PHOTO: KLM Boeing 747-400 at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. (photo by Jason Leppert)
Maybe it’s all of the soothing blue hues that make me feel like I’m flying back in time on the classic carrier Pan Am, but I’ve always enjoyed traveling with KLM. Especially after experiencing the famed Maho Beach a few years back in St. Maarten as a KLM 747 flew directly, and very closely, overhead (an aircraft that sadly no longer lands there), I was excited to now be flying aboard (and reviewing) such a Boeing 747-400 myself on a flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Los Angeles, California.
Check In/Security (8/10)
As a Platinum Medallion member of Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles program, I receive reciprocal SkyPriority expedited check-in with KLM, so getting my boarding passes and dropping off my checked bag was a speedy process at the otherwise busy terminal. All my parents, who were traveling with me, and I had to do, was rescan our passports at an automated kiosk before getting our luggage tagged with airline employee assistance.
SkyPriority continued to get us quickly ahead of the longer main security lines, although it would sure be nice if there was an international equivalent of TSA Precheck. If that were the case, I could bypass the irradiated body scanner (I opted for a pat-down) for a regular metal detector and the additional scrutiny of my densely packed camera and computer gear. Still, I’m always happy to comply for the sake of safety. It’s just more inconvenient is all.
Traveling internationally, I get included premium lounge access in the terminals with my SkyMiles status, but I’m only able to take in one free guest, not two. So, we chose to head straight for our gate this time. However, we did enjoy the lounge on our extended layover in AMS on our way to Europe last week, paying for one pass, and it was quite nice. We didn’t use them ourselves, but the showers were quite popular, and there were several bars to retrieve alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages from as well as a large food selection. Most of all, we just appreciated the much cozier seats to kick up our heels.
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As for the rest of the terminal facilities, The Schiphol airport is quite sprawling to the point of being a shopping mall. Retail spaces and food courts abound from premium outlets to fast food. It does take some time to get from gate to gate, and planning for walks and passport control points in between is necessary. Thankfully, signage indicates the approximate minutes to reach them.
Boeing 747s are a bit of a fun novelty now as many are being retired, but they are also aging aircraft with fewer onboard amenities. While the seat itself was comfortable enough, I saw nothing in the way of electrical outlets or USB charging ports unfortunately — and my mom made me laugh for pointing out that the head drapes read “economy,” as if we could forget.
Still, the spacing between rows allowed me to open my 13” Apple MacBook Pro without too much encroachment from the seat in front, allowing me to get quite a bit of work done on the 11-hour flight. What’s more, individual air controls did still exist on this wide-body (unusual nowadays), but with the three-four-three configuration of seats divided by two aisles, it was a bit of a reach to the bulkhead nozzle from the aisle seat.
As a business traveler, the biggest disappointment on the flight was the lack of Wi-Fi, but at least entertainment options were plentiful enough for the plane’s vintage. Movies were oddly divided up into categories of Latest, Recent, The Collection and Family, the first two of which you’d think would be interchangeable but were not. Latest, for instance, included “Passengers,” which I wrote about for its cruise ship-inspired production design, and Recent listed “Fantastic Beasts.” Meanwhile, the likes of “Jurassic Park” and older were part of The Collection, and “Moana” was the newest in Family. Speaking of family, there were three cartoon episodes of a little animated KLM plane character named Bluey for kids and, yes, kids-at-heart.
Also, had I wanted to continue watching “Westworld” beyond the pilot episode I saw on a Lufthansa flight, I could have since the second was impressively available as part of the television selection. In actuality, I was most taken with the behind-the-scenes cockpit videos buried in the information section of the menu. I’ve seen some of these on YouTube before such as the one of a 747 preparing for landing at aforementioned St. Maarten, but a number of others were new to me and would definitely be of interest to other fellow travel nerds. Rounding out the seat-back entertainment options were an automatically scrolling flight tracker, music choices, games and options for kids and teens.
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As for food, there was only one option left for lunch by the time the carts got to us, but the chicken in oyster sauce was pretty appetizing despite its rather plain white rice and green bean accompaniment. On the side were a fresh roll, coleslaw, Dutch cheese, table crackers, a small bottle of water and dessert of profiteroles in a sort of bed of meringue, chocolate sauce and graham cracker crumbles. The savory cheese and sweet sendoff were the highlights.
A little over half way into the flight we were treated to the choice of potato chips or ice cream. A no brainer — the ice cream was the clear winner. Following that, the second meal before landing of a heated cheesy marinara flatbread was also better than the first as was the side caprese salad and its tangy and frothy yellow cream and red fruit dessert.
KLM service is particularly top notch with friendly attendants quick to smile and assist you from the very start at the boarding door. Greetings are always friendly, and the high standards are sustained throughout. Of course, this is still economy service, not business class, but it’s difficult to complain. A hot towel at the start of the flight is a lovely way to refresh, and drink and meal service keeps the hours going by.
KLM is right up there with Delta in my opinion, both of which raise the bar for the entire SkyTeam airline alliance. I especially got a kick out of one flight attendant humming “California Dreamin’” as we approached LAX. Now if only that airport were as good as the airline we experienced traveling there.