Hello from Johannesburg! I just flew KLM’s new Boeing 777-300ER business class on the 10 hour daytime flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg. While I’ll have a full trip report soon, in this installment I wanted to share my initial thoughts.
I was looking forward to this flight, given that KLM has been retrofitting its Boeing 777s with new business class seats featuring doors. I hadn’t flown a KLM 777 in quite some time, so I was curious what the experience was like. For what it’s worth, I redeemed Delta SkyMiles for this ticket, as the program had the best pricing (SkyMiles are still great for partner awards not touching the United States).
So, how was the KLM 777 business class experience? It was good(ish). It’s interesting to see how Air France-KLM is progressing. While Air France is moving upmarket, KLM seems to have more modest aspirations. Let me explain.
In this post:
KLM’s 777 business class seats are good
KLM’s new Boeing 777 business class seats are produced by JAMCO, and they’re an updated version of the carrier’s Boeing 787-10 business class seats, with doors and some other improvements. These are reverse herringbone seats, in a 1-2-1 configuration.
This is a solid product, as the seats have storage compartments, plenty of charging (USB-A, USB-C, AC, and wireless), and high definition entertainment monitors. It’s a significant improvement over KLM’s previous business class seats.
The entertainment selection was excellent, with hundreds of movies and TV shows. While there was Wi-Fi, it was nearly unusable. I’m not sure if that was an issue with the aircraft, or just that speeds are slower over much of Africa.
It’s kind of frustrating that the airline sells both “stream” and “surf” passes (with the former being more expensive). So I purchased the more expensive pass, but it probably took about a minute to load a single email.
Looking at Air France-KLM, I must admit that I prefer Air France’s new Airbus A350-900 and Boeing 777-300ER cabins. Not only are they more elegant, but they have better tech (including bluetooth audio), and the bulkhead seats are also among the best in the world.
So I’d say these new seats are an incremental improvement over the carrier’s 787 reverse herringbone seats, though a significant improvement over the 2-2-2 configuration that was previously on KLM’s 777s.
KLM’s business class service was very good
A real highlight of this flight was the service. The ladies working business class were friendly and professional. A special shoutout to the senior purser, who was stellar. It was so nice to see how engaging and energetic she was with passengers from start to finish.
For example, there were two older Italian couples seated in the section across from me, and they were so happy with her service that one of the guys wanted to hug her at the end of the flight.
She had such a good sense of humor as well. The hugging Italian gentleman above called her when his entertainment system started showing everything in Arabic (clearly he pushed the wrong button). Of course she helped him, but she also said “what, you don’t speak Arabic? Then you have 10 hours to learn!”
I like how quirky of an airline KLM is
Another thing I enjoy about flying with KLM is how many little Dutch elements there are to the service. For example, it’s so cute how business class passengers are given little ceramic Dutch houses.
I love how there’s even wallpaper in the bathrooms with these houses, and a tulip.
I also think it’s adorable how coffee is served with little stroopwafel cookies.
KLM’s business class food was tasty but a problem
Okay, so while the food on this flight tasted pretty good, the meal service was quite problematic. Remember how just last week, KLM announced how it was reducing food waste by using artificial intelligence? The idea is that the airline doesn’t load too much food, so that there’s no waste.
Well, I’ll tell you what that seems to look like in practice — they didn’t load enough meals for all business class passengers! The crew explained that the flight would have had to take a 90 minute delay in order to have meals catered correctly. I appreciate the crew working with what they have, since obviously this wasn’t their fault.
Let me just clarify that there was no aircraft swap here, and this was a flight departing the carrier’s only hub. You’d think they could cater a flight correctly, no? And if they suddenly had an unexpected number of business class passengers, you’d think they’d have a way to make sure that those who booked a week or more in advance would get a business class meal, no?
So the meal service was different than indicated on the menu, and my main course with the second service was actually a premium economy meal. It’s not exactly a good look to promote how you’re avoiding waste, and then you serve a business class passenger a premium economy meal.
What was the food actually like? I started off the first meal with the carrier’s signature cocktail, “The Very High Fashioned.” This hit the spot, and was served with the choice of nuts or cheese.
Due to there not being enough business class meals, my appetizer with the main meal was actually what was supposed to be the main course for the pre-arrival meal, which was a delicious kohoko salad with chili prawns, haricot verts, banana chips, and frisée lettuce. There was no side salad, but instead I was served the dessert that was supposed to come with the pre-landing meal, in addition to the standard dessert later on. Hmmm…
For my main course, I had the phenomenal “tasting of delicacies,” as it was described, consisting of chicken with sweet basil, chu-chee cod, mixed vegetables, and jasmine rice. What a tasty and beautifully presented dish.
Then there was a small dessert plate, though I’m not sure what exactly it was, since the menu didn’t describe it correctly.
For the pre-landing meal, I basically got a nicely plated premium economy meal. The main course included smoked salmon, crab, and a potato salad. It was served in a sturdy plastic container. The dessert was also from premium economy, though was served in the business class dessert bowl. The only thing actually intended for the business class service was the side of a Thai red vegetable curry. To KLM’s credit, this was incredibly good for a premium economy dish, at least…
I hope my experience was just an isolated incident. When KLM brags about how it’s not wasting any food and shares statistics on how food waste is being reduced, hopefully the airline also takes into consideration business class passengers eating meals designed for other cabins when this system goes wrong.
Aside from my specific issue, while KLM’s food quality is great, there’s something about the whole service that feels like they’re cutting corners. For example, the cutlery set for the entire meal has a single fork and knife, the airline doesn’t have espressos (only drip coffee), and for everything on the menu there’s an “or” (meaning you have to select dessert or cheese, etc.)
I’m happy I had the chance to fly KLM’s new 777 business class, as it’s a massive improvement over the carrier’s previous 777 business class, and also a nice incremental improvement over the carrier’s 787 business class.
The service on this flight was friendly, and I also like how there are some fun elements to the KLM passenger experience, like the Dutch houses.
While I feel like Air France is aspiring to be the best carrier in Europe, it seems like KLM is more trying to be a good, middle of the pack European airline. Ultimately that’s logical — the airline faces a lot of challenges with what’s going on at Schiphol, and Amsterdam also isn’t the most premium market in the world. KLM doesn’t have to offer the world’s best business class, and that’s totally fine.
Meal service and Wi-Fi snafus aside, KLM offers an all-around pleasant experience, with a nice lounge in Amsterdam, tasty food, and some classic Dutch touches. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with KLM again, and I’d certainly prefer it over anything currently offered by Lufthansa or SWISS. However, I also wouldn’t necessarily seek out this product.
What’s your take on KLM’s 777 business class?