Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
I recently enjoyed a terrific holiday in Zanzibar, the famous spice island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class from Vienna to Dar Es Salaam
- Review: Park Hyatt Zanzibar
- Review: Essque Zalu Zanzibar
- Review: &Beyond Mnemba Island (phenomenal resort!!)
- Review: Hideaway at Nungwi Resort & Spa
- Review: Condor B767 Business Class from Frankfurt to Zanzibar
- Review: KLM B777 Business Class from Dar Es Salaam to Amsterdam (today)
Today (March 7, 2018): Trip report: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Boeing 777-200ER Business Class from Dar Es Salaam to Amsterdam.
On January 19th 2018, I flew Business Class with KLM Royal Dutch Airline from Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) to Amsterdam (The Netherlands). The flight was operated by the oldest Boeing 777-200ER in the KLM fleet. KLM names its B777 airplanes after world heritage sites, and this particular airframe was nicknamed Epidaurus, inspired by the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus in Greece, which is testament to the healing cults of the Ancient World and the emergence of scientific medicin. I did not expect a lot, but boy, I was incredibly impressed by KLM’s Business Class product. Although the 2-2-2 layout is not the most sophisticated in the skies, it was one of the most comfortable seats I have ever flown (and slept) in. The food and courteous service were great as well. But what surprised me the most, was KLM’s attention to design elements, such as Marcel Wanders tableware, the Jan Taminiau amenty kit, and the Delft Blue miniature Dutch houses (filled with gin), which all made for a memorable flying experience.
The same Business Class layout and seat is also found on KLM’s B747. The carrier’s A330 aircraft are currently being retrofitted and will all feature a similar Business Class seat and layout by the end of this year. KLM’s B787-9s feature an even better seat layout (1-2-1) with direct aisle access for all passengers.
Have you ever flown KLM’s Business Class? What was your experience? Leave a comment below.
- Trip: Dar Es Salaam (DAR) to Amsterdam (AMS)
- Airline: KLM Royal Dutch Airline
- Aircraft type: Boeing 777-200ER
- Aircraft registration number: PH-BQE, also known as Epidaurus (delivered in 2004)
- Flight Number: KL569
- Date: January 19th, 2018
- On time departure: yes (midnight)
- On time arrival: yes (7 am)
- Miles: 4553
- Flight time: 8 hours
- Seat: 6K
- Class: business (D)
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Facts & figures about KLM
- Lounge at Dar Es Salaam airport
- Business Class cabin
- Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Amenities & gift
- Onboard internet
- Other inflight experiences (views, crew, lavatory)
- My verdict (score)
*** Read here my review of Flying Blue, the frequent flyer program of KLM & Air France (pros & cons) ***
1. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT KLM
- Founded on October 7, 1919, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is the oldest scheduled airline in the world still operating under its original name.
- Last year, KLM operated worldwide flights with over 200 aircraft, generating €10 billion revenues and employing 32.000 staff from its Amsterdam basis. KLM is the third-largest employer
in the Netherlands.
- Besides the well-known KLM airline, the KLM Group also includes the wholly owned subsidiaries Transavia and Martinair. Transavia is the leading low-cost carrier from The Netherlands operating from Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Rotterdam, welcoming 8 million passengers last year. Martinair focuses on airfreight, pilot training, and aircraft maintenance.
- On May 6, 2004 KLM merged with Air France. The Air France-KLM group is operating as one company in which the two airlines keep their brand identifies, both with a focus on three core businesses (passenger, cargo business and engineering & maintenance). Air France-KLM is the world’s 5th largest airline by company revenue.
- KLM was the first airline to use biofuels on commercial flights: on June 29 2011, a KLM Boeing 737-800 carried 171 passengers from Amsterdam to Paris, burning a 50/50 blend of traditional jet fuel and used cooking oil. Together with its venture SkyNRG, KLM introduced the world’s first Corporate BioFuel Program through which companies can use sustainable biofuels for parts of employees’ flights, thereby stimulating the further development of a market for biofuels.
- KLM ’employs’ a famous co-pilot: Dutch King Willam Alexander. The 50-year-old father of three and monarch to 17 million Dutch citizens calls flying a ‘hobby’ and has been piloting KLM aircraft for years, albeit under the radar (not literally of course). The King is trained to fly B737s, and when he makes pilot announcements, he does so anonymously.
- The KLM fleet is composed of the following aircraft:
- 50 Boeing 737NG for short- and medium haul destinations
- 13 Airbus A330-200 and -300 for medium and longhaul haul destinations
- 16 Boeing 747-400 for longhaul haul destinations
- 29 Boeing 777-200ER and -300ER for longhaul haul destinations
- 11 Boeing 787 Dreamliners for medium and longhaul haul destinations
- KLM names its aircraft after city squares worldwide (A330s), birds (B737s), UNESCO world heritage sites (B777s), world cities (B747s), flowers (B787s) and ships of the Dutch East India Company (B747 freighters).
2. LOUNGE AT DAR ES SALAAM AIRPORT
Dar Es Salaam, the former capital of Tanzania, is the most populous city in the coastal region of East Africa and one of the world’s fastest growing urban centers. Yet, its airport – named Julius Nyerere International Airport after Tanzania’s first president – is disappointingly small and totally underwhelming. It comprises one terminal which features a few gates, a small number of unappealing shops, and one restaurant. The good news is that the authorities are currently building a much larger and nicer terminal which is set to open at the end of this year and will quadruple passenger capacity, after which the currently used airport building will be converted into a domestic terminal.
At the moment, all airlines that fly into Dar Es Salaam (e.g. KLM, Swiss, Emirates, Qatar and Oman Air to name a few) make use of the sole lounge that is present in the terminal to accommodate their premium passengers. The Tanzanite lounge is located one floor below the main concourse, and is basically a large rectangular room that offers all the basics that should be present in an airport lounge: seats, complimentary WiFi, snacks, drinks, and restrooms. Entering the lounge is like stepping back into time because of the dated design. One corner of the lounge features a bar and small self-service buffet with a few hot and cold items (including samosas) although I did not dear to try them out (food presentation was not attractive at all). You can also order a selection of sandwiches from a menu with on of the lounge staff members, which are consistently walking around to take orders and make sure all guests are treated well. The lounge’s highlight was the restroom sign (what kind of says it all): ‘men to the left because women are always right’.
In conclusion, the lounge is nothing special, but it is still better to wait here than in the small and humid airport terminal.
3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
KLM’s Boeing 777s (both the -200ER and -300ER versions) all feature the same Business Class layout, with 34 Business Class seats arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration and spread over two cabins. The main cabin is located in the plane’s front and features 5 rows comprising the bulk of the seats (28 in total) while the smaller cabin is set between the galley and Premium Economy with only one row of just 6 seats. The smaller cabin feels extremely private and to the best of my knowledge, it’s the only Business Class cabin in a wide body aircraft with only one row of seats (correct me if I am wrong please). However, this smaller cabin is situated just ahead of the Premium Economy bulkhead seats, so it may be less appealing to some passengers.
The 2-2-2 layout is ideal for passengers traveling together as a couple, friends or colleagues, but it is not the best when you are a solo traveler because you have to crawl over the legs of your neighbor to reach the aisle when you are allocated in a window seat and because of the apparent lack of privacy. However, paired seats are staggered by a couple of inches (cm) and separated by a fixed divider screen, which guarantees enough privacy in case you are seated next to a stranger.
The cabin’s interior, which is designed by renowned Dutch designer Hella Jongerius, feels fresh, airy and modern. The seat shelfs feature a calming light blue color, while the seats themselves are covered in a dark brown texture, giving the cabin an upscale ambience. As a passenger, you can notice that a lot of effort has been put in the design; for example, the bulkheads’ handles feature the KLM logo in metalwork and the sustainable carpet is specially developed Wilton woven carpet made of Norwegian wool.
Click here for a seat map of KLM’s Boeing 777-200ER.
4. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)
I was seated in 6K for the 9 hour flight to Amsterdam. 6K is a window seat located in the smaller, intimate Business Class cabin, almost elevating the experience to what you would get onboard a private plane.
The seat is a B/E Aerospace Diamond seat, the same type you also find on other carriers, such as Qatar Airways’ A330s, United Airlines’ B787s, and Ethiopian Airlines’ A350/B787s, which I have previously reviewed. However, a big difference is that the Boeing 777 is wider than all other mentioned aircraft types: it measures 5,84 m (19 feet 2 inches) from wall to wall, while the A350, for example, is nearly 22 cm (9 inches) narrower than the 777 variant. Consequently, the seats in KLM’s B777 are wider and more comfortable (yes, the difference can be felt). In addition, one of the seat’s arm rests can be manually lowered, offering increased seat width and even more space (especially welcome when the seat is turned into its flat-bed position). The seat’s other, massive arm rest is shared with the adjoining seat, and features the seat and entertainment controls as well as the tray table, which is both sturdy and easy to open and stow.
In front of the seat is a very large 17 inch touchscreen TV, which uses Panasonic’s ex3 system, which is one of the best in the skies. Below the TV monitor is a drawer which is large enough to store your laptop, and a leather covered ottoman which becomes part of the flatbed once the seat is fully reclined. The size of the ottoman differs dramatically depending upon the row: the bulkhead seats in rows 1 & 6 offer a much larger ottoman as compared to the narrow footwells of all the other Business Class seats.
The seat offers plenty of storage space, with a shoe drawer located under the seat in front, a tray situated under the entertainment screen, space below the ottoman for a backpack or handbag, and a storage pocket next to the headrest which also holds a USB port and international power sockets for charging your personal devices.
The seat feels extremely comfortable in the upright position, but even more so in the flat-bed position (and no, I am not sponsored by KLM to say so :-). The seat can be 180 degrees reclined to a full flat bed that is 206 cm (6 ft and 10 inches) long. Again, your sleep comfort will depend on the seat you choose: except for the bulkhead seats in rows 1 & 6 (which come with large ottomans), the footwells are very narrow, which means you may hit the seat walls with your feet when you turn during your sleep, so not very comfortable for a good night’s rest.
What are the best Business Class seats on KLM’s B777s? Use this seat map for more information.
- All Business Class seats are excellent for those traveling with a companion because of the 2-2-2 cabin configuration.
- The bulkhead seats in row 1 & 6 feature a much larger footrest as compared to all other seats, so these are the seats you want to fly (and sleep) in, although proximity to the galley and lavatory may cause some slight noise disturbance from time to time.
- The seats in row 6 are set in their own super private and intimate cabin (which features just one row of seats), and I would heartily recommend them.
What are the worst Business Class seats on KLM’s B777s? Use this seat map for more information.
- The 2-2-2 Business Class layout does not make the cabin very attractive for solo travelers, since you will always end up sitting next to a stranger. There is a large fixed screen though between adjoining seats which are also staggered by a couple of inches, creating a great level of privacy.
- Window seats don’t offer direct aisle access.
- As mentioned above, the footrests are very narrow (except for the bulkhead seats in rows 1 & 6), so not very comfortable for a good night’s rest.
5. AMENITIES & GIFT
Business Class passengers on one of KLM’s longhaul flights receive the following amenities:
- An amenity kit which comes under the form a marine blue bag, created by successful Dutch fashion designer Jan Taminiau (in 2014 he was awarded the Netherlands’ most prestigious fashion prize the Grand Seigneur). The bag contains the essentials items for longhaul travel: eye mask, ear plugs, a comb, toothbrush, and toothpaste. Remarkably, KLM’s amenity kits lack skincare products.
- A comfortable pillow.
- A stylish and comfortable, marine blue blanket.
- Noise cancelling headphones (you cannot keep these as the crew collects them before landing).
Before landing, all passengers are always offered a gift: a Delft Blue miniature traditional Dutch house, filled with Dutch gin, also known as jenever. Each miniature depicts a real Dutch house. KLM has been presenting Business Class passenger with this gift since the 1950s. Every year on October 7th, the airline celebrates the anniversary of its founding in 1919 by presenting a new house. Over the years, these miniature houses have become desirable collectors’ items, even generating a lively trade among passengers. KLM even has a site where you can keep track of all of the houses, as each one is unique and has a special story to tell.
Two meals were offered during the flight, the first being supper served after takeoff (around midnight), and the second meal a breakfast served 90 minutes prior to landing.
The beautifully designed menus (with references to Delft tiles and houses) were very extensive and offered excellent wine pairings (although I never drink alcohol on a plane to avoid headaches). Another unexpected design detail that KLM get totally right is the stylish and unique tableware. The porcelain, glassware, cutlery, linen and tray have all been designed by Marcel Wanders, a famous Dutch designer. Even the salt and pepper shakers come in the form of clogs, one of Holland’s symbols.
The food itself was great for a Business Class product and the presentation well executed.
I choose the following selection from the supper menu (all courses were served at once on the same tray, which I liked because of the late hour of meal service, allowing for more sleep):
- Appetizer: Kingklip fish ceviche on a lentil and artichoke salad
- Main course: chicken kebabs in Tanzanian coconut sauce, rice pilau and mixed peppers
- Side dish: Cumin Gouda and Camembert cheese plate
- Dessert: tiramisu
For breakfast, I had the omelet with salmon, spinach, and roasted tomato, in addition to a selection of fresh fruit, hard-boiled egg, cheese, jam, hot rolls, and croissants.
Each seat has a very large 17 inch TV screen (one of the largest in the skies) with bright and clear pictures, which can be commanded by directly touching the TV screen or by using a handheld remote control which is located in the armrest. The latter also features its own touchscreen, allowing you to watch a different program (e.g. flight map) from the main screen. KLM offers more than 1000 hours of interactive entertainment in various languages (e.g. Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese or Spanish). There are more than 200 films to choose from, including recent releases, classics and world cinema, in addition to hundreds of TV shows, CDs, language courses, games, audiobooks, and dedicated Kids channels.
8. ONBOARD INTERNET
This B777-200ER aircraft did not offer inflight WiFi. At the moment, KLM only offers WiFi on all of its brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliners and on one of its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: KLM’s cabin crew ranks among my favorite airline crew in the world. The flight attendants are always super friendly, efficient and seem to genuinely care about the passengers, and it was not different on this flight. The service was really courteous. I also like the oh-so-recognizable KLM cabin attendant uniforms, which were designed by famous Dutch couturier Mart Visser.
# LAVATORY: There are two lavatories onboard KLM’s B777 aircraft for Business Class passengers: one is located behind the cockpit and the other one in the galley between the two Business Class cabins.
10. MY VERDICT
- Lounge (Dar Es Salaam Airport): 3/10
- Seat comfort (upright): 9/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): 9/10
- Food (quality): 8/10
- Food (quantity): 9/10
- Inflight entertainment : 9/10
- WiFi: 0/10 (not available)
- Service: 10/10
- Cabin design: 10/10
- Overall experience: excellent: 9/10
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KLM’s business class service on its long haul flights certainly makes up for its ancientness. Have flown several times with them their staff have been extremely friendly and outgoing and are always looking for advice and suggestions particularly on the route I always take with them from Tokyo to Amsterdam. And actual “service” is magnificent serving food and answering any requests.
BUT I have got to say that definitely they MUST do something about the left and right sides of the plane! Trying to get across a fellow passenger who has decided to go to sleep when you are in the window seat is next to impossible unless you want to break your neck or really do something bad to your shins. PLEASE KLM NO MORE side by side seats.
Apart from that the cuisine gets better and better every flight I have taken. Cutlery and glassware great. Bose acoustic headphones fabulous. Actual seat really comfortable and convenient, several places to put things. Miss the massage in the seat but now it goes down to 180 deg I can put up without it!
Business lounge in Amsterdam at Schiphol Airport is really big and the food is not too bad, better onboard obviously. Gets VERY crowded at “business hours” when people are commuting back from Amsterdam to London, Paris etc..
The only other minus point about KLM is the “Business Class” within Europe e.g. Amsterdam to Florence, London to Amsterdam, it is economy class with a space in-between seats but they upgrade people often who really, sorry this is terribly snobby, should not be there. Children and people who bring on food to eat and stink the place out, rushing to the front when the plane lands so we cannot get our bags out or get off and the staff do nothing to resolve issues clearly in front of them. And staff who use the toilets to sit in at the front of the plane. And often we are trying to get some work done!
I flew KLM from ORD on their 747Demi. Since I was with my spouse and we were in row 1, we didn’t have an issue with the side seats. I love KLM business class. The food is excellent, better than most business meals. I like the seat. I managed to sleep a few hours in each direction which is really good for TATL flight for me. Since Delta doesn’t have restrictions using TATL to go to Asia, I will try to do that trip soon. Since they are SkyTeam members, all SkyTeammembers have very good business class. Delta’s is getting better all the time, as well as AF and KAL. Great review!
During Nov 2017 I’ve flown KLM from Calgary (Dreamliner) to AMS to Cape Town (777-200ER). Compared to Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Air France and South African, the KLM biz product is not the grandest, and not the best, but it sure is the nicest and the most pleasant. As mentioned in the review, KLM has nice touches to their product, and the crew (pilots, pursers and FA’s) are sincere, not intrusive, proactive, and friendly. Surprisingly I enjoyed and preferred the 777 (aisle seat) to the Dreamliner (window).
I’m almost always traveling with my partner, so I like the 2x2x2 set up that so many people dislike. Feels more spacious to me. I hate the coffin feel of many of the pods out there.
I flew KLM business class on last New Year’s Eve AMS to HKG. I was thrilled after watching your video, but the real experience was somehow different. The Business Lounge in AMS is huge, very bright but cozy. The food experience is the same you find in a good self service in a Mall, for example. Both Blue Bar and Blue Restaurant, at the upper floor, remained closed all along my stay. Onboard, I agree than the 2-2-2 layout is not the best in the world. The seat was very comfortable indeed, but the mid back support was not working on mine. There is nothing to hang a coat or a jacket. IFE didn’t work appropriately: the handset looked damaged and it was very difficult to operate. For example, I found italian in the language options of a movie, but there was no way to play it correctly. I was surprised, because there was NO wine list at all, and the options for red wine were just “a french one or a chilean?” at the moment of serving. The food was really nothing special. I found a better overall quality on BA A380 economy class service on the same route or even on KLM return flight, again economy class. Last, but not least, the flight attendants and the Business Lounge staff are very friendly and professional, really top notch.