Completing the circuitous rerouting from Dallas caused by a delayed flight on Delta Airlines, the Nairobi flight was on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM). This flight was an opportunity to experience KLM’s latest business class seat on my favorite commercial aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
KLM, a subsidiary of Air France-KLM Group, is a pleasantly out-of-the-ordinary airline in several ways. As examples, per wikipedia, KLM, founded in 1919, is the world’s oldest operating airline and in 1991 was the first European carrier to institute a frequent flyer program. KLM benefits from having its hub at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, which routinely ranks as one of the world’s 10 best airports in Skytrax surveys. Business class passengers on long distance flights can select as a parting gift one of scores of replica Amsterdam canal houses filled with Dutch gin.
Another interesting aspect is female KLM cabin crew are very noticeably taller than their counterparts at other airlines. On average, Dutch men and women are the world’s tallest. A 2021 Dutch study reported that in the Netherlands the average male was 183 cm (6′ 0″) tall and the average female was 169.3 cm (5’7″) tall. Female KLM flight attendants seem taller than average. KLM also gets high marks in my book because it is one of the few airlines that has the decency to name its airliners. I mean if ships have names, don’t planes deserve the same respect?
KLM Flight KL565 Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS) to Nairobi, Kenya (NBO)
It was a fairly short walk form the new and definitely improved KLM Crown Lounge 52 to Gate D6. The flight was scheduled to depart at 13:03. Boarding began at 12:25. The flight distance was 4,150 mi (6,679 km), which is slightly less than the 4,400 miles between Atlanta and Amsterdam. Scheduled flight time was 8h 10m.
World Business Class is KLM’s name for its long-haul, international business class product. World Business Class is situated between the first and second exits. There are 38 flat bed seats arranged 1-2-1 in a reverse herringbone arrangement where seats are angled away from the aisle.
My seat was 2G, an aisle seat in the middle section on the starboard side. (I much prefer a window seat, but no window seats were available when I selected this flight one day before departure.
This seat is a version of the Zodiac Cirrus seat which is also used in business class on Air France. The seat is just over 20 inches (51 cm) wide and reclines to a full flat position. Note the seat has a shoulder harness, a regular feature of new business seats. I’ve never seen an economy seat with a shoulder harness. Hmm! Does that mean passengers in economy are also second class when it comes to safety?
Seats in the center section have a divider between the seats that can be closed for privacy or left open to facilitate communication with a seatmate. I closed the divider shortly after boarding when the lady next to me decided that the small table next to mine was a great place to put her feet.
Seat and lighting controls are remarkably simple and epitomize KLM’s appreciation of functional simplicity. The controls were perhaps too basic because it is impossible to adjust the leg rest independently.
I liked the way the reading light, video remote, headphone and power plugs were clustered in an easy to see and reach location when the seat was upright.
An amenity kit, pillow and blanket, bottled water, noise-cancelling headphones, and a personal protection packet containing sanitizing hand gel and wipe were at the seat when I boarded.
Rituals, a company known for luxury amenities for hotels, created the amenity kit. KLM did not provide slippers, only socks.
KLM Dreamliners also have wifi, which I did not use.
It took only about 20 minutes for all passenger to board and get situated. Passengers in business class used the first door while passengers in economy boarded through the second exit. Simultaneously using two doors made boarding fast and it was more convenient for passengers and crew. Passengers in business class can take their time stowing gear and getting settled without delaying those trying to get to their seats in economy. Flight attendants can perform introductions, take meal orders and deliver predeparture service in business class faster and easier without fighting the flow of passengers moving back to economy.
Speaking of PDBs, the attendants offered juice, champagne or water.
Food and Drinks
After seat comfort, I think the most important part of a flight is the food. Here are the menus for this flight.
KLM and the Negroni Cocktail both began in 1919; so in 2019 KLM began serving a Bols Negroni Cocktail to celebrate.
Wine and Champagne (click to enlarge)
First Meal Service
After a short delay because of catering issues, pushback occurred at 13:19 and takeoff at takeoff at 13:40.
Beverage service began 25 minutes later. I went with Johnnie Walker Black. It is consistent with the quality of scotch most airlines serve in business class.
Next was the appetizer — correction appetizers.
Chicken Star Anise was my entrée. Chicken thighs are a personal favorite.
Grapes and Moulin Blue, Beemster, and Gooise Caractere cheeses accompanied by Taylor’s Porto topped off the meal.
The tableware was impressive.
The meal was delicious and served with proper timing and temperature.
A light meal was served two hours before landing.
The light meal fell short of my expectations. The hamburger was overdone and the bun was dry and crumbly. KLM can do better. The last time I flew on KLM was a wonderful flight on a 747-400 from Amsterdam to Houston, Texas. Then the burger and dessert were to die for.
Every so often my seat would lurch even though I didn’t touch the controls. I finally figured out that the movement was caused by my arm touching the metal strip where the seat control was located.
This was extremely annoying because the strip doubles as an armrest. I reported the problem to the flight attendants twice. The second time an attendant took me seriously and attempted to fix it. Touching the strip in certain places seemed to cause a short circuit but there was no way to fix it in the air. I had to live with the lurching seat and be mindful of where I placed my arm.
KLM kept the two business class bathrooms in order throughout the flight. I visited a couple of times and they were spotless.
Inflight Entertainment (IFE)
The 17-inch video monitor and noise-cancelling headphones did an outstanding job with the wide variety of movies, TV shows, music, and games in the IFE library. I missed the informative cockpit videos and educational Berlitz Word Traveler language learning system that was available on IFE in 2018.
787 Dreamliners have amazing windows that allow passengers to select a desired opacity. It is the only airliner that can have a darkened cabin and outside views at the same time. Unfortunately, some passengers didn’t seem to understand how the windows worked because they left their windows undimmed for most of the flight.
KLM saved the treat I’d been anticipating for last. Just before starting the descent to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, flight attendants offered passengers in business class a choice of miniature Delft Blue Amsterdam houses filled with Dutch gin. More about these fun collector’s items in future posts.
It turns out that this house is a replica of Frankfort Warehouse Prinsengracht Canal 773.
In spite of the problem with the seat, downgraded IFE selections, and the disappointing cheeseburger, it was good to be flying KLM World Business Class after about a four-year absence. Service reflected my general impression of the Dutch — direct, friendly and efficient. Do others share that view? KLM names its planes and gives out replica canal houses as gifts. In my judgement that counts for a lot.