Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
I recently enjoyed a sublime holiday in the amazingly beautiful country of Rwanda. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: KLM A330 (new) Business Class from Amsterdam to Rwanda (today)
- Review: Kigali Serena Hotel
- Review: Bisate Lodge by Wilderness Safaris (Volcanoes National Park)
- Review: Encounter with the mountain gorillas (my best travel experience ever!)
- Review: One&Only Nyungwe House (Nyungwe National Park)
- Review: Ruzizi Tented Lodge (Akagera National Park)
- Review: KLM A330 (new) Business Class from Rwanda to Amsterdam (via Uganda)
Today (February 6, 2019): Review of KLM’s A330 (new) Business Class from Amsterdam to Rwanda.
On January 12th 2019, I flew Business Class onboard a KLM Royal Dutch Airline Airbus A330 from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) in the Netherlands to Kigali (KGL), the capital of Rwanda in Central Africa. The flight was operated by the oldest A330-300 aircraft in the KLM fleet, delivered to the airline in 2012 and nicknamed ‘Times Square’. The Netherlands’ flagship carrier recently completed an extensive refurbishment of the Business Class cabins of its A330 fleet (which comprises 13 aircraft). The new seats and interior were created by Hella Jongerius (a famous Dutch industrial designer) and represent a massive improvement over the old product, with fully flat seats, HD-quality touchscreen displays, and a brand-new inflight entertainment system. Unfortunately, KLM choose for a 2-2-2 Business Class seat configuration on its A330s, which is not the best in the skies and definitely a step down compared to the carrier’s B787 fleet, which features Business Class seats in an excellent herringbone 1-2-1 layout. That said, I always enjoying flying KLM, because of its fantastic cabin crew, the incredible attention to details (e.g. innovative tableware, a designer amenity kit), and the Delft Blue miniature Dutch houses (filled with gin) as a souvenir gift.
Have you ever flown KLM’s Business Class? What was your experience? Leave a comment below.
- Trip: Amsterdam (AMS) to Kigali (KGL)
- Airline: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
- Aircraft type: Airbus A330-300
- Aircraft registration number: PH-AKA (nicknamed ‘Times Square’)
- Flight Number: KL537
- Date: 12 January 2019
- On time departure: yes (10 am)
- On time arrival: yes (7 pm)
- Miles: 4030
- Flight time: 8 hours
- Seat: 4J
- Class: Business Class
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Cost of my ticket
- KLM Crown Lounge at Schiphol Airport
- Facts & figures about KLM
- Business Class cabin
- Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Onboard internet
- Other inflight experiences (crew, bar, lavatory & views)
- My verdict (score)
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1. COST OF MY TICKET
I paid 1750 euros for my KLM roundtrip Business Class ticket from Amsterdam to Kigali. I booked the ticket online on KLM’s website during a great sale.
2. KLM CROWN LOUNGE AT SCHIPHOL AIRPORT
KLM’s flagship Business Class lounge at its hub Schiphol is called the ‘Crown Lounge’ and is located between the E and F Piers, one floor above the main concourse . The L-shaped lounge is massive in space, with dozens of seating areas stretching as far as the eye can see in both directions. At the center of the lounge is a service desk (where you can request a ticket for a shower if you want to refresh), while a business center (confined within a circular and enclosed glass structure) and a smoking room are located at the lounge’s far end. The lounge features a modern, contemporary décor, and natural light pours in through the massive floor-to-ceiling windows. There are several buffet stations located across the lounge, each one of them with a self-serve bar. While the selection of drinks (e.g. beers, wines, juices and sodas) is excellent, the food offering itself is rather disappointing and limited when compared to the flagship lounges of other airlines: it only comprises cheese, cold meats, fresh fruits, cookies and pastries.
In all honesty, my experience at the lounge wasn’t a great one, since the lounge was overcrowded and even temporarily closed during my visit. Can you imagine, having to wait 30 minutes before being allowed to get into a Business Class lounge as a Business Class passenger? A lot of travelers were justly frustrated by this unacceptable situation, despite the friendly and apologizing attitude of the lounge’s front desk staff. The main reasons for these problems at the time of my visit were fog (which resulted in several Delta and KLM flights being cancelled with dozens of passengers stranded at the lounge) and the lounge’s current renovation (making almost half of the lounge space unavailable to travelers). KLM expects to conclude the lounge’s expansion and refurbishment in summer 2019, after which the new lounge will seat 1500 travelers (while the current lounge only seats 800 passengers).
3. 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 father of three and monarch to 17 million Dutch citizens calls flying a ‘hobby’ and has been piloting KLM aircraft for years, albeit always 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
- 14 Boeing 747-400 for longhaul haul destinations
- 29 Boeing 777-200ER and -300ER for longhaul haul destinations
- 13 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).
4. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
KLM recently completed a (long needed) refurbishment and upgrade of its A330 fleet. KLM’s A330-300 aircraft now features 30 lie flat seats in Business Class, 40 standard seats in Economy Comfort (with more legroom) and 222 standard seats in Economy Class; the smaller A330-200 planes have 18, 36 and 214 seats in Business Class, Economy Comfort, and Economy Class respectively. All Business Class seats are located in one cabin, with either 5 rows (A330-300) or 3 rows (A330-200) of seats. The new A330 cabin interior – which was designed by KLM in collaboration with Dutch designer Hella Jongerius – feels fresh, modern, and above all typically KLM. Different shades of blue are used throughout the cabin, complementing the dark brown color of the seat covers. All Business Class seats face forward and are arranged in a standard 2-2-2 layout, which means that passengers in the window seats don’t have direct aisle access (as they will have to climb over the legs of the passengers seated next to them). Fixed dividers are installed between paired seats, which are inconvenient when you want to talk to your travel companion in the other seat and not large enough to provide enough privacy when you are seated next to a stranger (although paired seats are staggered by a couple of inches, so it doesn’t feel too uncomfortable).
This Business Class layout isn’t unique to KLM as other airlines have installed the same type of Business Class seat (e.g. Ethiopian Airlines B787/A350s; Qatar Airways’ A330s; and United B787s).
Click here for a seat map of KLM’s Airbus A330-300.
5. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)
KLM’s A330 Business Class seat is 25,5 inch (65 cm) wide and has a pitch of 60 inch (152 cm); the latter is defined as the distance from any point on one seat to the exact same point on the seat in front or behind, and thus a good indication of the legroom.
One side of the seat shares a console with its paired seat, which can be used as a small table for a drink and also holds the tray table (that needs to be pulled out for any use). This side of the seat also features a fixed privacy screen (which I already described above), a reading light at eye level, and an armrest with an electronic control panel to adjust the seat position. The seat’s other side (towards the window or aisle, depending on your seat location) has an easy-to-reach fixture above the armrest, which holds a universal AC power outlet, a USB port and a wired controller for the inflight entertainment (more on that below). There’s also a small compartment behind the headrest, where you can store items like your wallet, glasses or smart phone; actually, it’s the only storage space around the seat (you need to store all your carry-on luggage and larger items in the overhead bins).
In front of each seat is a 18.5” touchscreen high resolution TV in 16:9 format and a small footrest. The latter becomes part of the flat bed when the seat reclines 180 degrees into its horizontal position. The fully flat bed is a massive improvement over KLM’s older A330 Business Class product (which featured angled lie flat seats). With its length of 206 cm long (6 ft 9 inch), the bed is very comfortable, even for taller passengers. Although the bed is a tad narrow, you can lower one of the arm rests to increase its width and enhance your sleeping comfort.
What are the best Business Class seats on KLM’s A330-300? Click here for a seat map.
- All seats in the cabin, except for the first and last row, are quiet good, especially for couples. Make sure to prebook your seat online (which can be done free of charge) to avoid disappointment at the airport, since QA flights are often fully packed.
What are the worst Business Class seats on KLM’s A330-300? Click here for a seat map.
- 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 small screen though between paired seats for added privacy.
- Window seats don’t offer direct aisle access.
- Passengers seated in the first row may be bothered by the noise of the galley and passengers going to or returning from the lavatories.
- I also suggest to avoid the last row of Business Class, which is close to the Economy bassinet seats.
Business Class passengers receive the following amenities on one of KLM’s longhaul flights :
- An amenity kit, which comes under the form of a brown comfort bag. The bag is created by successful Dutch fashion designer Jan Taminiau (in 2014 he was awarded the Netherlands’ most prestigious fashion prize the Grand Seigneur). It contains the essentials items for longhaul travel: eye mask, ear plugs, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, and Rituals lip balm & face moisturizer.
- A comfortable pillow
- A stylish and comfortable, marine blue blanket
- Noise cancelling headphones (which can only be powered within the plane and need to be returned to the crew prior to landing)
Before landing, Business Class passengers also receive a wonderful 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 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 on this 8 hour flight from Amsterdam to Rwanda: a full lunch after takeoff and a light meal 60 minutes prior to landing. The beautifully designed menus (with references to Delft tiles and houses) were 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. That said, despite the exquisite and stylish menus and tableware, the food itself was mediocre for a Business Class product (the main lunch was ok, but the pre-arrival snack was a disgrace).
I choose the following selection from the lunch menu:
- Starter: smoked beed loin with cornichons, salty fingers and black garlic cream
- Main course: herb-crusted seabass in Beurre Blanc sauce with mashed potatoes, haricots verts and pickled celery
- Dessert: Calamansi citrus mousse with crème anglaise
An hour prior to touchdown, a light meal was offered, with all course served at once on the same tray:
- Appetizer: grilled vegetable salad
- Main course: steak sandwich with onions and cheese, served with mustard, mayonnaise and gherkins
- Dessert: moelleux au chocolate
Unfortunately, the lukewarm steak sandwich looked and tasted like a cheap McDonalds burger.
Each Business Class seat is equipped with a large 18,5 inch high resolution TV screen with bright and clear pictures. The TV can be commanded by directly touching the screen or by using a handheld wired controller which is located in a fixture above the armrest. The controller also features its own small 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 a dedicated kids channels.
9. ONBOARD INTERNET
This A330 aircraft did not offer inflight WiFi. At the moment, KLM only offers WiFi on all of its brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliners and some of its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
10. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
#CREW: KLM’s cabin crew ranks among my favorite airline crew in the world (together with their colleagues from Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and Qantas). The flight attendants are always super friendly, efficient and seem to genuinely care about the passengers, and it was not different on this flight, with impeccable and courteous service. I also like the oh-so-recognizable KLM cabin attendant uniforms, which were designed by famous Dutch couturier Mart Visser.
# BAR: a walk-up bar was set up in the galley during the flight, offering drinks, stroopwafels and biscoffs.
# TOILET: There are two lavatories onboard KLM’s A330 aircraft for Business Class passengers, both of them located behind the cockpit. The lavatories feature wallpaper with white and blue delft houses, and are stocked with high-end toiletries from Rituals (with scents of Dutch tulips and Japanese yuzu).
# VIEWS: We enjoyed clear weather for most of the flight, allowing terrific views of the Alps and Sahara desert.
11. MY VERDICT
- Crown lounge (Amsterdam): 5/10
- Cabin design: 8/10
- Seat comfort (upright): 8/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): 8/10
- Food (quality): 7/10
- Food (quantity): 8/10
- Inflight entertainment : 9/10
- WiFi: not available
- Service: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8/10
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Small correction to the introduction of the article: Rwanda is not part of Central Africa, but is a member of the East African Community, as are Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, and Southern Sudan.
I have flown KLM World Business Class twice. Once on the 787 and once on the A330 (pre re-designed Business Class) the 787 herringbone layout is fabulous, the “old” A330 layout was horrible. You are correct in that the KLM inflight crew and service is great. Hopefully KLM will re-design the European Business Class seats and layout very soon, as it really isn’t all that great at all. My question about the new A330 layout is does the person sitting in the window seat, have to crawl over the person in the aisle seat if the aisle seat is fully reclined?
I have done 2 flights in KLM World Business. Our food was excellent. Both flights we had row 1 on the B747. As a couple the 2-2-2 seats didn’t bother us. The seat itself had more legroom than the one reviewed. We had plenty of privacy and lots of crew attention. They were delightful flights.
The first fly by wire passenger aircraft was the A320 (1984), not the A330.
I have flown KLM Buisiness class on B787, as well as A330-200 & A330-200. The 330s are doable but unremarkable. The B 787s were splendid. The cabin staff has always been attentive and caring, but certainly quite a few notches below Air Canada’s.
The seat pitch figure of 60″=52cms? This conversion is incorrect, but is likely a typo.
Ironically, my comment above has its own typo: “A330-200 & A330-200” should read “A330-200 & A330-300”. Apologies.
I have flown this business class on a 777 and was quite distracted by my neighbours’ tv screen. They are positioned so close to one another that it’s quite challenging to watch a movie or show without being affected by the other screen. Am I the only one or?