As part of my long journey from Canada to India, I had the opportunity to experience KLM’s new World Business Class product on my initial transatlantic flight between Calgary International Airport and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

KLM World Business Class aboard the Boeing 777-200ER. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

In Canada, KLM offers direct flights between Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal. This makes the airline a popular and convenient choice for those visiting the Netherlands, or connecting to other parts of Europe. In my case, the airline’s new codeshare partnership with Jet Airways allowed me to seamlessly transfer from KLM to my connecting Jet Airways flights to Mumbai and Kolkata, without the need for new boarding passes or claiming baggage.

Out of Calgary, KLM uses a mix of Boeing 777, 787 Dreamliner, and Airbus A330 aircraft, depending on the season and day of the week. While my aircraft was originally set to be the 787 Dreamliner, it was changed about 30 days prior to departure to the larger Boeing 777-200ER.

My KLM Boeing 777-200ER, PH-BQE, at the gate in Amsterdam after arriving from Calgary. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

KLM has invested heavily in updating its business class product with fully lie-flat seats. In 2013, the line began rolling out its New Business Class product on the Boeing 747, and can now be found aboard the airline’s entire Boeing 747 and 777-300ER/200ER fleet. It hasn’t, as of yet, been expanded to include the Airbus A330.

The New World Business Class cabin was designed by Dutch designer Hella Jongerius, and makes use of the B/E Aerospace Diamond seat (customized fully for KLM by Jongerius) that offers 78” of bed space when extended into its fully lie-flat position, and a whopping 63” of pitch between seats. Seats aboard the Boeing 777 are arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration, and pairs are staggered slightly to allow for more privacy between seatmates.

KLM’s New Business Class product, as seen aboard the 777-200ER. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Jongerius gave substantial thought to the overall cabin design, which is warm and inviting but still quintessentially Dutch. It features continuous carpeting throughout the cabin (it makes a different – trust me) that is made in part from recycled KLM uniforms. Dark and light shades of blue are predominant here, but aren’t as overpowering as on some older aircraft (remember the MD-11?). Instead, blues are complemented by shades of grey, slate, and silver that gives the cabin a classy, upscale feeling that you’d expect from a business product.

KLM’s new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft have a slightly different World Business Class seat, favouring herringbone pods arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration that allows for direct aisle access from every seat.

Flight: KL 678

Route: YYC-AMS

Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER, Registration PH-BQE

Date: February 27, 2017

Seat: World Business Class, 3D

Flying Time: 8h30

CHECK IN

Customers holding World Business Class tickets on KLM can check in using the SkyPriority lanes. Check-in was quick and efficient, and most importantly, friendly. World Business Class customers also have access to priority security where available.

LOUNGE ACCESS

KLM World Business Class guests departing from YYC can use the new Aspire Lounge in the International Terminal. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Customers flying KLM World Business Class in Calgary get complimentary access to the International Terminal’s Aspire Lounge. This isn’t as swanky or as dedicated as KLM’s Crown Lounges at Amsterdam Schiphol, nor is it exclusive to SkyTeam members (expect to mingle with Star Alliance and Oneworld fans, too!).

It did, however, give me everything I look for in a lounge: comfortable seating, fast wi-fi, a quiet atmosphere, and complimentary beverages and food offerings. The food didn’t really stand out for me (it’s your usual lounge fare), but the beverage selection was quite good.

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The Lounge overlooks the new Transborder Terminal at YYC. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

To get to the Aspire Lounge, head down the concourse and hang a left at the sign. An elevator will then take you from the first floor to the third floor, and a sealed corridor that allows for Lounge access. The views are quite nice from the lounge, as they overlook the bustle of YYC’s new Transborder Terminal.

SKYPRIORITY BOARDING

The most beautiful thing about Business Class is not having to join the crush of hundreds waiting to board. KLM handled boarding in a clear and efficient manner at YYC, first inviting families travelling together with small children and those with mobility difficulties to board first. This was then followed by Business Class and those guests with SkyPriority status, regardless of their cabin.

A quick walk down the jetway and a turn to the left, and I was making my way to Seat 3D.

IN-FLIGHT

My seat for the next eight and a half hours: World Business Class 3D (closest to the camera). Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

World Business Class aboard the 777-200ER is split slightly. Entering through Door 2L, most seats are to the left, while a small section of six seats (6AC, DG, HK) is to the right of the door, just ahead of Economy Comfort. Some people prefer one cabin over the other; I wouldn’t personally mind. Business is Business.

My first impression of Seat 3D, located on the middle-left side of the aircraft, was that nine hours wouldn’t be enough to fully enjoy it. Even in its fully upright position, it’s one of the most comfortable seats I’ve sat on. Only Air Canada’s Boeing 787 Executive Pod Business Class seat ranks higher in terms of comfort in my opinion, but I much preferred the warmth of the KLM design to Air Canada’s cold look.

I wear eyeglasses, and I’m always fumbling around when I travel in Economy (which is about 95 percent of my flying year) for a place to put them. Fumble no more here: lots of little storage spaces are available for books, glasses, iPods, and whatnot.

Want to control the screen in front of you? You have options! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Directly in front of you is a 17” screen that can be controlled by touching it. But, as it is a serious distance away from you (I could just barely touch it when seated upright and buckled in), a remote control has been inset into the side of the seat’s console. It can be removed to control the in-flight entertainment system, turn your reading light on, or call the flight attendant. Guests are also provided with a noise-cancelling headset to use during the flight, which works well but isn’t terribly high-end. I noticed some of my fellow travellers elected to use their own headset instead.

Pre-departure champagne. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Before takeoff, flight attendants came around with a choice of orange juice or champagne, and it seemed a shame to not order some pre-departure bubbly. This was served in a real glass (bravo, KLM) and acted as an introduction to the seriously friendly service that KLM is known for. I’ve flown KLM for many years “in the back”, and the service in Business is every bit as friendly. But, because the attendants aren’t trying to serve a hundred people at once, service is even more personalized, with guests being addressed directly by their last names.

We pushed back on-time (also very KLM), and soon my Boeing 777-200 was climbing into the air, bound for Amsterdam.

THE FLYING DUTCHMAN

Menus distributed after takeoff showcase a world of delights on KLM’s World Business Class product. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Menus were distributed for the flight, and revealed a plethora of options. Cocktails would be served first, followed by Dinner. A light breakfast would also be served just before our arrival at Schiphol. Menus are created by Marcel Wanders, who has designed KLM’s entire dining experience since 2011, right down to the cutlery and packaging.

The Flying Dutchman cocktail: a delicious way to begin the flight. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

KLM has also had a cocktail crafted exclusively for its World Business Class by famous Dutch distiller Bols. Dubbed, “The Flying Dutchman”, this oh-so-good cocktail uses Bols Damrak gin, Bols blackberry liqueur, fresh lemon juice, and sugar syrup. The menu calls it “a refreshing and appetising start of the flight.” It is most definitely that.

Also available: all the usual cocktail combinations, plus non-alcoholic drinks. Champagne (Nicholas Feuillatte, Brut Reserve) was constantly available throughout the flight.

Guests were then invited to make their dinner selections. On the menu:

Appetizer

Salmon on a quinoa salad with herb mayonnaise

Split Pea Soup

Main Course

Ravioli in a creamy tomato sauce, bell pepper medley, pesto and Parmesan cheese

or

Indian-style chicken, cumin rice, and spinach and lentil curry

or

Slow-cooked beef cheek in jus, parsnip puree, carrot and asparagus

Dessert

Cheddar and Castello Cheese

Blueberry panna cotta

Chocolate and Caramel Cake

Seasonal Fruit

I went with the split pea ham, the slow-cooked beef and the cheese and seasonal fruit for dessert. I was pleasantly surprised in the quality of food served onboard. The beef was extremely good, and the fruit and cheese added a nice, light end to the meal. I was also extremely impressed with the presentation onboard, from the details on the cutlery to the matching patterns on the menus, dishes and what little packaging was used. After dinner, coffee, tea and Cognac were served, and I reclined my seat into its fully lie-flat position.

My appetizer: split pea soup, salad, and a fresh bun. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Love the attention to detail on the cutlery. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Main Course: braised beef…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…followed by an excellent dessert. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Now, I have a hard time sleeping on planes – even in business class. I’ll typically shut my eyes for a few hours of down time, and then pop them open long before the cabin lights have been raised to get people ready for breakfast. Not this time. This seat was so comfy that I fell asleep for three straight hours – a small miracle for me, as I had another 14 hours of travel ahead of me once I reached Amsterdam.

Breakfast was served (how is it that KLM’s coffee is so darn good?!), and then a unique touch: flight attendants come around with a tray of KLM’s trademark porcelain Delft Blue Miniature Houses. Filled with 40ml of Bols Genever, these collectible items are much sought-after by the airline’s frequent business fliers. I chose one house, and was then presented (via an iPad) of a photo of the actual house along with a description of its history. If you’re missing a house from your collection, you can even “swap” houses with fellow passengers in the Non-Schengen KLM Crown Lounge at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (providing, of course, that the Bols Genever is still inside!).

CONCLUSION

One of the most comfortable flights I’ve had in Business Class on any airline. The new lie-flat seats are a joy to spend nine hours in, but it is the friendliness of the KLM cabin crew that really makes the trip special. Service is great in the airline’s Economy Class, but is even more personalized – as one would expect – in World Business.

Nighttime cabin atmosphere. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

A good morning breakfast, KLM-style! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

But KLM has also done something that few other airlines have truly succeeded in: creating a sense of place onboard. In a world where one airplane cabin tends to resemble the next, there’s no mistaking the look and feel of stepping aboard a KLM aircraft in any class, and that sense of style (and, frankly, coziness) is only amplified in World Business Class.

Business Class toiletries were also substantially upgraded. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

How To Fly Business: Besides the two obvious choices (booking it in the first place, or using your SkyTeam points to upgrade, if available), KLM frequently offers the ability to “buy-up” to Business Class during check-in if seats are available. I’ve seen this go for as little as $500 CAD per person – a heck of a good deal. Of course, this works best if you are travelling alone, as only one seat may be available.

I flew back in Economy Class on KLM at the end of my trip, and had Business Class not been sold out, I would have parted with $500 or so to do it again. That’s the only real issue I have with KLM’s New Business Class: fly it once, and you’re going to want to travel that way all the time.

KLM provided the upgrade for the purposes of this review, but the opinions within are my own.

 

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