* Prices may differ from that shown
Myself and my partner traveled to Bangkok from Manchester airport in December 2012 using KLM. When browsing for flights i did quite a bit of research to ensure we had a comfortable flight with as many facilities as possible but not overly priced and, most importantly, a relatively short flight time. I ended up narrowing the search down to Air France, Air Swiss or KLM who all seemed to offer a similar service. At the time of booking KLM was significantly cheaper with good flight times so i took the plunge.
I'm afraid my technical knowledge of planes is very limited but the first leg of our journey from Manchester to Amsterdam was on a small European plane - typical of Thomson or EasyJet. It was comfortable enough for the 1 hour(ish) flight to Amsterdam and we were offered a drink and a snack. To be honest the journey was that fast that we only just had enough time to be offered the refreshments before we were landing again. The only down side was waiting in the airport at Mancester. We were flying from terminal 3 which has very few shops and restaurants so it seemed to take forever for our flight to be called. And with most airports the prices were ridiculously high!!
We only had approximately 1 hour to wait between landing in Amsterdam Schipol and leaving for Bangkok. If you haven't ever been to Schipol Airport be prepared to walk because its huge. However, the facilities are great and, with my very bad sense of direction, i easily managed to find our departure gate and get there in plenty of time.
The plane taking us from Bangkok to Amsterdam was much bigger and much more comfortable. The plane was very clean and the staff were very friendly and happy to help. The seats were bigger than those on offer in a standard plane. I'm quite short so don't have a problem with leg room but my partner is closer to 6 foot tall and he struggled to get comfortable. The seats had armrests that could be moved and the seat itself tilted slightly back. There was plenty of room beneath the seat for handbags and shoes and i don't think anyone had any difficulties finding room in the overhead luggage compartments. Each seat had a small media system (probably about the size of a netbook screen) in the rear with a remote control and earplug sockets. You could use your own headphones or alternatively KLM provided headphones for each passenger free of charge. The media system had a large selection of films and tv programmes from around the world. There was also a large selection of music and a number of different radio stations. There was also a computer system (although there were no games i recognised) that allowed you to play individual games or play with other passengers on the plane. You could also access a great deal of information about the flight and in flight services. This included being able to track the progress of the journey, find out what times meals and refreshments were served and the menu option for all these meals (usually a meat and vegetarian option).
I was slightly disappointed when i first tried to access the media system as it hadn't appeared to boot up correctly. It took me around 3 attempts and each time i had to get one of the air hostesses to reboot my system which didn't seem to go down too well!!! However, that was the only time i came across any sort of frostiness throughout the journey. The other thing i didn't like very much was the quality of the image on the screen (sounds very picky i know!). There appeared to be some sort of dimming on the screen to prevent you disturbing other people but this just made the image look really washed out. This became even worse if the person in front pushed their seat back and changed the angle of the screen. This could be adjusted but it was very limited. It still didn't stop me from watching a good number of films. The selection was pretty good and included blockbusters not yet out on DVD, family films and a selection of older popular films. I think it would be hard for someone not to find something to enjoy.
Alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments were available with all meals and also at request throughout the journey. This included water, apple juice, orange juice, cola and lemonade. Alcohol was limited to mainly spirits, Heineken or wine (which i would stay away from if you have a slightly more refined taste). The food that was served wasn't fantastic but it was edible. I am quite a fussy eater so i'm probably not the best judge but my other half will eat almost anything. He did turn his nose up at a few things but this could have been because it was quite continental and he's a big fan of good British grub!! I would probably recommend taking a few bits and bobs with you if you have particular tastes.
The return flight was very similar but i managed to get a faulty seat that wouldn't push back properly. However, this was made much better by the fact that we had a whole row of seats to ourselves so could stretch out as much as we wanted to.
We didn't encounter a single delay during our outward or inward bound journeys. The check in desks were easy to find and the process was very simple. I don't think we had to queue either which is a bonus! The check in times were extremely accurate and there wasn't a single occasion we were left waiting longer than anticipated.
Unfortunately there is still no getting away from the fact that 11 hours on a plane can send anyone slightly stir crazy. However, the flights were good value for money and i would definately consider flying KLM Airways again.
KLM offer a very wide variety of flights and aircraft. My flight took me to Jakarta via Amsterdam and Singapore. I was lucky enough to be in business as I wasn't paying! The best thing about business, and the one thing worth paying for if I was in a position for this ever to be an option for personal travel, is the seat as they recline completely flat. On a long flight it is a real joy to be able to stretch out completely. I came off this flight able to put in something approximating a days work rather than feeling like a complete zombie. In the aircraft I was on, the seat is cleverly designed so that you have privacy from the person sat next to you. There is storage for your bits and bobs as well as the standard screen offering a range of entertainment. The configuration on the flight I was on was 2 3 2. If you have a choice, do not pick a window seat or the seat in the middle of the '3' as when your neighbour reclines it is all bar impossible to get out - worse than economy particularly as your neighbour may expect uninterrupted sleep and not be too happy to have to move!
The service is obviously a well worked routine for the flight attendants. Drinks (including champagne and a selection of wines) and food are dispensed efficiently. The menu had plenty of choice, however, the vegetarian option (which I pre-ordered) was dire - rice with three mange tout on top. Pretty dull but even worse when I was served it twice on the inbound journey within the space of four hours! KLM apparently offer their business passengers freely available snacks. When I requested some they were produced from storage with some reluctance by the attendant and I perked my meal up with some crackers and a couple of mini choc bars.
I'm not so blase about travel to not appreciate the nice touches still - KLM have a couple. The toiletry amenity kit was nice (socks, lipbalm, eye mask etc). I'm still using one and my little niece was delighted with the other! The other KLM touch is the gift of one of their gin filled Delft china houses. They change every year, each has a number to identify it, and it is quite amusing to watch serious business men produce lists to determine which to choose!
All in all, it would be churlish to complain about business in KLM purely because of the flat bed seat, however, in the unlikely event that it was my money being spent I'd be expecting more than a serving of rice and a begrudged pack of crackers!
I travel around six times a year to Berlin and up until recently KLM where the only Airline serving the Birmingham to Berlin route.
Prices are what one would expect from a charter airline at around £120 for a return, this was a flight from Birmingham to Amsterdam then from Amsterdam to Berlin.
KLM's website is among the best that I've used, simple and clear it allows you to book and print of your boarding pass otherwise you're welcome to collect the boarding pass at the airport either by using the machine or chick in counter.
An Embraer 190, a rather small jet, serviced the first leg of the journey but it was modern, clean and surprisingly comfortable even for me at 6.1.
KLM's crews are the best I have ever experienced. All dressed immaculately and topped off with a smile. The way in which the cabin crew conducted themselves was flawless which was refreshing and makes a big difference with air travel.
Food was served, as were drinks all included in the ticket price. Lunch was not quite up to the offering from other airlines. However a pretzel and syrup waffle helps break up the short flight of 50 minutes and was welcome.
Once at Amsterdam I boarded my connection to Berlin this time serviced by a 737. Again the plane was spotless and modern.
The pilot walked through the plane prior to take off and wished us all a warm welcome.
Once up in the air screens folded down and showed us our location on a map and our flight details that I found interesting and is something that Lufthansa's A319 planes lack.
A fantastic team of cabin crew served snacks and drinks again. Reaching Berlin perfectly on time I disembarked feeling very pleased with the service. It's a shame that KLM do not offer a direct flight from Birmingham to Berlin as I would fly with them every time.
Having spent a 10 hour wait in Schiphol Airport we were so pleased to actually get on the huge KLM plane that was going to fly my husband and I to Shanghai. The stay in the airport hadn't been too bad and we coped very well but we were both looking forward to settling down and having a long sleep. Unfortunately this 'long sleep' wasn't about to happen as we had only been sat in our seats a few minutes when the dreaded announcement came through the plane saying that there was a delay. As soon as the captain had finished speaking there was a silence and then a huge sigh from the rest of the passengers. The delay was going to be 2 or 3 hours due to the part of the plane that holds cargo being damaged. In the end the delay was only 1 hour 30 minutes. In that time we were given orange juice and chocolate biscuits while the 400 Chinese passengers phoned Shanghai to say they would be late.
Quite a few people I know complain about economy seats on long haul flights but after spending 10 hours on the top deck of our 747/400 Combi I didn't find it too difficult. The leg room was good enough although half way through the flight I started to twitch a little. It is quite difficult to get a decent night's sleep especially if you are sat in the middle as my husband was. He struggled to make his head comfortable even though we were given a free pillow and blanket. I was able to prop my head up with my hand underneath the pillow leaning on the window so I wasn't too bad. I didn't feel the need to use the blanket as I was warm enough with a T shirt and light jacket. I noticed that many Chinese passengers were wrapped in blankets.
Before climbing aboard the plane I had made my mind up not to watch the on flight entertainment but when we were delayed I changed my mind. I previewed a couple of the latest movies but wasn't that interested. In the end Clint Eastwood's movie about J. Edgar Hoover captured my interest and I snuggled in my seat to watch Leonardo DiCaprio do his thing. I enjoyed the movie but was pretty fed up altering the remote control which had a mind of its own and kept switching over to the main menu or turning itself off. At one stage I found myself looking at the flight food menu and what we were going to be eating that evening. It all looked pretty good and I was looking forward to my chick pea salad followed by chicken and rice and strawberry mousse for dessert. I was rather disappointed when only a soggy green salad turned up as a starter and they had run out of rice so I had to have pasta. Not a raspberry mousse in sight but the chocolate profiteroles and cream were delicious so I will let the catering services off on this occasion.
Talking of food I also thought it was wacky to receive a tub of toffee ice cream and a small glass of water at midnight. It is KLM's policy to keep passengers hydrated throughout long flights and I think it is a very good policy to have. It gets pretty dry on the top deck of the plane. Overall, the quality of the food was good and seemed to be a large quantity. If you think in 10 hours we had 2 main meals followed by snacks in between. I certainly don't eat this amount of food in a normal day when I am at home.
I do remember having some sleep. My husband said he thought I had a lot of sleep and he hadn't been able to have much due to the fact that he had a bad throat virus and was unable to rest. I remember at one time thinking that the plane seemed to be racing through the air with the wind on its tail. The highest speed showing on the computerised flight details was 678 miles per hour. I find it incomprehensible to think of a great big lump of metal with 450 passengers on board floating through the clouds at this speed. I am always amazed when the plane actually gets in the air. Another statistic I spotted was the coldest air temperature at -78. It's hard to believe. I think -28 is enough to bear when we are having a bad winter in Warsaw.
It was good to see that the temperature had risen to 28 degrees centigrade when we landed in Shanghai.
The question I have asked myself since returning from Shanghai is this: After 10 hours on this plane would I fly again with KLM to Shanghai? My answer is yes. The journey wasn't bad at all and you certainly get the chance to observe other passengers which I always find entertaining. I have no complaints about the staff; all were helpful and pleasant. I thought the captain dealt with the delay well and kept us informed of the progress every twenty minutes or so. I will definitely be booking another flight for September and am looking forward to stepping aboard my favourite KLM 747 Combi.
I bought return ticket to go back to home as my mother got cancer. I was not sure how long does my mother need me then I just bought any return date at first then I had to ask when I find out.
I had mentioned KLM europe about this problem before I flight back to Japan.
Apparently, they can't send email nor phone call to customer so I had to call all the time, even international phone call.
They told me send her doctor's letter to KLM Japan then they can change the date so I fax it to KLM Japan. KLM Japan said I have to call KLM Netherlands and arrange the date.
So I called them, however, KLM Netherlands told me they can't change the date as KLM Japan faxed them in Japanese,,,
How stupid they are, then I asked KLM Japan again but they said they can't fax it in English as it is a legal document, however, only Netherlands can change the date,,,
They have no blain,,,I fought with this problem and sorted about this language problem and they get back to me and said that they can't change the date as it is not my health, my mothers,,,
I told them from first and telling them all the time my mother has got cancer! It took over a month, I talked more than 15ppl in that company, I wish only one of them had a blain...
I used the toilet in plane and while I was in cabin staff started servicing with trays. I tried to return my seat but the way back was blocked by the tray. I notified the service staff and kindly asked to move tray a bit back in order to let me use the empty seat just next to me to pass forward. The answer was a rude single "NO!", she didn't let me pass while she could do it easily! I had to wait for 20 mins on foot on the back of plane for them to pull their trays back! Never had such a rudeness before in any country! What kind of behavior is that? Is it KLM culture?
My family is going through a big misfortune since we booked my kids tickets with "KLM Royal Dutch Airlines". My husband and I saved some money to bring our two kids from Israel to Costa Rica on their vacations after two years without seeing them, unfortunately our dream vacations became a nightmare thanks to the lack of accountability of "KLM Royal Dutch Airlines" . This people at KLM charged my card the amount of $2586.30 on June 15th the actual real purchase made by me and gave me the booking code 6PLXWD and authorization number 80519, for my kids to fly on june 17th., BUT on June 17th they charged me again $2586.30 with the autorizations 80542 and 80543 for the same tickets separately?????? and the nightmare begun, there We were trying to rent a car and book a hotel and not being able to do it, We had to spend this nights on a couch and a small matress ON A FRIENDS HOUSE because our credit card is overdrafted and our attempts for contacting them have no answer so far. After 3 days trying customer service numbers We finally contacted someone at klm Panama just to hear that they could see the double charge and they know that the last charge has no back up of ticket numbers or booking code BUT THEY CANNOT DO ANYTHING BECAUSE I DID THE BOOKING THROUGH THE WEB FROM ISRAEL???????? and it takes a month to fix the mistake??????? Why do we have to wait a moth as a result of their mistake????Then I asked for the phone number for customer service at Israel but so far I haven't been able to get an answer, I just get music from an answering machine that lasts one minute and then they hung up automatically and I know the time difference, So here we are, our kids dream vacations without money and a total lack of proper answer from them. What are they waiting?? A law suit????
* I LoveFlying KLM BABY! *~
Okay so I have always been a British Airways girl and I love flying with them , Our national carrier and all but I had heard good things of KLM so on my recent trip to Amsterdam in April 2009 , I decided to fly with the dutch carrier and I couldn't really afford to connect in London this trip and I wasn't disapointed at all , they are my NEW FAVOURITE AIRLINE sorry BA but when you can dispatch aircraft on time you will be back on top!!
* Who are they *
Royal Dutch airlines which are now part of the KLM - Air France group and their main base is KLM so for UK flights if you want to go to some other destionation rather than Amsterdam you will have to connect at Schipol.
~* Destination *~
They go all over the world including Europe , America and futher a feild , KLM.com will have more information about that.
+ sky team +
They are part of the SKY team allanice programme and other airlines in this programme include North West , southern China to name a few...
~* Price *~
Well more than budget airlines cost me and my friend £150 per person return to amsterdam from the UK , pretty good I think.
~* on board*~
A boeing 747 - 800 I think we flew on , but they also have fokker planes and airbuses not to mention the longest plane in the world!! The seats are comfee and you have more space than a ryan air flight !! but I did feel that the isle's didn't have much space. They also provided you with free snacks and a drink , now have a henikain beer on your way to Amsterdam !!
~* Bad Points *~
The only bad thing that I have to say about KLM is they say that the planes are full when they are not so alot of passangers couldn't sit together unless they moved during the flight other than that love them.
Our flight arrived 30 minutes early!! and the staff are AMAZING!!
Holland should be proud!!
This review is based upon a recent flight I took with KLM, KLM is the oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name and is the national Airline for the Netherlands.
I was travelling from London Heathrow to Buffalo NY and had to connect through Amsterdam Schiphol, while my flight was brief I must say I was impressed with the level of service I received and the overall impression of the Airline.
I've never flown KLM before and almost wish I would have flown with them transatlantic, the aircraft was very clean and while my flight was less than 2 hours it was a pleasant experience, the plane left on time, the seats were quite comfortable and the cabin crew were attentive and offered great service.
I realise that I may need to fly with them more than once to offer any real insight into their operation, and also I should fly with them on a little longer trip than just from London to Amsterdam, however if my initial impression is anything to go by then it should be pleasurable, certainly if you're planning the trip to Amsterdam you should consider booking through KLM
We travelled from Lima to Venice via Amsterdam on 16 July 2010 and returned on the 9 August.
On the outward journey we noticed, in Amsterdam, the luggage being literally thrown about by the handlers. When we arrived in Venice one of our suitcases was badly damaged - two wheels were missing, making it almost impossible to pull, and the rigid casing had be split and broken; we had to abandon it and buy a new case. No KLM assistance was available at the airport.
On the return journey our other bag was destroyed and poorly patched with packaging tape; it looked like someone had taken a circular saw to it slicing through the extenal pocket and internal lining destroying my laptop charger, spilling the contents and damaging my clothes. we reported this to KLM at the airport in Peru on arrival 9 August but have had no resolution or apology. KLM are extremely difficult to contact. Several times they said they would come to our house but failed to and when they did turn up 3 hours late last saturday it was only to offer a very substandard replacement case which I refused.
The in-flight service was reasonable on the way out but on the way back the food consisted of a variety of apple dishes + polenta ..it was discusting and a harbinger of the bad news to come.
It would be good if this stimulated some helpful response from KLM!!!! Do they care about customer care? The answer at the moment has to be no!
We have photos demonstrating the damage
Beware, take care and lets hope they improve
PS I am doubly disappointed as I am a member of their frequent flyer programme ... but that has not helped
I have flown with KLM a number of times, as my mam is a platinum cardholder and gets good deals, but I will base my review on my most recent experience as I can't remember much from my last trip with them, albeit positive. Tuesday, June 29th 2010, I set off to good old Durham Tees Valley to travel to Rome for a summer job as an au pair. I booked my ticket online about a week/10 days before leaving and to start with it was around £250, but with points from the dear mother and her platinum card, it knocked the price down to around £150, so a massive saving. It is free to join the KLM Flying Blue team, but more about that later. I had to take 2 planes to reach Rome; one from Durham Tees Valley to Amsterdam (a cityhopper) and then a larger plane from Amsterdam to Rome Fiumicino. Both of the above flights were booked through KLM with just over an hour in between flights.
The plane itself was very clean and tidy, the upholstery was immaculate, every seat had a compartment on the back with in flight deals, safety booklets and the token sick bag in. This applied to both flights. Despite being tall I wouldn't class myself as having long legs, so the leg room was more than adequate but it wasn't masses. My pet hate was when the person infront of me reclined their chair as far as they can. For that reason I think a bit more leg room would have been nice, but you could pay more for a seat with extra leg room if you are of model proportions! The first class section was basically the same, but they closed the curtains to separate them from the rest of the plane once we had taken off. All in all the plane was comfortable, clean and well equipped for all passengers. I can't comment on the toilets as the flights were only a couple of hours so I didn't use them.
Let's be honest, some flight attendants plaster the makeup on! I know it is personal preference and there are, or were, some airlines where they required you to use a trowel to apply your foundation, but with KLM this is not the case. KLM is not a budget airline, maybe this has something to do with it, but the staff were fresh faced, still with make up, but subtle. They were really well presented and neat, their uniforms were immaculate and the staff were really happy and friendly. They go out of their way to make sure you enjoy the flight and are always really really polite. They greet you when you get on and off the plane and are always very professional; I have never once seen KLM staff lose their patience, as easy as it can be!
The pilots are also really friendly and keep you well up to date with altitudes, speed, local times, weather, temperatures. One of our pilots was even a bit of a tour guide at one point! Everything is recited in dutch first, then english.
They give you free food on your flight aswell. The first one being a cityhopper, it was only an hour so we got a free snack packet of mini crackers, any drink ranging from wine to water and a syrup wafer (delicious). The second flight I was given a packet of sandwiches and more syrup wafers. For anyone who has been to Holland/through Amsterdam/flown with KLM, you will understand how delicious these waffles are! You are given the option of 2 free drinks on the slightly longer flight. Sadly, until the second flight on my return journey, nobody told me that the wine was also free....I had 3 drinks prior to this on the day of my return and knowing that they all could have been a 280ml bottle of red wine would really have softened the blow of coming home!
They also have a tax free in-flight shopping service where you can purchase clothes, perfume, food and suchlike. All available items are shown in the magazine and the flight attendants come down with a trolley once or twice during the 2.5 hour flight between Rome and Amsterdam.
Whilst the journey itself was pleasant and went smoothly, there were no delays, no turbulence, no lost baggage, there always has to be one problem. Once again between Amsterdam and home there was a very, very short connection time but luckily our baggage made it home on the same flight (I say "our" because the mother came out to visit for a week), the lock on one of the cases was broken off and the zips were badly damaged. Nothing went missing from the case, maybe the baggage got caught in transit and the lock ripped off, but the bag could never be used again. My mam complained to staff when we arrived at our destination and they apologised, helped her fill out a damages form and offered her a free Antler suitcase as a replacement! Needless to say my mam was more than pleased with this and our journey remained perfect!
Price wise, it is a fair bit more expensive than other airlines, such as the budget airlines, but for the service you get it is definitely worth it! It helps to book in advance but to be honest I haven't noticed much of a fluctuation in their prices, even when you get closer to the date you want to leave.When you build up points on your KLM card, you can use them to get discounts off flights and experience other cardholder benefits. You collect points for every flight you book and take with KLM or one of their partners such as Air France and you also collect additional points based on distance travelled. I have just signed up for this as will be flying on a regular basis, so cannot really give any more information, but having experienced many of the benefits of my mams platinum card (including a business class upgrade) I can say it is definitely worth doing.
Without a doubt I will be flying with them again very soon!
I recently spent three weeks in Canada, to get there I used KLM airline. I've never been on a long flight before, the longest flight I've been on was just to Turkey. So this would be a new experience for me.
We were flying from Amsterdam to Vancouver, and then back again obviously. So first of all there was the check in, the staff were pretty helpful and friendly. Nothing to special but nothing wrong with them either. The staff when we were boarding were all very friendly and all had happy smiles, which I think is important!
When we got on the plane we had a few problems. There was a two hour delay as there was a problem with the breaks. However the pilot was constantly on the radio telling us what was happening, he was very reassuring and apologetic. While we spent two hours on the run way the turned the entertainment on and served us snacks and drinks which is not common practice when your still on the runway, so at least they tried to make the wait more bearable.
After take off we were served two meals. This was a 10 hour flight, although ended up being closer to 13 after all the delays. The two meals were very filling, not amazingly tasty but as far as plane food goes its proably the best I've had. This flight was over night so we were given travel pillows and blankets to make us more comfortable. They also dimmed the lights so we could get some sleep if we wanted, although I can never sleep anywhere other than my bed so didn't even bother trying!
The entertainment was excellent. We had a small TV in the headrest of the chair in front and there was a remote that popped out of the chair. So we were given our headphones and we could watch away. There were around 80 films to choose from, some very modern, some still on at the cinema, and then there were classics. There were also a wide range of TV shows to choose from, from Family Guy to Friends, to Lost to Cheers. A massive amount of shows to choose from. There were also about 30 music albums to listen to, and a few computer games you could play. So much to choose from!
You also had the in flight tracking system. This told you where we were in our flight, the speed we were traveling, height, temperature and all kinds of info I found interesting. The best bit was counting down the time to our arrival in Vancouver.
The stewardess were very nice, and all very helpful. They were obviously Dutch but spoke excellent English and were easy to understand. If you had any questions or problems they were quick to help and always had a smile.
On arrival in Vancouver we quickly got off the plane, there were no problems picking up luggage and everything ran very smoothly. I can't say I enjoyed spending 13 hours on an airplane, but other than being in first class I can't really think of any way me flight could have been much better.
The return flight was on time and there were no delays. Again everyone was very helpful and friendly and the flight passed with no problems just the way you would hope.
Overall I was very happy with the service I reveieved from KLM, admittedly I have nothing to compare it to, but my friend who I traveled with has been on lots of Transatlantic flights anh he said these were probably the best hes been on. So overall its a bog thumbs up for KLM!
Oh yeah and I should also mention the prices were pretty good!
If you're planning a long haul flight or holiday from the UK, you'd probably think that your journey would automatically include one at the very least a connection through one of our delightfully disorganised and unreliable British airports. The kind that sends you and your bags to different planes, and which is guaranteed to feature some of the most depressing carpet known to man.
But next time you're planning a big trip, consider this: KLM Royal Dutch Airline fly from fourteen UK airports to their international hub at Amsterdam-Schipol, including Birmingham, Cardiff, Hull, Liverpool and Norwich. And if you've ever travelled though Schipol, you'll appreciate just how pleasurable it is to fly through small airports to an efficient and well organised hub, with one manageable terminal and superb facilities.
KLM is probably one of the last true "legacy" airline carriers to serve the UK, and the fact that they serve so many airports, including one near you, means you can be sure of some very easy international travel from your nearest city. Even the regional subsidiary of the airline, KLM Cityhopper (whose small and mid-size jets and turboprop aircraft serve most UK destinations), offer a full service. So you can enjoy complimentary beverages and a snack as you make the short hop over to Amsterdam.
While the budget airlines usually undercut KLM for simple return trips to Amsterdam (tip: KLM still expects you to spend Saturday night away from home for the best fares) that's no bad thing - as the airline's strength is providing hundreds of connections to all six continents from Amsterdam, both on other KLM flights and SkyTeam partners such as Delta.
On 29/12/09 I flew from Shanghai to London Heathrow via Amsterdam. A delayed departure meant the connecting flight was missed so KLM put me on a slightly later one & promised that my baggage would accompany me. It didn't. It is now 1/1/10 and despite various phonecalls to KLM and the courier company, all I know is that a courier somewhere in the UK has my baggage. KLM says I need to take it up with the couriers. The couriers have a recorded message saying how very busy they are and promising to call me back. Which they haven't done. Pretty poor service all in all.
Its quite difficult to write a review of KLM as the services and planes differ so much from the flight options they offer - from a regional airport shuttle to Amsterdam, to a couple of hours flight to a city in Europe to a transatlantic crossing all of which I have done numerous times in the last couple of years. I will try and share my opinions on all of these.
Let m start of though with a little bit of background and history on the company. Firstly the acronym KLM means Royal Aviation Company in Dutch but in English the company is generally referred to as KLM "Royal Dutch Airlines". Founded in 1919 its the oldest airline in the world operating by its original name. KLM merged with Air France in 2004 but they do seem to be operating under there own distinct brand names. The main hub for the airline is Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands (Holland). KLM is part of the "SkyTeam" airline alliance. They currently have a fleet of more than 200 aircraft.
It may surprise some people why so many British people end up flying on a Dutch airline. Let me explain why I (and many others) end up using KLM so much. This is basically because I don't live particularly near to a "major" airport such as those in London and Manchester but I am surrounded by what I would call "regional " airports such as Leeds/Bradford and Humberside. KLM uses these as well as numerous other airports stretching from Aberdeen to Jersey as access points from which to link to Amsterdam. Amsterdam Schiphol in turn opens up a world of travel opportunities - KLM service just under 100 destinations and you can also add the destinations serviced by the other SkyTeam carriers. Basically when you check in at your regional airport your bags go straight through to the final destination and you receive your boarding passes for each onward flight there and then. KLM operate these services under the name "Cityhopper" and they tend to be smaller aircraft made by Focker be they jet engined or in some cases "turboprops" with a propeller. Due to a purchase of AirUK a number of years ago a lot of the on board crew do still tend to be British. I have never had any real problems on these flights albeit they tend to last less than an hour over the North Sea and apart from when the weather has been particularly bad I normally arrive on time. You are normally given an in-flight sandwich and drink as part of the cost although I noticed that on my last hopper flight out of the UK I was given a £5 KLM voucher to spend in the airports only cafe due to no on board sandwich. Suspiciously the cafes breakfast butty had risen to nearly this price. Not KLM's fault but just shows how a reasonable idea can be "abused" by a monopoly.
That is the advantage of KLM and why I use them. It is also the disadvantage and let me get these out the way straight away. That is the chances of having you bags arrive with you (or possibly ever) and the chances of missing connecting flights. I am not sure if I can quantify the chances of something going wrong but on a pessimistic scale I would say roughly 1 in 20 times I fly a bag or a connection goes amiss. Firstly your luggage. Clearly if you are getting on a plane at a regional airport in the UK and changing planes in Amsterdam there is already room for failure for a bag to go missing. Add to this the amount of time you have between connections and you can see this is sometimes going to happen. A couple of years ago I understand Amsterdam had real problems with the baggage transfers but I think a lot of those problems where sorted out. Normally when I check in a bag with a small connection time the handler puts a priority sticker on so they are clearly trying to do something about these connection time issues. I should say this problem isn't unique to KLM but you are less likely to come across it flying direct when possible and KLM do push the whole UK to Amsterdam hub thing. If it does happen however KLM do in fairness try and do the best they can for you by providing an overnight bag of essentials (unless you are in Moscow but that's a whole different story). On 3 occasions of having luggage not arrive (one coming home, twice going away) the bags have ended up with me the next day and you can track your bag location update online to see where it is or isn't. I have on occasions also received vouchers for money off flights because of the inconvenience.
The second problem is missing your connecting flight. Generally speaking this tends to happen because of bad weather and a delay from the first location. Normally you are put up in a local hotel (mine was a pretty good one), given a voucher for a meal and a drink, a simple white T-Shirt and some toiletries. Looking at the number of people in white t-shirts at the evening meal I had in the hotel a lot of connections must get missed! Needless to say this again isn't unique to KLM but you are warned that by adding an extra hop to a flight you are increasing your chances of something going wrong.
It has a section in its own right to review on but a review of KLM from my perspective is incomplete without mentioning the main hub airport. Firstly let me say that Schiphol is a clean, efficient and easy to get around airport with plenty of facilities. This is far better than some mazes of airports with multiple linked terminals (I hate Heathrow) and is all under one roof. What it is not however is the great shopping experience it maybe once was and I personally now find myself looking at the same shops selling clogs and mugs with tulips on them each time I have a stopover. It does have an ample number food and drink options as well as a good lounge for KLM frequent flyer members.
The next hop..
As I said a lot my travel is done onward from the hub in the Netherlands. I have been on a number of flights to Canada, Russia and Ukraine in the last couple of years.
Within Europe this has been on Boeing 737's. No complaints on any of these, you don't get any entertainment as such (not sure how normal this is on a 3 hour plus flight these days) aside from the in-flight "Holland Herald" magazine which isn't a bad read. Food is generally a couple of sandwiches recently followed by a very nice Dutch butter cake. I had previously being treated to a strange cabbage dish on flights to Russia and have had better meals on the much maligned Aeroflot. My only gripe is when getting a coffee you get whitener and not real milk! Depending on the exact plane you sometimes get the personal screens at least showing your current location, speed etc.
To North America I have always been on a Boeing 747's. The "entertainment" is normally much better on these with multiple channels and now one even offering language courses. You can even go onto the KLM web site to see what films are going to be on during your flight. On these flights you normally get choice of two meals for your main meal and also a breakfast and a small treat somewhere in the flight.
With all of the flights most of the crew are Dutch so the level of English is excellent and all announcements are made in English. I still love the Dutch slant on English. A regular captain continues to say just before landing "Cabin Crew.. Take your sheets".
Online check in..
Its worth knowing you can check-in online via the KLM web site to save you time at the airport. You also get the option to choose your seats where available.
The frequent flyer scheme..
Again you could do a review on this itself but I will give some brief details on its benefits. The program was originally "Flying Dutchman" but is now the joint program with Air France "Flying Blue". I have to say that like many airlines schemes what was a big perk seems a lot less valuable these days. The amount of miles you earn depends on what level of flyer you currently are and also any promotions. For instance a flight to Amsterdam can earn anything from 200 to 2000 flyer miles.
Spending your miles can be done via the KLM website or ringing a call centre. The problem these days is you can use your miles against a flight but it doesn't cover the tax which can be ridiculous. This is particularly the case if hopping via Amsterdam as you pay tax at each destination. As an example a "free" flight using my miles to Amsterdam would have cost around 110 euros in tax while I could have just bought the flight for £150 anyway. The further you go the better value it becomes. New York would have cost me 280 euros in tax (still a lot) but over £400 for the flight. One thing KLM have added in the last few weeks is to also be able to pay your tax on some flights with miles also. As well as booking flights you can also use your miles with other companies. For instance I booked a Kyriad hotel in Paris using 25,000 miles for each night I stayed.
The bottom line is KLM is running a 4 star service but you will no doubt have days when a bag is late or a flight is missed and you would judge it as a lot less. That said for me the convenience of flying from a local airport makes up for some of the problems I encounter. KLM flights tend to be comparable in cost if a little mo. For me I don't mind paying the extra if it saves me on travel and parking costs at one of the bigger airports. Plus I tend to get away from the regional airports much quicker as everything from passport control to luggage collection is much quicker. If you live near London or Manchester I suspect you would be better looking at direct flights if they are offered.