In a nutshell: KLM 777-200ER Business Class was a fine experience, even during COVID-19. The seats aren’t the most cutting-edge product, and the food was hit-and-miss, but the crew were fantastic. Excellent service can make up for pretty much anything. KLM business class has a couple special quirks as well that are sure to make any flight memorable!
By the time I headed to the gate for my KLM 777-200ER business class flight home to California, I’d been in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport for nearly 16 hours. Being prevented from entering the Netherlands due to the COVID-19 restrictions, I’d stayed the night at Yotelair in the international transit area. During the morning I enjoyed the KLM Crown Lounge 52, which is one of the more excellent business class lounges I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. I spent some time going through photos of my brief trip to Istanbul, Turkey, which I’ve blogged about as well (Overview, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3).
Booking KLM Business Class
There were a few options for returning from Turkey when I looked. I could have booked something with the Star Alliance, but I was fresh out of United miles, and other itineraries weren’t pricing out with LifeMiles online. I could have opted for a different currency, but I found myself pulling up Flying Blue instead. I found a couple options for 53,000 miles. The KLM option departed Istanbul in the evening, overnighted at AMS, and landed in San Francisco in the afternoon. The other option was a 5:00 AM Air France departure, longish layover, and same day afternoon arrival in San Francisco.
With Istanbul Havalimani being ~45 minutes from the city, the early morning option sounded terrible. What I didn’t consider is how early I tend to wake up due to jet lag. The Air France option may have been just fine. But instead, I booked the KLM option, flying short-haul business, and then KLM 777-200ER business class on the long-haul leg back home. The ticket cost a total of 53,000 Flying Blue miles and $273.87. Taxes are a bit steep, but this isn’t a bad price overall for one-way business class to/from Europe.
Gate and Boarding
My flight to San Francisco was departing from Gate E5, which isn’t too far from the KLM Crowne Lounge. I arrived about 15 minutes ahead of scheduled boarding. You could tell from the very few people waiting that it wasn’t going to be a full flight. Even if we were flying a narrow-body, this wouldn’t have been anywhere near capacity, let alone fill a 777.
KLM operates both the 777-200ER and the 777-300ER in about equal numbers. The larger 300ER holds nearly 100 more passengers. I was honestly surprised KLM wasn’t operating the route using a Boeing 787-9, given is has the lowest capacity and better per-seat fuel burn. Maybe KLM was operating enough routes that all their 787s were being used, even during COVID-19.
Boarding obviously went quickly. There were only five passengers in business class and approximately 80 in economy. We were completely ready to go more than 20 minutes prior to scheduled departure. I spent much of the time chatting with one of the flight attendants. The purser also introduced herself to each of the five business class passengers. We’d later chat about all sorts of stuff, since what else is there to do to pass the time on an 11-hour daytime trek.
Masks are obviously required during COVID-19. Unlike my Lufthansa A340 flight on the outbound itinerary, a cloth face covering is a no-go. KLM requires you to use a surgical mask. They may allow others, but these are the ones most people had. They are obviously way less comfortable than cloth for a long-haul trek.
KLM 777-200ER Business Class Cabin
The KLM 777-200ER business class cabin has a total of 34 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. The majority are in the forward section, but there are six sandwiched between the galley and the economy cabin. I almost picked one of these instead of a seat up front, but decided against it. With only five people spread throughout the cabin, there was definitely adequate social distancing being maintained.
Whenever I can, I like to snag seat 1A when I fly business or first, unless there is some oddity that I want to avoid (e.g. the seat is missing a window). It just feels so cool.
Since KLM has a paired seating arrangement, I would opt for a pair at the window if you’re traveling with a companion. If you’re solo, the window seats are the only ones that do not offer direct aisle access, so keep that in mind if you expect the flight to be full.
Only the five occupied seats had headphones, water, and the business class amenity kit rather than just a pillow and blanket. I could immediately tell where everyone else was seated. Passengers were asked to remain in their assigned seats.
KLM’s business class seats extend into fully flat beds and have adjustable back, legs, and lumbar support. I kept mine slightly reclined much of the flight and only laid down for a quick nap. There is storage under the ottoman and a small cubby under the IFE, but other than that, the seats lack storage.
There is a divider between the seats to give you slightly more privacy from your companion if traveling solo. The main benefit is that it divides the armrest.
The IFE isn’t the most cutting edge, but it worked fine and there was a good selection of movies. KLM also provides noise-canceling headphones in business class. The screen is a reach, so there is an IFE controller next to the seat. The headphones plug in next to the at-seat power and USB plug. I was finally glad to have a universal outlet to use after traveling without my Europe plug adapter the whole trip.
The tray table folds out from under the arm rest. I did like the folding style, since you could “put away” half of it once you were done with most of your meal and finishing up with a coffee. But the design is also a bit unsteady since you just have the hinge in one corner.
Overall, KLM 777-200ER business class offers a fine seat, although it is inferior to every reverse-herringbone seat I’ve flown. Mine was in good shape, with a lot less noticeable wear and tear than others I’ve flown. The 2-2-2 configuration certainly doesn’t provide for a cutting-edge product. But I still found the seat comfortable. It was certainly nice to not have a companion while in the window seat. In some ways I like the more open cabin feel this seating style provides. In other ways I don’t.
Departure from Amsterdam
A friendly flight attendant and I chatted for quite a while about the state of KLM. I was very curious about their operations and forecast, given the disruption of the pandemic. He said that KLM was looking to let go of a good number of staff starting in 2021. As of early September (when I flew this trip), the anticipated reduction was around 5,000 staff. They’d also cut ~500 cabin crew and ~300 pilots. KLM had sent out memos asking staff to leave voluntarily. I’d be curious to know the terms, whether there would be severance or some other sort of package. He remarked that it isn’t exactly easy to find a new job in the Netherlands, “unlike in America.”
The flight attendant was working just one flight per month during the first months of the pandemic. That had increased to about 50% of his normal schedule by August. Many routes had been reduced from daily service to just once or twice per week, and now KLM has suspended long-haul operations entirely. It’s really sad.
On the other hand, cargo prices have remained high, and he said there is some revenue coming in there. The was the one bright spot he mentioned.
Our conversation was cut short by the need to depart AMS. He’d humored me for a few minutes, and we’d talk more through the flight. I enjoyed the ascent, catching a view of the coast as we left the Netherlands and flew out over the North Sea.
Meal service started with a surprise. As in, “surprise, it’s here!” There was no setting the table, no starter or beverage. The tray just arrived, and it arrived quickly. With only five business class passengers to serve and no course production, this was probably the earliest and quickest meal service I have enjoyed. Chalk that up to COVID-19.
The meal consisted of a salad with olives and feta, chicken stew, chees and crackers, and a couple small desserts. The salt and pepper shakers are Dutch clogs, one of those small touches that reminds you you’re flying the Dutch flag carrier.
I was in trouble quickly, as I managed to squirt balsamic vinegar all over the wall when opening the salad dressing. But the salad turned out better than my pride in the moment.
The stew was decent, if a little salty. It doesn’t have much visual appeal, but it is difficult to present anything nicely when things have to be so packaged to make it feel borderline economy class. The dessert and cheese were both good, and I don’t have any complaints about the main meal. It hit the spot.
I finished things off with another glass of Merlot and settled in to watch The Big Short.
The mid-flight snack left a bit to be desired. I’m not sure if this is the standard during non-COVID times, but the option was always a packaged cheese sandwich. I ate two. Neither were particularly good.
Things kept sliding downhill, unfortunately. The second meal, consisting of a salad, apple pie, and pizza was a bit of a disaster. I disliked the salad, and the box pizza was poor. It is likely what economy gets as well. But yay for easy individual packaging! The apple pie was the best of what was offered, if a tad soggy.
After this experience, I certainly wouldn’t fly KLM business class for the food. If the fees hadn’t been nearly as killer, it might have made sense at this point to only shell out enough for economy. But I’d already had the KLM 777-200ER economy experience and really wanted to try business class.
The KLM Delft Blue House
One of the hallmarks of flying KLM business class is taking home a Delft blue house. I was completely unaware of this aspect of their product. The flight attendants came around with a tray with a few different houses, and I selected the one that appealed most. They are a beautiful little memento of the flight experience.
KLM now has a total of 100 unique Delft house designs, one for each year the airline has been operating. They are one of the oldest airlines in the world. The cool thing about the house designs is that each is numbered and you can make sure you select a new one during every flight. I guess maybe you might have flown KLM business class plenty and could risk doubling up, but then why would you be reading this review?
Arrival in San Francisco
On our descent into SFO we had one of the most lovely approaches I’ve ever enjoyed. The sky was clearer than usual, and you could pick out all the landmarks along San Francisco Bay. I love this shot of the city and both the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge.
The one mishap of the flight (besides the salad dressing, I guess) was parking the aircraft. We pulled into International Terminal A, and it took ages for the jet bridge to connect. I don’t know what the problem was, but we watched for upwards of 20 minutes as the bridge remained at least a few feet from the door. I don’t know if the plane was parked wrong, or if there was some other malfunction.
Then I was off. Immigration was a breeze with Global Entry, and I headed to the Grand Hyatt for the night before finishing the trek home the following morning.
The Verdict: KLM 777-200ER Business Class Review
Overall, I wouldn’t call KLM 777-200ER business class one of my better experiences. The seats are fine, comfortably reclining into a fully flat bed. But you do have less space and privacy than with other products. It’s certainly better for traveling with a companion. The food was the worst aspect. It was sub-par when compared to the majority of my business class experiences. However, I still enjoyed the flight overall.
The kudos really go to the KLM crew for the flight experience. I remember our first flight with KLM, where the crew were extremely considerate and caring during an airsickness episode. My four flights with the Dutch flag carrier since then have demonstrated to me that their staff are some of the friendliest and most professional in the world. I can’t wait to finally visit The Netherlands. I’ll have to assume that the Dutch people are as open and friendly in general as the airline crew.
I hope to fly KLM business class again, but on their reverse-herringbone product, found on their Boeing 787 aircraft. KLM has previously operated a 787-10 on the SFO-AMS route, and I hope it returns.