Flying KLM for the first time was already a treat, but flying on KLM’s 787-9 in business class turned me into the child eagerly waiting for Christmas morning.
KLM World Business Class Flight Preview Email
After checking in online, KLM sent me a link with very detailed info about my flight and even let me choose seats on my two connecting flights on China Airlines.
KLM World Business Class Check-In
I had flown up from Burbank earlier in the day and already checked in for the KLM flight on my phone, but stopped by the ticket counter to pick up boarding passes for the two China Airlines flights.
The business class check-in counter was deserted when I arrived (about an hour before departure) and a cheerful agent wearing an Air France uniform checked me in and wished me a pleasant journey, directing me to the security checkpoint in the international terminal.
I had spent the morning in the American Express Lounge and did not stop by the Air France lounge prior to the flight. Boarding began 45 minutes prior to departure with the elderly, disabled and children boarding first followed by business class.
San Francisco (SFO) – Amsterdam (AMS)
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 5A (Business Class)
KLM World Business Class Service
Here’s my sense of service on KLM: not surprisingly, it is very Dutch. As an outsider looking in, the Dutch society appears quite egalitarian, with none of the pretentious class status that lingers on in places like Great Britain. That shows in the onboard service.
FAs were middle aged Dutch men and women, attractive and polite. They acknowledged you with a nod and smile as you entered the plane and were happy to direct you to your seat. Pre-departure beverages, menus, and amenity kits were promptly disturbed after boarding. Throughout the flight, the crew took turns monitoring the cabin. In other words, the crew did their jobs exactly as they were trained.
Yet it was crystal clear that business class passengers were seen as peers that did not require babying or mothering. Put another way, the service on this flight was about as far from Singapore Airlines or even my connecting flight on China Airlines as possible. There was no pretense of subservience: we are just here to serve your food, but don’t think you’re any better than us.
And I have no problem with that style of service. Indeed, I would never consider myself “better” than any FA. But I hope you understand what I am trying to convey—this is not the sort of airline where they kneel down at your seat to speak to you or make your bed. They’ll talk to you like you are a colleague, not a guest.
KLM 787-9 World Business Class Seat + Bed
KLM chose a reverse-herringbone configuration for its 787-9, the first aircraft type in its fleet to have this style of business class seat. The seat, arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, offers direct aisle access to each passenger and is spacious and comfortable. A number of nooks and crannies provide ample personal storage.
World Business Class is located between doors 1 and 2, with 32 seats and a galley in front and behind. The cabin is brightly colored with a blue and brown motif not as loud as the livery of the aircraft. Mood lighting kicked in as the sun set about 90 minutes into the flight.
In the lie-flat mode, the bed is 6’5”. A plush white pillow and single down blanket, very similar to what United used to have in BusinessFirst prior to Polaris, is the only bedding available. That does put KLM at a competitive disadvantage over some of its rivals, yet it did not bother me. The aircraft does feature air nozzles at each seat, though they were not necessary – the cabin never really warmed up.
Sadly, I slept horribly: two hours at the most. Departing from California at 2pm and arriving around midnight California time just does not lead to much sleep for me. But I don’t blame KLM for this.
A couple additional notes. First, there were some crumbs around the seat so the SFO clean-up crew needs to do a better job.
Second, my seat (5A) was missing a window, which was a big bummer. Avoid 5K for the same reason if you want a window seat.
KLM 787-9 World Business Class Amenity Kit
KLM offers a very basic amenity kit that contains only the essentials. The bag is designed by Jan Taminiau, a Dutch clothes designer, and bears his Jantaminiau name. Inside was a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, socks, ear plugs, and eye mask.
KLM 787-9 World Business Class Food
Main courses are often a letdown in business class. The logistics of heating a pre-cooked meal often results in dry and overcooked food. Not so on KLM.
But let’s take a step back first.
Upon boarding, FAs circled the cabin with trays of beverages. Choices were water, champagne, or fresh squeezed orange juice. If you know how much I love fresh-squeezed juices, you know exactly what I chose.
A Great Cocktail
After takeoff, FAs offered warmed mixed nuts served in Delftware. For my first beverage, I chose KLM’s signature “Flying Dutchman” cocktail, featuring Damark gin, Bois blackberry liqueur, fresh lemon juice, and sugar syrup. It was very sweet but I prefer sweet cocktails. Wanting to avoid dehydration and jet lag, I just had one.
While some airlines recycle menus for months, KLM prints new menus for every flight. On the back of the menu was the date and flight number.
Dinner began with a choice of crab salad or carrot soup. I chose soup. It arrived on a tray with a green salad and a warm sourdough roll. Best of all was the high-quality olive oil poured into a small ramekin. Wow, it makes my mouth water just recalling it…
FAs did not bother to remove the plastic covers from the salad or croutons.
The cutlery is so Dutch. I loved it!
For my main course I chose “beef stew with balsamic sauce, potato au gratin and roasted vegetables”. Beef stew on an airplane…what was I thinking? I am so glad I took the risk because the main course exceeded all expectations. It was tender, flavorful, and served at the perfect temperature. Even the vegetables were lovely. I enjoyed the main course more than any other main course on the trip, even my rack of lamb in Garuda First Class.
For dessert I had a pecan tartlet and two fruit skewers. Filter coffee is available, but no espresso-based beverages. I had green tea, served with a chocolate truffle.
Bottles of Belgian SPA water were distributed after the meal service and complemented the bottle already found in the seat during boarding.
No mid-flight snack is printed on the menu nor were any snacks laid out in either of the galleys. But halfway through the flight a FA did come around with a basket of goodies including nuts, chips, crackers and stroopwaffels.
Precisely 90 minutes prior to landing breakfast service began, with a tray containing fruit, yogurt, granola, cheese, and a croissant. At the same time, FAs offered either a hot apple pie cake (I understand this used to be a dessert after the main meal) or a sweet potato quiche. I chose the quiche, which arrived wrapped in tinfoil.
The meal went down quickly, delicious once again.
KLM 787-9 Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi is available for purchase on the KLM 787-9, though I found prices uncompetitive. It did not matter though: the internet did not work the entire flight. I started with a $5 / 20MB package and was able to refresh my e-mail only a couple times over the course of the flight. I tried to load a webpage and not only did it fail to load, but I received an alert that it ate up my 20MB trying! Plus, trying to establish a connection is a pain. You first choose the package and pay, then are sent a voucher code you must use to login. But you must also create an account to login and apply the voucher code. Far too arduous…
KLM should consider a different Wi-Fi partner.
KLM 787-9 IFE
I’ll first mention the safety video — I thought the illustrated Delft Blue tiles was clever. Reflecting the high level of English education in the Netherlands, it was only played in English (with Dutch subtitles).
The IFE system contained a surprisingly limited number of movies, but I ended up only watching one, The Girl On The Train, which was fascinating and highly-recommended. Headphones are noise cancelling, but not of great quality.
KLM 787-9 World Business Lavatories
The lavatories are clean and brightly lit, with Zenology amenities. No cloth towels, just paper.
The wall also contains pictures of the KLM miniature houses.
Speaking of houses…
KLM World Business Miniature Houses
Shortly before landing, a FA circled the cabin offering a tray of miniature houses, a signature of KLM since the 1950s. I wrote about it here and ended up with three houses!
Overall, I really enjoyed my experience on KLM. It was not a perfect flight, but the imperfections I noted above do not even come close to dissuading me from flying KLM again, especially on the Dreamliner. KLM even has a special website for its new plane!
We landed 10 minutes ahead of schedule in AMS.
Matthew, how is the award availability on KLM?
Very good out of SFO!
Great! Matthew, can you give me a call when you have time?
Love the review it’s detailed for the avgeek yet immersive enough for the armchair flyer. It’s been over a decade I took my last KLM Business class flight, I’m happy to see that they still give out the Delft house upon landing.
One word of advice. You may think you hid your PNR on your boarding pass, but you didn’t. Let’s just say the world knows you’re crediting these flights to your Delta Skymiles account. But at least you posted this after your flight!
I flattened the image so it could not be a layer issue. Assuming you used a QR-reader app to scan barcode?
Hi Matthew. Great review as always. Do you usually travel in business attire or casual, and do you find that this affects the treatment you receive when in business or first class? Or does this perhaps vary by airline or region? Just curious…I often debate whether “dressing up” influences service. Thanks!
Hi David, good question. Despite my trademark logo, I rarely wear suits when I fly anymore. Especially for longhaul trips like these I tend to wear semi-dress pants, nice shoes, a dark t-shirt or white collared shirt, and sport coat. On flights longer than 11-12 hours I change into pajamas before takeoff. It is rare that I encounter bad service.
nice i did a klm atl to paris years ago in business class it was horrid old plane 3-5-3 across and not flat bed or any bed no service. nuts
I too flew in seat 5a and was dismayed at the lack of a 2nd window.
Quick stupid question. Do you remember if the pillow was cotton or feather? Thanks!
Yeah, it’s not cotton. It’s a thin feather pillow if you can even call it that. Just flew this exact flight, not cotton and it’s an awful pillow!
Sorry for misleading you! I thought it was cotton based on its lumpiness.
Maybe this is a silly question, but why did you fly SFO-AMS as compared to LAX-AMS? Are the planes/services different? I am deciding on business class between SFO-AMS and LAX-AMS and the LAX flight is significantly cheaper. Would love your thoughts! Thank you
Not a silly question at all. I specifically chose SFO because KLM had the 787-9 on the route and I wanted to fly the new aircraft because business class is much more spacious and the flight would have wi-fi internet.
LAX-AMS is operated by a 747-400 with a very good lie-flat business class seat, but not as nice as the 787-9. But SFO often switches between a 777 and 787 so I would not even consider SFO over LAX unless it was 787 and the price differential was not too great.
Super helpful! Thank you, Matthew!
I don’t agree with you about the KLM service. Of course you can’t compare it to Asian and Middle Eastern Airlines. But compared to European and North American Airlines, KLM has a better soft product.
During my last flight with KLM from Dubai to Amsterdam I actually was treated very nice, and the pursor came up to me several time during the flight to chat, it might be because I spoke Dutch. But still I find KLM’s service better than a lot of other airlines. Another good point with KLM is that their business cabins are small compared to Lufthansa (80 C seats on their 747) or British Airways (50 C seats on their 787, 97 C seats in their A380 and 56 C seats in their 777).
KLM has 30 C seats in their 787, all with direct aisle access.
Their 777 and 747 have 6 across seating, and all fullflat.
At this moment not all their A330 aircrafts are refurbished and some even have a middle seat (a330-200). So you should avoid the A330 whereever possible.
In case you are not sure if the aircraft has the new business class cabin you can check the below info:
B787; all have lieflat, and direct aisle access. Best Business seats in the KLM fleet.
B777; All have lieflat, 6 across seating. (Dubbed New World Business Class) (Great product, but doesn’t offer direct aisle access, but is good if you are traveling with a someone else)
A330; Old Business Class with angle flat seats. (Avoid if possible)
Note: SPA isn’t dutch water, it’s belgian , SPA is one of the most famous sources
Thank you for the informative review, looking forward to my flight, reserved 4A, from YYC – AMS in November!
Compare to air france and BA.. I Still prefer KLM Over them 100%… off course you cannot compare them to asian and middle eastern airlines… at least not as awful as US and some european carriers… Flew them several times and never have any problems with them.. service is always great for me…
True.. Even more horrible is British airways as well as Emirates which is not as consistent as they did before…
I always Used KLM from Amsterdam to Manila via Taipei and the service is always excellent..
We will always used them.. Even tho there is a cheaper fares from other airlines..
Did the 787 KLM Dreamliner have more than one lavoratory in Business Class?
Thanks for your informative review. I am 6f 8 inches tall, I’m not Dutch but Scots!
I’m flying business class for the first time and flying with KLM for the first time long haul.
Will the herring bone arrangement be interesting for my height if I try to have a snooze?
Hi Andrew, you may need to sleep in the fetal position — the bed will not be long enough for you to fully stretch out. Even so, if you’re flying on the 787-9 you’ll have a much better experience than on the 747 or 777.
I always love reading your stories and reviews. But could you please correct your review asap. SPA is Belgian water and will never be Dutch. Holland does not have mineral water as far as I know and if they do they will never be memorable.
In case you would like to know more about SPA, it’s a hot spring town (hence where the word spa comes from) in the Belgian Ardennes. It is also home to the oldest or second oldest casino in the world.
Hope it’s not too late to correct that mistake.
Hi Jonathan, no problem. I’ve corrected it. Thank you!
Sourcy is the Dutch brand of water, but it is not quite as good as Spa is to my taste.
The Dutch are practical and don’t know what’s luxury. Traveling first class just because you can afford it (or living on credit) does not mean you belong to the elite. No matter how desperately the Dutch try to hide the fact they’re just trash with cash, class cannot be bought … no matter how much money you have.
Nice job generalizing. I have no idea where you’re from, but I guess you and your fellow countrymen are all idiots. And like to pretend you’re better than everyone else.
Hi, great review! I love the level of detailness. About IFE: are you sure about the limited amount of movies? I always find it hard to choose due to the amount of titles KLM provide. I love the KLM business class food, and I also experience the same when it comes to service – not obedient but more as a peer. Which I think is good in a way, but I had once a rude flight attendant (but got quite some miles when I complained afterwards about that).
Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough, but I recall a more limited selection than most airlines.