In a nutshell: we thoroughly enjoyed our KLM 777-200ER economy experience returning to the U.S. from Europe. Wonderful staff compliment a decent first meal service along and a modern and responsive in-flight entertainment system. My complaints include the poor second meal offering, lack of WiFi, and no sparkling wine option.
KLM 777-200ER Economy Review
It’s been a few years now since I’ve flown KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, so I was very much looking forward to our KLM 777-200ER economy long-haul experience. My previous trip included a hop from Amsterdan to Nice on a 737 with my wife in 2016, which is hardly enough to get a taste of the airline. Plus, she was feeling sick that entire flight and we were split up, which meant that the recollection is less than rosy.
But with that experience behind me, we had nowhere to go but up for our first long-haul economy experience.
I booked the flight as part of our return to San Francisco from London. The outbound had been a codeshare nonstop Virgin Atlantic 787-9 economy flight. There were a few return options that were all about the same price, but I settled on KLM for two reasons. First, they are a carrier I’d never flown long-haul, as mentioned, and I’m always up for new first experiences. Second, the egregious air passenger duty levied on passengers departing the UK are automatically removed when booking through KLM or Air France.
The tickets cost $375 for myself and $275 for each of the kids, round-trip. This is an absolutely excellent deal from San Francisco to London. I did use some flexible points to offset the total cost. The flight would earn each of us 5,573 Medallion Qualifying Miles, $274 Medallion Qualifying Dollars, and 1,094 redeemable miles. This is far worse than the earnings for the Virgin Atlantic segment.
Check-In and Airport Experience
Since we were departing London Heathrow, we woke up bright and early to make our 6:30 AM connecting flight to Amsterdam. The kids weren’t thrilled with this plan, but there wasn’t another option that got us into San Francisco early enough to reasonably make the drive home. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, which is a 5-minute walk from the terminal.
We had to check in at the desk in London, which was frustrating. KLM did not let us do so online. To add insult to the injury of getting up before 5:00 AM, the desks weren’t even yet staffed. But the wait was only a few minutes. We were able to use the business class queue, as I was a Delta Platinum Medallion at the time.
There was a note on the booking about traveling with one parent, which caused some confusion. Turns out it was just a note that travelers may encounter difficulty without a signed letter from your spouse and not actually something that KLM was enforcing. It took some time to deal with this, so we didn’t make it through security until about 20 minutes before boarding. A hurried breakfast at the lounge, and we were off on our flight to Amsterdam.
Our connection at Schipol was tight. We rushed through the airport, heading to the F concourse. Tight international connections are very efficient, but they have stressed me out the last couple trips. Once I knew we would make our flight with time to spare, we slowed down and started to take in some of the airport and aircraft.
Sadly, KLM will be retiring their 747-400s. I’m still bummed that we didn’t get to fly one on our way to Paris in 2018. Instead, we ended up on a Delta 777 in economy. The last 747 flight is planned for later this year, although it may happen sooner with the current coronavirus pandemic.
Boarding and Initial Impressions
Boarding for our KLM 777-200ER flight to SFO started right on time. The aircraft holds up to 316 passengers, with 34 business class seats, 40 economy comfort seats, and 242 standard economy seats. KLM does not have a true premium economy cabin, only offering their standard economy seats with an extra 4 inches of legroom.
We were able to use Sky Priority boarding, which let us board with the business class passengers. I prefer to board early, if possible, for long-haul flights. This is a perk I will miss until I (hopefully) re-qualify for Platinum Medallion this year. It’s nice to get settled well before the constant stream of economy passengers is headed into the cabin.
Although KLM’s iconic light blue adorns the outside of the aircraft, the economy cabin interior is entirely in navy blue. The cabin was also nice and bright during boarding, something I think I actually like more than the mood lighting of Virgin or simply dim lighting I recall on my recent British Airways A380 flight.
Even with no one in the cabin when we arrived, I managed to not snap a nice cabin photo prior to taking off. There were a couple staff in the rear section, and KLM has a pretty clear policy of not allowing their staff or other customers to be photographed, for privacy reasons. I don’t recall what happened, but I must have got talking with the kids and missed the window. My only shot of the KLM 777-200 economy cabin is later from the rear.
After boarding was complete, the purser came by and introduced herself personally to us. I was not expecting this, but it was a kind acknowledgement of my status with Delta. She even mentioned that if they had three seats together in economy comfort, she would have happily moved us up to those.
Soon after we departed, another flight attendant brought kid’s kits. These are always a nice feature, and I’ve only flown a few airlines that offer them to children. My son immediately wanted to use the passport sleeve for his passport.
Headsets were passed out to everyone soon after this. The air was super cold for the first 20 minutes of so of the flight, but people must have complained, as the temperature climbed to more comfortable levels fairly quickly.
KLM 777-200ER Economy Class Seat
At first blush, I didn’t think the KLM 777-200ER economy seats were going to be all that comfortable. With a 3-4-3 arrangement in economy, they are fairly narrow, and they didn’t appear all that well padded. But looks can be deceiving.
We were in seats 20H, 20J, and 20K in the middle of the economy class cabin. I’d been surprised that KLM let us select seats beforehand, as I thought I was booking a basic economy fare. I used Seatguru to help me decide, avoiding row 18 with its missing window.
Each seat had a pillow and blanket, standard amenities for a long-haul flight. The headrest adjusts both up and down and also folds out on either side to cradle your head. This is by far my favorite headrest design, as it provides a lot of flexibility.
With 31 inches of pitch, the legroom in KLM long-haul economy is very standard. With a backpack under the seat, you’re pretty much reduced to simply knee room. I was glad I have the aisle seat to be able to stretch my legs a bit more. The kids, both less than 5 feet tall, obviously have no problems whatsoever.
KLM economy seats off at-seat power, which was very appreciated as I tried to work for a few hours during the flight and my laptop can’t make it much more than an hour without power these days. The area around my outlet appeared to be fairly gross. Aside from that, the seats appeared to be clean and in good condition.
You also have a USB outlet available in the IFE. The screen is not all that large, but it is responsive and clear.
There’s nothing cutting edge about KLM’s economy seat, but it’s a fine product compared to other options I’ve flown. Long-haul economy is always hard on the body, and there is little that airlines do to distinguish themselves from others these days.
If I hadn’t been next to my kids, I likely would have found the seat overly narrow. At ~17 inches, there’s not a lot of shoulder room. You’ll get an extra inch with other carriers that operate a 3-3-3 arrangement in 777 economy. This includes Delta, which is the only U.S. carrier to maintain this configuration.
KLM Long-Haul Economy Meal Service
The meal service started about an hour into the flight with water and a towelette. I’m always happy when airlines are proactive in keeping you hydrated. My skin and sinuses get so dry, especially on older aircraft like the 777.
The flight attendants served the meals and drinks a little while later, maybe 90 minutes into the flight. The choice was between pasta and meatballs. The kids ordered the pasta, while I decided to have the meatballs.
It was an average meal, as far as economy plane food goes. The salad seemed fairly fresh and the meatballs and accompaniments were tasty. I have no complaints. The salad came with oil and vinaigrette on the side. To accompany things, I enjoyed a glass of South African Shiraz.
The fact that KLM does not offer sparkling wine is not lost on me. Such a #firstworldproblem! I figured as part of the same airline group as Air France, they might offer champagne. Alas, that is not the case.
Dinner was followed by coffee and tea. After that it was time to settle in for a nap before working and enjoying the IFE for the rest of the flight.
In-Flight Entertainment and WiFI
KLM offers a decent film selection as their in-flight entertainment. There are both new releases as well as many older titles, mostly U.S. and British titles, as well as some Dutch films and some eastern cinema. The IFE unit swivels out, letting you still have a good viewing angle even if the person in front of you reclines.
The kids enjoyed the games, as always. One of the things I am most careful about is their use of the IFE to play games. Having a touchscreen is nice. Until you have a kid behind you pushing on the screen all the time. I made sure they both settled in to watch a couple movies after the meal service when people were most likely to be napping.
Unfortunately, WiFi is not available on the KLM 777-200. I did not expect this. Typically, I don’t use WiFi on intercontinental flights, although I’ll make an exception if the price is good. However, I do like to know if an airline will offer WiFi, as sometimes a mere hour of use is critical.
Middle of the Flight
A nap and a movie later, I was feeling pretty good. The flight attendants came around during the middle of the flight with more water and an ice cream bar as a snack. I did head to the galley a couple times for some additional water, which was available.
The lavs on the 777-200ER are fairly small. There are lavatories both at the back of the plane, although most are in the middle area between the two economy sections.
Final Meal Service and Arrival
KLM started their second meal service with a little under 2 hours remaining in the flight. It was a light lunch of pizza, pasta salad, and a caramel dessert. The pizza was downright terrible, but the other two items were actually quite good, especially the dessert. This was all the kids ended up eating.
After that, the cabin was prepped for landing and we touched down at San Francisco International Airport. All of us have Global Entry, which meant we were able to whisk through immigration and customs with nothing but our carry-on bags. Unfortunately, an early departure from SFO wasn’t in the cards, as it took over an hour to get the rental car.
The Verdict: KLM 777-200ER Economy Review
Overall, KLM 777-200ER economy class is a decent experience. The seat is very average, with decent padding and typical pitch. With a 3-4-3 abreast layout on the 777, the width is a bit tight, but traveling with my kids meant this wasn’t an issue. I was appreciative of how the airline acknowledged my elite status with Delta, even if it didn’t mean seats in economy comfort. The food could certainly improve, especially the second meal, but overall the complaints are minor. KLM’s service is not what I’d call warm, but it is certainly professional and friendly, much like my Finnair business class experience.
Given the value of our airfare, I’m quite please with the overall experience. I’d happily fly KLM again. But next time I’m hoping it’ll be aboard one of their new 787-10s. 😉