guarantee German speaking staff.

    Cleanliness: (60/120)
    The cleanliness was not satisfying. The tables were dirty, there were spots on the ceiling and one light bulb was fused above my seat. Apparently these planes are not checked on such details regularly. The toilet was just acceptable regarding the cleanliness.

    Comfort: (60/120)
    The seat configuration on this aircraft type is 2-3. It is acceptable when you sit on the left side as on the right side KLM does not guarantee to keep the middle seat free (like some other airlines do for Business passengers!). However the seat distance both in Economy class and Europe Select Class (a kind of Business Class) is 31 inches. So the leg-room and space and general cannot be used as a reason to pay more and fly Europe Select/Business Class. The section Economy/Business is changing on the booking demand.

    Inflight entertainment: (20/80)
    The inflight entertainment on this short-haul-flight was limited as you might expect. There was no loudspeaker information in German language as flight is destinated to Germany. This is embarrasing!

    Catering quality, quantity: (80/100)
    Europe Select passengers get following additional amenities to Economy flyers: newspapers and a little bit better catering. I got three pralines and a sweet cream for desert. The quantity was just acceptable, the quality was good.

    Punctuality at destination: (60/120)
    The arrival time in Nuremberg was scheduled for 18:05 hrs. We arrived our destination at 18:45 hrs.

    Welfare procedure: (60/90)
    The welfare on this flight when leaving the aircraft in Nuremberg was just like I expected: a normal “bye”.

    Luggage delivery: (50/120)
    My luggage was labeled as priority luggage. So I expected my suitcases to be delivered first. My luggage (I had two pieces) was complete and no damages were discovered. But priority luggage was not sent out on the belt first like it should be.

    Miles for the flight: (0/60)
    A couple of weeks after this flight I checked my Northwest Airlines World Perks statements. To my big surprise I only got the single amount of miles! Just to make it clear again: I was paying for flying Business Class. So I expect at least 1.5 times or twice the amount of the Economy Class miles. Earning miles might not be the most important thing on a flight but if you publish something from earning more miles by flying Business Class you should keep your promise. Again, this is embarrasing.

    Verdict:
    To be honest: KLM just can call itself a 2.5-star-airline. Infact, the aircraft fleet is not too old and well maintained so at least flying is safe. But if you regard the “software”, the service which is provided for the traveller, there is still a big lack. If you fly with a European airline like KLM you should not expect the service of a prestigious Asian airline. But what is surprising for me: KLM is charging the same, in many cases even more than its competitors. The topic “luggage” is handled with a European accurancy wherever you can make money. In one sentence: the ratio between “paying and getting” is different. The final question: Would I fly with KLM again? And would I recommend the Business Class? I would fly KLM Business Class again if there is a cheap bargain. If I need to pay full fare I just can recommend everybody to use a more service-oriented airline. The KLM Economy is definitely not to recommend. Nowadays nearly all airlines fly modern fleets. So the only difference goes over the service quality, the amenities on board (IFE, distance between the seats etc.) and the price. Paying more to travel in Europe Select does not make any sense for me. The space is the same, you just get a better snack. This is not worth the money. The frequent flyer mileage system was introduced by most airlines worldwide in order to build up a business relationship with the customers and make them coming again. With my experience I will not come again.

    1910 points of maximum 3030 points = 63.0% satisfaction rate

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