I had already checked in as I was connecting on to this 21h20 flight (Kl889) out of Amsterdam Schiphol from London Heathrow’s Terminal 4. Already airside, and having nearly two hours to spare, I made my way to the KLM Crown lounge (international) by Gate 52.
The facility is huge and has windows overlooking the runway. There were a number of drink stations and some snacks, but perhaps because it was getting late on a Sunday evening, the only warm food on offer was soup. At about 21h00 a message came up on the screens saying the departure would be delayed until 22h30. At this time I weakened and walked out of the lounge to Mcdonald’s to have a meal. When I looked at a screen again at 22h00, the flight was on its final call, which certainly didn’t do my digestion any good.
I walked quickly to the gate, where the last passengers were going through. There was a security check (laptops out but belts and shoes on) and then I was able to board the aircraft. On sitting down, my jacket was taken and drinks were offered (water, orange juice or sparkling wine), and then the captain apologised for the delay, which he said was down to a technical difficulty.
The upper deck of the B747-400 Combi is all business and has a staggered arrangement of rows running from 72-74 and then 77-80 (A-B, J-K), with 24 seats. There are a further 18 business seats in the nose of the main deck. I was sitting upstairs in 79A, a window seat with side bins perfect for storing small items, and overhead lockers suitable for laptop bags. Apart from this, there isn’t a huge amount of storage space, and on this flight passengers with wheelie bags stowed them in the wardrobe at the back of the cabin. The seats feature three preset positions – upright, lounging and angled lie-flat – and also have power sockets (although require an EU adaptor) and reading lights, as well as an audio-video on-demand entertainment system with a good choice of films.
When it came to dining, there was a choice of a Chinese meal selected by the South Beauty Group (a prominent chain of restaurants across Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Hong Kong) or Western, created by Margot Janse, Dutch chef of the Tasting Room in le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek, South Africa. The former consisted of chicken, mushroom and asparagus salad served with yu xiang sauce, followed by beef with spinach, bamboo shoots and steamed rice. The latter was asparagus panna cotta served with smoked salmon and creamy dill sauce to start, with mains being slow-cooked fillet of chicken, couscous and apricot tagine, or hake and crayfish cake.
I asked for the beef, was told it was pork, and was then left feeling doubtful because it seemed to be beef to me, but it was very pleasant. I passed on the desserts because it was getting late but there was a choice of white chocolate and lime cheesecake, passion fruit caramel mousse, a cheese plate with old Amsterdam and Bresse Bleu, or seasonal fruit. Bottles of water were handed out before sleeping and then the lights were turned down. The angled lie-flat bed is reasonably comfortable, although if you recline on your back you slip down, and if you go on your side, your knees complain as the footrest is rarely at the same angle as the rest of the seat. My main problem was that this version does not allow the armrests to drop down flush with the seat, so every hour or so I woke with numb arms from either resting my elbows on the hard armrests or jamming them in between. Most other passengers seemed to sleep on their backs with their arms crossed over their chests. We were asked to fill in our breakfast choice before going to sleep, which I had done but had then dozed off before handing it back. The crew were excellent, though, and offered me a choice of chive omelette served with rosemary potatoes, mushrooms and grilled tomato, or strawberry pancakes with vanilla sauce and mini brownies.
We had not made up any time before arrival and so were an hour late landing (about 15h30 local time) at Chek lap Kok airport.
There’s nothing exciting about KLM’s business class but the price makes it an attractive alternative for those considering a non-direct flight between the UK and Asia. The service is good.