In the seventh installment of our monthly flight review series, Richard Holmes revels in the modern-Dutch styling of KLM’s new business class, after the airline’s major revamp of its long-haul premium cabins.
Check-in: These days there’s hardly a respectable airline that doesn’t offer a suite of sophisticated online check-in tools, but KLM’s service is particularly good. It has the usual options for providing passport information and selecting a preferable seat, but what’s particularly useful here is having access to information about the specific aircraft you’ll be flying on, as well as the dining and in-flight entertainment options that will be offered on board. If you choose to check in at the airport there is a dedicated lane set aside for premium passengers and elite members of the FlyingBlue loyalty programme.
Lounge & boarding: Premium passengers enjoy access to the Bidvest Lounge in international departures, which has recently been overhauled to offer more seating and modern facilities in a space adjacent to passport control. The Wi-Fi, entertainment and bar service is of a good standard, but for an evening departure the rather scant food offering was disappointing.
As one of the last flights to leave Cape Town the quiet airport lends itself to hassle-free boarding, and to make matters even easier premium-class travellers enjoy priority boarding. The ever-helpful cabin crew did an excellent job of getting passengers settled in while offering amenity kits, refreshments and dinner menus.
Flight: KLM is in the process of overhauling its long-haul product, and the new World Business Class cabin on this flight was certainly impressive. First and foremost, the cabin is laid out in a 2-2-2 configuration, allowing direct aisle access for most passengers. For those who prefer the privacy of a window seat, there’s ample space to step out into the aisle without waking a sleeping passenger alongside.
Speaking of privacy, the seats are cleverly designed to incorporate a small screen at eye-level, so although the cabin is fairly open there’s a definite sense of personal space. The in-flight entertainment system is equally impressive, with 17-inch screens and a good catalogue of new release movies and other programming. The touch-screens are bright and responsive, but an in-seat remote is on hand if you want to recline your seat while you watch. In-seat power and USB points are available.
Service is another point of difference on board, with cabin crew making a concerted effort to ensure a comfortable flight. Dinner service proceeded quickly to make up for the late-night departure, with a lighter ‘QuickBite’ meal option on offer for passengers needing to get straight to sleep. The three-course dinner, paired with South American and European wines, was served on charming crockery created for the airline by Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, and is the first of many subtle Dutch touches on board. The last is perhaps also the most memorable: a ceramic model of a Dutch house filled with traditional genever (gin). These farewell gifts have become collectors’ pieces, and the airline even offers a smartphone app to help frequent flyers build their collection.
Arrival: Landing was ahead of schedule, but with a long taxi to the gate we arrived at the terminal just about on time. Although there is no dedicated Arrivals Lounge for premium travellers, with a three-hour layover before my connecting flight I was pleased to see that the impressive Crown Lounge in departures is available for arriving business class passengers.
AFKTravel’s previous flight reviews:
Airline Assessment: Qatar Airways From Joburg to Doha, On The ‘Dreamliner’
Airline Assessment: SAA From Johannesburg To Mauritius
Airline Assessment: Air France From Europe To Johannesburg
Airline Assessment: Virgin Atlantic From Cape Town To London Heathrow
Airline Assessment: British Airways From Cape Town To London Heathrow
Airline Assessment: Cathay Pacific From Hong Kong To Joburg