Review: KLM World Business Class part I, AMS-TPE Boeing 777-200ER with new Crown Lounge 52

Back in March I had a trip back to Taipei. In January I started looking for flights and ways to get back. I came across a KLM business class deal exit London to east Asia thanks to God Save the Points. I ended up booking a multi-city roundtrip ticket for 1478 pounds (approx USD $1800 at time of booking). The itinerary was LHR-AMS-TPE ICN-AMS-LHR. I booked a Scootbiz on Scoot for TPE-ICN.

I have always been curious what its like to fly in business class with KLM. I had positive experiences before in economy class in intra-Europe. The airline is also celebrating its 100th birthday this year and is the longest and oldest continuously operational airline in history. It is also very proud of this history and their Dutch heritage and it is felt across the entire brand and flying experience, especially up front. I had also read about the generally excellent service from KLM. Finally, I would really be lying if I did not admit one of the prime reasons for booking KLM business class: the KLM Delft Houses. The porcelain traditional Delft houses filled with Bols Genever Gin is a world-famous collectors item.

Lets just say over all, KLM delivered and on my return flight from Seoul to Amsterdam, exceeded my expectations.

LHRAMS

Flight: KL 1012, March 14, 2019

Plane: Boeing 737-700 PH-BGX

Class/ Seat: Europe Business class 1F

Dept: 14:30 Arr.: 16:29

Flight Distance and Time: 230 miles, 59 minutes

 

AMSTPE

Flight: KL 807, March 14, 2019

Plane: Boeing 777-200ER PH-BQC Chitzen Itza

Class/ Seat: World Business Class seat 6K, private 1 row cabin behind door 2

Dept.:  21:30 Arr.: 16:10 + 1

Flight Distance and Time: 5,874 miles, 11 Hours 40 minutes

 

LHRAMS

KLM along with a majority of Skyteam carriers and Middle Eastern carriers depart out of Terminal 4 in London Heathrow. KLM business class passengers get access to the Skyteam lounge, along with priority pass card holders. The lounge is over two levels with buffet food and self-serve beverage. It offers plenty of seating, outlets and a Clarins spa with showers. Guests can enjoy a complimentary 15 minute spa session, which generally is a facial with neck massage. Well worth it, make sure to ask and book upon checking in at the lounge. I basically entered the lounge, got my massage and headed out to board my flight.

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Clarins spa treatment room
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Skyteam lounge lower level

I boarded the 737 headed to Amsterdam and settled into my seat. Business Class was not full though row 1 was. Despite the short flight there was a full service meal with beverage. Service was extremely friendly but professional and courteous yet keeping to a very efficient pace. The flight was perfect length for the amount of food served and for some enough for two rounds of drinks if you desired. But it is always quite something to see the crew work so efficiently yet provide such personal service on a short sector like this, something you wont ever see in the United States.

What I love about KLM is their cutlery and service ware. Beautifully designed in Dutch blue and white and Dutch patterns. Truly keeping to traditions and honoring their heritage and culture. Even if the tray is plastic and the napkin holder is paper, it looks elegant and high quality for sure.

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Heineken
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KLM’s stunning plating
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Europe business class lunch with selection of sandwiches served with cold salad and dessert

 

New KLM Crown Lounge 52 (Non-Schengen) Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

We arrived early into Amsterdam and since the UK is a non-Schengen country you do not need to go through security or immigration coming off a UK flight transferring to another international flight. I headed straight for the new KLM Crown Lounge 52 along Amsterdam Avenue between Concourse E and F. I had been to the old one before but not the new one that opened late 2018. It is still not 100% complete. The a-la-carte dining restaurant is supposed to have opened end of March and the rest of the lounge including the shower facilities is due to open in July 2019, but definitely all will be complete before the 100th KLM Birthday on October 7, 2019.

The lounge is beautifully designed with lots of different spaces to relax in. Food at present is only buffet, and selection is limited and tastes just ok, nothing to rave about. The upper level consists of the bar, outdoor deck, and soon to be restaurant as well as the top of the centerpiece of the lounge (though its located at one end), the “Mountain.” A multi-step, multi-seat area that houses memorabilia from KLM’s history, including posters, China, airplane models and more. The lower level consists of the main seating area, smoking room, service desks, work booths and main buffet, soon there will be showers as well.

With ongoing shower construction, guests could book and get a coupon to go use showers at the Mercure Hotel inside the terminal, a short walk from the lounge. Not terribly inconvenient but at least they still offered shower options!

Over all, I enjoyed my 4 hours at this lounge, including the shower. Food was decent but not amazing. Beverage selection was also decent but not crazy. It was mostly the atmosphere, design, and multiple areas to relax in. I arrived when it was practically empty and it gradually filled up with passengers on the night time departure bank to Asia, South America and Africa.

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Open air entryway with escalators and KLM Delft House-lined glass wall
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Main two story entryway window
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Seating areas
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The bar
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The Mountain
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Lighting details at the bar
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Lounge seating by the bar
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The Mountain

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AMSTPE

I headed to the gate a bit early to admire the beautiful KLM livery and to get ready to board. Soon boarding began and I was aboard the KLM 777. KLM’s 777s and A330s have a 2-2-2 configuration for their business class. While some people complain about this seat, some say its narrow, and most complain about having to climb over your neighbor if you are in a window seat, I personally like this seat and find it to be comfortable and the climbing over a minor inconvenience. Choose a seat in row 1 or 6 for larger ottomans or more space, though the KLM seats definitely accommodate tall people, as they should given the average height of the Dutch.

For this flight I chose seat 6K a window seat in the mini-1-row business cabin behind door 2. At first the cabin was empty except for me in 6K and a lady in 6A, however, do note that KLM sells upgrades all the way to door close. Upgrade to extra space seats in economy and all the way to business class. Thankfully, either they sold a certain number of upgrades or limited the amount so as not to seat any upgraded pax next to the existing paying pax, so the seat next to me remained empty.

At my seat was my pillow, blanket, noise cancelling headphones, and slippers. Upon seating the flight attendant came by with my amenity kit. Shortly after I was offered a beverage, I went for some champagne which came in a beautiful champagne class. My flight attendant was all smiles, and though KLM doesnt necessarily address passengers by name they very warmly address folks by sir or madam. I then used the lavatory and was so excited to see the wall paper was of a Delft House pattern!

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Legroom and storage under the ottoman
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Basically my personal private area during the flight
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Dutch designer amenity kit
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Mini business class cabin
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Pre-departure champagne
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Lavatory wallpaper

Another flight attendant came by with the menu and wine list. It is interesting to note that KLM prints menus for each flight on each date. KLM only does pre-order for select Africa and Asia routes; Seoul and Taipei routes not included. Detailed menus shots at the end of the post.

We were delayed since KLM’s OCC had us wait for delayed connecting passengers, causing us to miss our slot and as such another couple minutes delay. My dinner order was taken. I went for the Salmon Fillet with Crayfish in fish sauce with leek, celeriac mousse, soya beans and cherry tomatoes, which seafood isnt usually my go to but it did sound quite lovely, and it turned out to be perfectly cooked and the best seafood I’ve had in the air. Unfortunately with KLM you dont get both appetizer and soup, you have to choose one, so I went with the Curry Sweet Potato soup, again delicious.

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Nicely designed paper menus
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Unique date and route stamps on the menu

After almost a 40 minute delay we were finally airborne. Shortly after takeoff curtains were drawn, though this didnt keep economy class passengers from coming through to use the business class lavatory by door 2. The economy class passengers who bought upgrades were escorted to their business class seats and settled in. Hot towels were handed out followed by an order of warm nuts or Dutch cheese and a beverage of choice. I asked if I could indulge in both the cheese and nuts, my flight attendant smiled and said she would check with the purser given the limited quantity of cheese on each flight. She returned with both! I then ordered my drink, I went with KLM’s signature cocktail, The Flying Dutchman, which they sell for pre-order on their online duty free store. It is a gin based cocktail that is refreshing and delicious.

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Nuts and Dutch cheese
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Flying Dutchman

While KLM does do cart and tray service in business class, both the cart and tray are elegant and classy and either pay homage to the Dutch heritage or KLM’s aviation heritage, which is pleasing to the eyes and adds to the over all vibes. After the cheese and nuts, the cart rolled in with my tray, soup, salad and bread service with choice of beverages. I went with sparkling water and the Chef recommended 2017 white Bordeaux, excellent wine.

Not long after the cart came back again to take away my soup bowl and the flight attendant served me my main course of Salmon fillet and topped off my beverage. While it did take awhile, the flight attendant stayed true to her word to top off my glass as she finished the bottle mid-pour. The salmon was delicious, perfectly cooked, soft, moist, tender with wonderful creamy tomato sauce and accompaniments.

The cart then came back to collect my tray. I ordered the Citrus Mousse and fruit bowl for dessert accompanied by a glass of port. The purser then came by with a selection of white, milk and  dark Delf-House-shaped chocolates. Then everything was cleared. I reclined to the fully flat bed position, grabbed my empty neighbor’s pillow and fell right to sleep. Sure no one sat next to me, but I felt the seat was spacious in every position I turned to and plenty of knee room which is something I find lacking in most modern business class seats.

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Curry Sweet Potato Soup, bread and salad with Beet Balsamic
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Beautiful cutlery
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Dutch slippers salt and pepper shakers
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Salmon Fillet
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Citrus Mousse with Creme Anglaise, fruit and port
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Chocolate selection

I got a solid 4-5 hours of sleep and woke up an hour or so prior to breakfast service. During the flight there is a snack cart set up in the galley with a variety of snacks and beverages available. The sun was shining brightly outside by this point. Flight attendants then came through with beverages, I went with KLM’s fresh squeezed apple juice, exceptional. My flight attendant then came by with the cart and asked what I wanted for breakfast. I went with the Dutch pancakes with custard, raisins and apricots. You can then choose your bread (something I find a little interesting is that KLM lets you grab your own bread from the basket rather than serve it to you with tongs, which is more sanitary). You can also grab a boiled egg, a first for me on any airline. For my beverage I went with black coffee and more delicious apple juice. The crepe, though a small but perfect portion size, was delicious. The egg was surprising great with some salt and pepper shaken on to it, and everything else was just fine.

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Apple juice
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Breakfast tray

Shortly after breakfast was cleared and shortly before our descent, a magical cart rolled in. This magical cart was full of, yes you guessed it, KLM Delft Houses!!! It was very difficult to choose, and I even whipped out my app to see which ones I already had from my Dad and Grandpa, the flight attendant explains the history and meaning of the houses to first time fliers and even offers to help make a choice. If you are a KLM frequent flier they have a record on their tablet on which ones youve collected already! They also tell you which houses they have, mine was #2 – #25 for selection on this flight. I chose house #20, a Merchant’s home. I then shamelessly asked if I could go for another given the empty seat next to me, after a second of thinking the flight attendant said sure, and in my surprise and inability to decide I asked him to choose, he chose house #7 because he liked how its smaller and church-like.

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The houses!
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House #7 and #20
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Descent into Taipei

After the Delft House service we began our descent into Taipei.

This was a great flight. Definitely helped that it was not full. But the KLM food was excellent, beverage selection though not extensive was actually tasty. The service was friendly, very Dutch (friendly but efficient), professional and the crew always wore smiles. One flight attendant even jokingly sat in my empty seat upon descent and asked if it was ok since he had been standing for 11 hours, I played along and thought it was great. KLM is proud of its aviation history and Dutch heritage and history and they really bring that to the sky. Amsterdam Schiphol is also an easy airport to transit and transfer in in my opinion. Once the Crown Lounge 52 is fully open it will be an excellent and relaxing lounge to be in full of options and details paying homage to the airline’s heritage and history.

I would definitely recommend KLM business class as an option to jet across the world. And as you will see in my next post on my return flight, if you are lucky, you will get exceptional KLM crew that in my opinion are among the best in the skies, rivaling that of Qatar Airways.

 

Safe Travels!

TheGastronomicTraveler

 

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