Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
Last February, I enjoyed a sublime holiday that I will remember as my most epic journey ever: a trip to Cape Town (South Africa) and Antarctica (the 7th Continent). You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: KLM Boeing 787 Business Class from Amsterdam to Cape Town
- Review: One&Only Cape Town, South Africa
- Review: The Silo Hotel Cape Town, South Africa
- Review: Private Airbus A340 First Class flight from Cape Town to Antarctica
- Review: Echo Camp by White Desert, Antarctica
- Review: Private Airbus A340 First Class flight from Antarctica to Cape Town
- Review: KLM Boeing 777 Business Class from Cape Town to Amsterdam (today)
Today: KLM Boeing 777 Business Class from Cape Town to Amsterdam
Last February, I flew Business Class in a KLM Boeing 777-200ER from Cape Town (South Africa) to Amsterdam (The Netherlands). KLM names its B777 airplanes after world heritage sites, and this particular airframe was nicknamed Mount Kilimanjaro. As always, I loved my flight experience with KLM: the service was courteous, the food was decent, and the onboard product focused on Dutch design & history which I love (e.g. Marcel Wanders tableware, Jan Taminiau amenty kit, and miniature Dutch houses). That said, KLM’s Boeing 777s feature a 2-2-2 layout, which feels dated compared to other Business Class products, although the seat is still one of the widest and most comfortable Business Class in the skies. The carrier is currently refurbishing its B777 aircraft and replacing the old product by new Business Class seats with sliding doors which are arranged in a 1-2-1 layout.
Have you ever flown with KLM? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
- Trip: Cape Town (CPT) to Amsterdam (AMS)
- Airline: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
- Aircraft type: Boeing 777-ER
- Aircraft registration number: PH-BQK (nicknamed Mount Kilimanjaro)
- On time departure: 1 am (yes)
- On time arrival: 11 am (yes)
- Miles: 6020 miles (9790 km)
- Flight time: 11 hours
- Seat: 1K
- Class: Business Class
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Facts & figures about KLM
- Lounge at Cape Town Airport
- Business Class cabin
- Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Amenities & bedding
- Onboard internet
- Gift: KLM Delft Blue House
- Other inflight experiences
- My verdict (score)
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.
- Employing 35.000 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 Transaviaand Martinair. Transavia is the leading low-cost carrier from The Netherlands operating from Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Rotterdam. 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 56-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 comprised 107 aircraft, of which 62 long-haul aircraft and 45 medium-haul aircraft. The aircraft in the fleet have an average age of 9 years, with 10.7 years for the long-haul fleet and 16,1 years for the medium-haul fleet.
- 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).
KLM does not have its own lounge at Cape Town International Airport. Instead, its Business Class passengers have access to the Bidvest Premier Lounge. The lounge, which is open from 5 am to 1 am, is located one floor above the main concourse. The Bidvest Premier Lounge was recently refurbished, and features a contemporary decor, with dozens of comfortable seats arranged around an open kitchen. Unfortunately, the space doesn’t have any outside windows, although large floor-to-ceiling windows one on side offer a view of the terminal’s interior. Food at the lounge is quite decent, with a lovely buffet – spread over several counters – offering a selection of hot and cold dishes. Facilities at the lounge include showers, newspapers, magazines, and free Wi-Fi.
3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
KLM’s Boeing 777s (both the -200ER and -300ER versions) all feature the same Business Class layout, with 34 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 as you have to crawl over the legs of your seatmate to reach the aisle when you are allocated in a window seat. Also, the seats lack privacy, although paired seats are staggered by a couple of inches (cm) and separated by a small fixed divider screen, allowing some privacy in case you are seated next to a stranger. As already said, this won’t be an issue anymore in KLM’s retrofitted Business Class cabins, which will feature seats in a 1-2-1 layout with sliding doors.
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)
KLM’s Boeing 777 Business Class seat is a B/E Aerospace Diamond seat, the same type you also find on other carriers, such as Qatar Airways’ A330s and Ethiopian Airlines’ A350/B787s. However, a big difference is that the Boeing 777 is wider than all other mentioned aircraft types: the Boeing 777 cabin 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 compared to similar seats in other aircraft types (and 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 arm rest – shared with the paired seat – is a console which holds the seat & entertainment controls as well as the tray table.
In front of the seat is a large 17 inch touchscreen HD TV, which uses Panasonic’s ex3 system (one of the best in the skies). Below the TV monitor is a drawer (which is large enough to store a 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
Click here for a seat map of KLM’s Boeing 777-200ER.
5. AMENITIES & BEDDING
Business Class passengers receive the following amenities on one of KLM’s longhaul flights :
- An amenity kit, which is presented as a pouch. The kit 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 an 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)
During this overnight flight, two meals were offered: a supper after takeoff and a breakfast before 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.
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: selection of delicacies – Babaganoush, quinoa salad with chickpeas, pumpkin, pepper served with yellow rice and cherry tomato with pesto dressing
- Main course: salmon Wellington with saffron creamed leeks
- Dessert: passion fruit mousse, coconut tart, strawberry and almond in a chocolate tartlet
For breakfast, I had blueberry pancakes with vanilla sauce, which was served with a croissant, fresh fruit, salami, gherkin and tomato.
Each Business Class seat is equipped with a large 17 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.
8. ONBOARD INTERNET
KLM offers W-iFi onboard its Boeing 777s and complimentary messaging is available to all passengers during the entire flight. This allows to send and receive text messages via WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, and similar services, although you cannot send or receive photos, videos, or audio files.
Two other internet packages are available for purchase on KLM’s longhaul flights:
- The Surf Pass is available as 1-hour voucher for EUR 8, or a full-flight voucher for EUR 18. With this pass, you can surf the internet, and send & receive e-mails.
- The Surf Pass costs EUR 18 for the entire flight and lets you surf the internet, send and receive e-mails including (large) attachments, send & receive messages including photos, videos, & audio files, and stream music, audio, & video. The Surf Pass is currently only available on KLM’s B777s and A330s.
9. GIFT: KLM DELFT BLUE HOUSE
Shortly before landing, KLM’s longhaul Business Class passengers 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 1952. 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.
9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: KLM’s cabin crew ranks among my favorite airline crew in the world (together with their colleagues from Singapore Airlines and Emirates). 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 are designed by famous Dutch couturier Mart Visser.
# LAVATORY: there are two lavatories onboard KLM’s B777 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).
10. MY VERDICT
- Seat comfort (upright): 8/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): 8/10
- Privacy: 3/10
- Food (quality): 8/10
- Food (quantity): 8/10
- Inflight entertainment : 9/10
- WiFi: 9/10
- Service: 10/10
- Cabin design: 8/10
- Overall experience: very good 8/10
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