Last year, I was surprised by KLM at the gate with a free upgrade to the business class of the Dreamliner. Apparently, it’s becoming a tradition because I was again placed in the business class despite having an economy ticket, but this time in a Boeing 777. As the business class differs in both aircraft types, here is another KLM review.
Table of Contents
This was the exact flight
- Flight: KL701 from Amsterdam to Buenos Aires (
- Seat: 4D
- Plane: Boeing 777-200 (PH-BQN)
- Flight time: 13h20
- Date: November 2023
The “old” KLM business class can be found in all Boeing 777s that have not yet gotten a premium economy, as well as in all Airbus A330 planes. In the long run, this business class will cease to exist, but it will probably still be used for a couple of years on shorter or less-relevant routes.
I had actually booked something completely different – not even with KLM. For about €900, I booked an economy class ticket with Delta from Amsterdam to Buenos Aires via New York JFK. However, my flight, which was supposed to fly to New York at 9 a.m., was overbooked, and they were desperately looking for volunteers at the gate who could fly later. Since I am practically at home in Argentina and have no hotel or anything waiting for me, I volunteered immediately.
The next 3 flights to New York were also full, so the only option left was the last flight of the day. However, that meant that I would miss my connecting flight to Buenos Aires. No problem, said the lady at the counter. Then I’ll just fly directly from Amsterdam to Buenos Aires. She called someone on the phone, mentioned about 5 times that I was a Platinum frequent flyer, and a few minutes later, I was handed the new boarding pass.
It said Seat 7D – World Business. Apparently, economy class was also full on the flight to Buenos Aires, so they simply put me in business class without even mentioning it. On top of that, I received €600 as compensation. I also had 12 hours to explore Amsterdam, great weather, and would arrive in Buenos Aires even earlier than originally planned. Jackpot.
After walking about 17 km through Amsterdam (also because a climate protest had paralyzed public transport), I returned to the Crown Lounge about 3 hours before departure. The lounge is gigantic, offering showers, lockers, food, workspaces, and seating of all kinds. I had already used the locker in the morning to avoid carrying my backpack through Amsterdam.
Additionally, there are paid areas: Three hours in a private bedroom with a bed, TV, and sink cost €50, and 5 hours cost €75. Upstairs, there is a paid bar and a restaurant. I didn’t even bother checking the prices because I don’t appreciate paid lounge areas, and wasn’t in the mood for any further exploration after such a long day.
The free food on the lower floor didn’t appeal to me, though (sandwiches, pasta with tomato sauce, vegetarian lasagna, salad, lentil soup, Asian chicken, rice, cheese). Overall, KLM still offers a slightly above-average lounge. The size, in particular, gives it an advantage over lounges from e.g. Air France, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, and TAP, as it is not overcrowded. You always find a place to sit. The food is available at two buffets at different ends of the lounge.
When I arrived at the gate, I received an email that boarding would be delayed by 30 minutes. At the same time, my name (and about 20 others) was displayed on the boarding screen – please contact the counter. The reason: the originally scheduled Boeing 787 had to be replaced by a Boeing 777. My business seat – in row 7 – had to be swapped for one in row 6 because the Boeing 777 has only 6 business rows.
Most of the other passengers displayed on the screen had a far worse situation waiting for them. This Boeing 777 has no premium economy, so these passengers were all downgraded to economy. Life is unfair – I booked economy and was now flying business, and others booked premium economy and were now flying economy. However, since I have been downgraded by KLM three times in similar situations, I didn’t exactly have a bad conscience.
Then it was finally time for boarding. This was the most relaxed boarding of my life. No one had already formed a queue, and when business was called first, I was the only one who went to the counter. All the other passengers sat in their seats and continued chatting quietly. Boarding without the usual hectic rush and cutting in line felt weird.
Comfort & Cabin
The KLM business class in the Boeing 777, which does not have a premium economy, is somewhat oddly distributed. First, there are 5 business rows, then comes a galley, after which there is a single additional business row.
My seat – 6D – was in exactly that separate row. However, I sat in the seat for only about 3 minutes. Then an Argentine woman with a child came and asked if I would swap my seat with her husband, who was in seat 4D. So I kept moving forward: from economy to 7D, to 6D, and now to 4D. I was already expecting to land in the cockpit, but it stayed at 4D.
The seats are arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration, with those at the left window slightly angled to the left and the remaining seats angled slightly to the right. For comparison, the new KLM business class has a modern 1-2-1 configuration, meaning there are two more seats per row, significantly affecting the width of the seat. Instead of having a wide surface, the armrest between seat neighbours is about as wide/narrow as two smartphones placed side by side.
Next to the backrest, there is a small surface where noise-cancelling headphones and a water bottle are placed. You can also find a power socket, a USB port, and a headphone jack there. A metal plate has been attached to half of the armrest between seat neighbours, presumably to offer privacy. However, it doesn’t provide much privacy and only makes the armrest narrower.
Additionally, there is a pocket on the side of the armrest with magazines (offering enough space for a slim laptop), a remote control for the monitor, and a retractable table. The table is comfortably large and can be used either half or fully unfolded.
The monitor is quite big and can either be controlled using its touch screen or using the remote. As one does sit quite far away from the monitor, the remote seemed the more comfortable option. The remote also offers a touch screen, as well as actual buttons. Under the monitor, there is an open storage place that fits e.g. the amenity kit, glasses, and a phone.
I particularly like that a slide show with pictures of the destination (Argentina) was being displayed on the monitors during boarding. A negative aspect – which applies to this business class as a whole – is the lack of privacy. I could see everything that my seat neighbour was doing, as well as both passengers on the other side of the aisle. I could also watch their movies without any problems.
The overhead light of the seats is not particularly focused. During a delayed dinner (more on that later), I not only illuminated my food but also my sleeping seat neighbour. The passenger on the other side of the aisle, reading a Chinese book, also woke up his neighbour with his light. And the fact that I know that, clearly shows the lack of privacy on this plane.
The seat can be fully reclined into a bed. The foot space is very tight, but the area around the knees is spacious, allowing you to sleep on your side. The bed was also sufficiently long (for my height of 1,90 m). I was able to sleep for 8 hours without any issues, and the sitting comfort was also very high.
Food & Service
After boarding, there was a welcome drink – a choice between juice, champagne (or sparkling wine?), and water. I chose water, and the drinks were served in very elegant glasses. Then, they distributed the menus for food and wine.
I had the choice between:
- Smoked beef carpaccio
- Carrot cumin soup
- Vegetarian stroganoff
- Salmon sesame sauce
- Chicken star anise
For dessert, you could choose between a cheese platter or a selection of various pastries. The wine list included 2 white wines (Sauvignon Blanc from Spain or Chardonnay from France) and 3 red wines (from Spain, France, and Argentina). The menu was available in Dutch, English, and Spanish, while the wine list was only in English.
Having arrived at Schiphol at 4 am, after a 7-hour journey from Hamburg by Flixbus, followed by 5 hours in the lounge, dealing with rescheduling, and a 17 km stroll through Amsterdam, I was barely able to convey my food preference (soup and salmon) to the stewardess before falling asleep for 3 hours.
When I woke up, the cabin was dark, and everyone around me was asleep. I went to the restroom. There are 2 toilets for the 34 business class passengers, one in the front and one at the back. They were absolutely clean during my two uses, and I never noticed any lines forming.
I asked the stewardess if there was anything to eat for me since I had missed dinner. She confirmed my choice again and brought me the Carpaccio (the soup was not available anymore), followed by the salmon a bit later. Everything tasted wonderful, and there was also a cheese selection at the end.
I then slept for another 5 hours, this time lying down. When I woke up about 4 hours before landing, I headed to the galley again because the menu mentioned the availability of these snacks between meals:
- Vegetarian croquette sandwich with mustard
- Mini club sandwich with egg, truffle mayonnaise and grana padano cheese
- Stroopwafel ice cream
In the galley, there was no one around, but I found the following on the counter:
So, on the left, there was an open Carpaccio, and on the right, there were 2 sandwiches on a tray with 2 pieces of cutlery lying around. Whether this was the vegetarian sandwich or the Mini Club sandwich was unclear to me. I think it was probably the Club sandwich, but it wasn’t inviting enough (or I wasn’t hungry enough) to try it. On the monitor in row 1, there was also a tray with chips, cookies, and stroopwafels. I took 3 stroopwafels.
Two hours before landing, the lights were turned on. This old plane doesn’t have modern mood lighting, so it went from 0 to 100 brightness instantly. This time, the timing for breakfast seemed very good. It was 9 am Central European Time, 5 am in Buenos Aires, and everyone had had enough time to sleep.
Each person got a fruit salad, salmon, avocado, and a sliced hard-boiled egg. Then, the crew came with a bread box containing (delicious) croissants and some rolls.
A bit later, one could choose between:
- Special mix of granola with creamy yoghurt
- Quiche with a vegetable mix
- Pancake with rosehip
I chose the pancakes. They were a bit hard, but overall, it was a good breakfast.
Now, about the crew. They were always friendly, and explicit requests were fulfilled. However, unspoken wishes were not. For instance, my empty water bottle sat on the armrest for hours, but a new one was not brought to me. They didn’t even clear away the empty bottle. I can’t evaluate whether the crew came by with drinks during the flight because of my long sleeping time. While I was awake, nobody came by, and I didn’t find anyone in the galley either. So, it was a nice crew but not one that, as Americans say, went the extra mile.
The monitor had several movies and series to choose from, as well as some games (quiz, solitaire, Bejeweled, etc.). You can check the exact media selection here. KLM’s headphones were very good – not only because of noise cancellation but also because they were comfortable.
Additionally, KLM offers all passengers a free messaging internet package for the entire flight. With this, I could receive push notifications from all apps and send/receive text messages via WhatsApp. However, sending images was not possible. The following packages were also available:
- Surf for one hour: 8€ or 1,600 miles
- Surf for the entire flight: €18 or 3,600 miles
- Stream for the entire flight: 30€ or 6,000 miles
I find the prices not to be very appealing, so I didn’t purchase any of these packages.
Upon entering the plane, there was a fabric amenity kit on each armrest. This gets a minus point from me because many airlines offer kits made of (faux) leather. Forgive me, animal rights advocates and ultra-vegans, but a kit that is often reused in bathrooms (where there are often wet surfaces) is just more practical if it’s made of leather, or at least faux leather.
The amenity kit contained socks and a sleep mask (both of below-average quality), Signal toothpaste, lip balm and face moisturizer from Rituals. There were also two unlabeled brown paper bags. One probably contained a toothbrush, and the contents of the other are still unclear – possibly earplugs. Why the bags were not labelled is a mystery. There was also a small pen.
Now, onto one of the things I like most about KLM’s business class. Before landing, each passenger receives a small Delft house filled with Bols liqueur. These are collectables. Every year, KLM releases a new little house. So, you can take one of the many different houses from the tray, and over time, you might accumulate over 100 of them if you fly often.
In summary, what is good and not so great about this old KLM business class?
- Good seat and sleeping comfort
- Good food
- Delft houses
- Friendly crew
- Clean toilets
- Good headphones
- Seat has limited place to stow objects
- Tight foot space
- Lack of privacy
- Limited internet
- Below-average amenity kit
- Check-in & Boarding
- Seat comfort
- Sleeping comfort
- Food & Drinks
- In-Flight Entertainment
The major drawback of this KLM business class, compared to the new one, is undoubtedly the lack of privacy. For couples, this might not be as significant. The fact that the seats are narrower does not compromise seat and sleeping comfort but rather affects the available space to place objects directly by the seat, which is practically non-existent here. Although I personally would prefer the new business class, this old business class still achieves a good result – even better than the business class of some other airlines (e.g., LOT and Lufthansa).
Cover Picture: Ditmar Lange