KLM business class Amsterdam-Bangkok – With Dutch porcelain houses and clogs
At the Airport
Changing flights in Amsterdam was easy. I was already checked in for the whole journey at the departure airport. My luggage was tagged was to Bangkok and I got boarding passes for both flights. Once at Schiphol, I just had to go through passport control and on to the gate. In Amsterdam, there are also now automatic gates for machine-readable passports, although it did not go much quicker as many people are still unfamiliar with how they work.
I had two hours between flights and due to my early arrival from Stockholm, there was plenty of time for a visit to the KLM Crown Lounge in the non-Schengen area. It is a very large and quite a stylish lounge, but despite the size, it was packed and almost overflowing with guests. Therefore, the staff had a hard time clearing the tables and replenishing the buffet.
Boarding and First Impressions
The security check was done at the gate, where luckily there was a separate queue for Sky Priority passengers, which I could use as a business class passenger. The actual control was the same for all passengers, but premium travellers had a separate and much shorter queue.
After a few minutes of waiting at the gate, boarding started, 35 minutes before departure, with priority boarding for passengers who needed assistance, followed by passengers in business class. Only one passenger bridge was used, connecting to the second door, which meant a left turn to get to the business class cabin.
The cabin gave a good first impression, with the entire interior in navy blue. My last flight in KLM business class was on a Boeing 747, with an old business class product that felt purely ancient. Today’s aircraft was certainly not the latest product, which is now gradually being rolled out in the fleet, but was a product that was clearly newer and fresher than the one I tested last.
Before take off, I was offered an amenity kit, a stylish model but with rather ordinary contents, as well as a welcome drink, with a choice of water, orange juice or champagne. Newspapers were at the door of the aircraft and magazines were available to borrow from a shelf at the back of the cabin. Also served before departure, was a little canapé made from Dutch sausages, and to eat the sausages, one had a Dutch flag instead of a toothpick. An interesting and slightly different initiative.
A punctual pushback took place at 5:50pm, followed by a safety video in English with French subtitles, before we took off to Thailand with an estimated flight time of ten hours to Bangkok.
The business class product on board was an intermediate version, neither the oldest nor the newest. The older seats have the less than desirable feature that there is no partitioning behind the seat. Therefore, when the seat is reclined and you turn your head to the side, you see the rest of the cabin and passengers sleeping behind you. I am glad that this version is now being phased out. The latest business class seat was launched in spring 2013 and the first seats were installed in July 2013.
This seat was a perfectly acceptable business class seat, not in the class of the newest seats available on the market, but there was definitely nothing wrong with it. On the Boeing 777 aircraft, business class was between the first and second door, a total of five rows in a 2-3-2 configuration, which meant space for 35 passengers. The flight was more or less full. Legroom was at 60 inches, which is slightly above average for business class.
The seat was a lie-flat model. In the reclined position, it became fairly flat but still with a slight slope, approximately 170 degrees, so not too far from being completely horizontal. The functionality was easy to control and you could, for example, regulate the seat height, footrest height and the length of the footrest.
Something I appreciated less, however, was the table, which was far too low when folded out for meals. The table could have been placed a few inches higher for more convenience.
The entertainment system was a distinct improvement on the older business class product. There was a large screen with good resolution and excellent sound through the noise-cancelling headphones that were distributed. Even the choice of films and music was commendable, with a number of movies, TV series and music albums, and in many cases, with the possibility of dubbing or subtitling in multiple languages.
I watched an episode of Friends, followed by the film, Night Train to Lisbon, directed by Bille August.
A fun feature was that the entire menu and drinks list, in business class, could be read through the entertainment system. Furthermore, there was a picture of the food that was on offer as well as useful information to read about it, and for example, the available wines.
Once in the air, service commenced, with the distribution of hot towels followed by a cocktail along with mixed nuts. I ordered a gin & tonic to drink. While passing through the cabin, the purser stopped to personally greet all passengers in business class. KLM has, just as many other airlines, switched over to using ipads on board, where all the details of the passengers are stored, such as, special meal requests and other information that may be useful to have access to during the flight. She was also very observant to notice that I had taken notes onboard and wondered if there was any particular reason for this. The response to my explanation was entirely positive and very surprising. I was invited to the galley for additional opportunities to check out the food that was served in the various classes.
Eventually, the wagon rolled out of the cabin, a white cloth was laid on my table and the entree was served, which was a Dutch shrimp tart with accompaniments. The purser had mentioned that not everyone likes this dish since Dutch shrimp are pretty strong, but I thought it tasted very good. As well as this, bread was offered from a basket, and in the basket was also olive oil as an alternative to butter. I also ordered a glass of white wine, the Dutch wine that was on board, De Kleine Schorre Schouwen-Druiveland 2012.
If you did not want a full meal, an Express Option menu was offered, consisting of a starter, soup (which in this case was mushroom soup) and dessert. This is apparently a novelty at KLM and it was also new for the cabin crew, who were testing this for the first time on board.
The range of drinks were all described in the last few pages of the menu. The offering, was champagne (Billecart-Salmon), two white wines, two red wines, a special wine (a South African rosé), two port wines, a dessert wine and a variety of spirits, soft drinks, juices and of course, coffee and tea.
Next up was the main course, with three choices. The choices consisted of, marinated chicken with gnocchi and vegetables, fried sole with risotto, or braised steak with mashed potatoes and vegetables. I chose the steak and it tasted great, even though it did not stand out. For the main course, I ordered a glass of South African red wine.
On the meal tray, there were also some other nice details. On both short flights and long-haul flights, KLM has chosen to skip the traditional salt and pepper pots in business class, and has instead replaced them with a pair of Dutch clogs, a shoe with each variety condiment. An unusual but nice detail.
With all the trays collected, the dessert cart passed with different choices of dessert. On the cart, were small apple pies, macarons, different varieties of cheeses and fresh fruit. I ordered some fruit (which was served on a skewer), a bowl of apple pie and a glass of port. Coffee and tea was then offered, as I wanted to go to bed right after, I abstained from this. I finished the meal with a small glass of whisky. Three were offered on board, Chivas Regal, Highland Park and Jim Bean.
After dinner was over, breakfast coupons were handed out where you could fill in what you wanted to eat for breakfast, such as, the type of yogurt, spreads, marmalades and choice of main course.
Breakfast was served an hour and 45 minutes before landing. Juices were offered, followed by hot towels. Subsequently, the breakfast trays came out as ordered. I had ordered fruit yoghurt, cornflakes with milk, salmon with accessories, as well as scrambled eggs as the main course, which was served with some kind of potato bun. In addition to this, bread and croissants were offered from a basket, followed by coffee, tea and more juice.
Everything tasted good and the breakfast was substantial, leaving no one hungry. It was also nice to be able to pick and choose your breakfast, however, I did miss some fresh fruit as it is something I like to order when I am on the move. More coffee, tea and juice were offered before the trays were cleared up.
Dinner service was nice, but slow and too protracted. It took just over three hours from when we took off until serving was over. Although this was a long flight departing at midday, dinner was far too drawn-out. The waiting time between the different dishes was not filled with refills of wine glasses, but rather, a lot of dead time with empty plates and empty glasses.
The cabin crew was a mixed bag. The flight highlight was the enthusiastic purser who took good care of me and came by several times to talk and ask if everything tasted good. She was additionally very interested in my opinion on different aspects, given my background. A real example for KLM. I had an equally enthusiastic purser on the connecting flight, which shows that there are real gems among the KLM staff.
The other two attendants, who served in business class, and above all, the flight attendant who served in my row, have a lot to work on. Any smiles and small talk were forced and there was absolutely no proactivity or genuine interest in us as we were served, at least, in my opinion.
The seat was great to sleep in and it was easy to control the functionality with the seat controls. The seat had a 170-degree angle, which meant an almost horizontal inclination. I got 4-5 hours of sleep, a sleep that could have been lengthened with a shorter dinner service.
Before landing, a parting gift was handed out by the staff, traditional KLM porcelain houses, which also contain jenever, a Dutch alcoholic drink not unlike gin. There are now 94 different houses, each with their own unique design, depicting a specific house in Amsterdam. If you travel frequently with KLM, in business class and on long flights, and want to collect the houses, there is a special app where you can keep track of which houses you lack. The houses are also available via KLM’s web shop. If you manage to collect all 94 houses, you will have a fun, miniature street in Amsterdam. The entire collection is also on view in KLM’s lounge at Schiphol.
Landing took place 20 minutes before schedule, at 9.15am. This time seems to imply low traffic at Suvarnabhumi and KLM did not distribute any fast track cards in business class, as some airlines do. Once I got to passport control, it was completely empty. There was not one person in the queue, which has probably never happened in any of my previous visits to Bangkok.
The priority tagged luggage came out first on the band, and my bag was the 20th to show up.
A mixed bag of experiences. The cabin looked nice and the seat was comfortable to sit and sleep in. The food and drink tasted good, with an extensive breakfast, but probably could not be described as spectacular; dinner service was also way too drawn out. But all prizes go to the very enthusiastic and thoughtful purser.