Beyond the Red Light District: KLM Business Class From Austin To Amsterdam With Our 5 Year Old

I flew with my wife and daughter to Amsterdam for part of the Christmas holidays. While I think that you don’t need to wait for school break to take a trip, travel is a great way to have something to do when your young child is off from school for nearly three weeks.

You may not think of the start of the year as the right time to travel to Europe, but I’ve always loved Paris in December and Amsterdam in January is nice as well. The weather may not be, but it’s cold in the States too! People are home from work and the streets aren’t busy. The place isn’t overrun with American teenagers!

And Amsterdam seems like an odd place to go with a five year old, but the city is a lot more than the red light district. There are great museums for kids, there’s great food, and it was something different. Plus there’s a non-stop flight from Austin, and there were three business class saver award seats on our preferred dates. The perfect trip!

We left on New Year’s Day and turned up at the airport around two hours prior to departure. Check-in was quick, and the agent recognized me from this blog. He invited us to use the Delta Sky Club with our business class tickets (no need to use the Amex Platinum this time!).

There was no line for security, and we headed down to the Delta Sky Club… only to find that it was closed. They closed early, at 4:30pm, for New Years Day despite the KLM flight leaving at 6:15 p.m.

We went next door to the Chase Sapphire Terrace next door for a quick snack. By the time we’d get in the air and dinner would be served it would be after my daughter’s normal and she might be too tired to eat. The weather wasn’t cooperative, but we had jackets since we were getting off the plane in Amsterdam anyway.

Food in this ‘lounge’ is (free) from a vending machine. It’s packaged salads and noodles mostly, decent for prepackaged food but still meh. Drinks and packaged chips and similar snacks are available from lounge staff. There’s no ‘full bar’ there’s canned beverages, and there’s no ice, not that we needed ice on a chilly New Years Day. They really should have heat lamps outdoors, since the space is almost entirely outdoors.

You do get nice views from the lounge, which is directly beside the Sky Club and which has its own outdoor space as well. Here was our aircraft:

Boarding was printed as beginning 35 minutes to departure, which is impressive for a Boeing 787-9. We boarded about 5 minutes late and yet we still pushed back a couple of minutes early. That was impressive!

This was my first time on board this aircraft with KLM, and I found the seats fine (very little storage) and comfortable enough. I liked the color and design of the cabin. At first blush it is pretty plain:

But then you have a look at the seats and the blue and gold really work, and the crown logo is a nice touch. The product still has ‘World Business Class’ branding, in some sense like it’s 20 years ago.

The seat features a cubby where a bottle of water and headset were pre-placed. Opening it reveals a mirror.

This is a Boeing 787, so four-abreast business class is actually fairly tight. It’s no surprise that there wasn’t other meaningful storage space at the seat. However the space under the ottoman was available for use during taxi, takeoff and landing which helps.

The footwell is small, though, and I found it constraining later in the flight when I was trying to sleep.

I mean, there was this storage too…

The cabin began to settle in, and I had a look at the amenity kit.

The bag felt cheap to me, but basic items were there, including a pen even though immigration for the Netherlands wouldn’t require filling out a form.

My wife, daughter and I were in the bulkhead row of the aircraft. I tend to like that, even though it’s close to the galley and lavatory, because I don’t see the passengers behind me for the bulk of the flight. That makes it more relaxing, to me, since crowds can be stressful. I also like the extra space in front of the seat (a shelf of sorts) before the bulkhead.

Above the bulkhead was a celebratory “Happy New Year” which seemed a nice festive touch.

The seat’s entertainment has a touch screen, but there’s also a handset for use especially while laying down. The seat has a universal power outlet as well as USB power.

As a predeparture beverage I just had water, and then had a look over the menu.

Here was the main meal menu:

And this was breakfast:

Once we were in the air I visited the lavatory to change into a pair of pajamas I’d brought with me for the flight. Flowers in the lavatory are always a nice touch. The wallpaper with KLM’s delft houses is perfectly on brand.

Back at my seat, mixed nuts and a drink of choice were served. I had a glass of pinot noir. You can see my daughter’s juice.

I chose the lobster salad as my appetizer and it was quite good with their Thai lime dressing. While I’m rather partial to soups on a plane (since they reheat well) a ‘mild’ cauliflower-curry soup didn’t sound especially appealing. The appetizer was served on a tray with a small salad and choice of bread.

For my entree I selected the “tasting of local delicacies” which was a short rib in a mushroom sauce, potato and roasted apples.

Then for dessert I went with the white chocolate raspberry cheesecake.

In between courses I helped my daughter get settled for bed. My wife set her up with the pillow and blanket, and I gave her my blanket to use as a mattress pad. KLM’s bedding really needs improvement, but with the second blanket she was comfortable. We follow our usual bedtime routine on a plane, so after she changes into pajamas I read her books and tell her stories – then she slept for the rest of the flight even skipping breakfast.

I started to watch a show on the inflight entertainment. I made it through one episode of Brooklyn 99 (I found their choices varied enough though little struck my fancy). I caught up on email after I managed to connect to the inflight wifi. And then I laid down to try to get some rest.

The seat itself seemed fine at first, though bedding more like United offers would be a real treat. But the narrow footwell was a bit uncomfortable. I’m a side sleeper and after awhile found the seat uncomfortable for my lower back and shoulder. I’d turn over, but then experience the same thing on the other side, so I’d rinse, repeat. I tossed and turned for a couple of hours and then got back up and worked on my laptop for a little while until it was time for the second service.

The breakfast tray included oatmeal, smoked salmon, turky ham, gouda cheese and a boiled egg. I chose the crepes rather than the poached egg, though I saw the egg my wife selected and wondered if I’d chosen poorly.

After breakfast dishes were cleared, a crewmember came around with KLM’s famous delft houses as a departing gift. This is something that business class passengers on the airline really look forward to, and many people collect them. There’s even a Delft Blue Houses app in both the Apple and Google online stores to help with tracking all 104 of them.

Each house is a replica of a real Dutch building, and is filled with Dutch gin. The story of these is that KLM wanted to give a gift to its premium passengers, but doing so ran afoul of the country’s regulations. There was no prohibition on service a drink (Dutch gin), and no rules around what that drink could be served in (the delft house), however.

The houses provide KLM with outsized value. Crew on the flight were friendly, in a jovial and gregarious sort of way. Staff even came around with connecting gate information and advice on navigating the Amsterdam airport. And the food was pretty good! But the rest of the product is decidedly mid, and yet I look forward to flying with them.

There’s something special about being given a unique gift at the end of the flight. I first experienced it many years ago flying Asiana first class. I still have the Wedgwood wine bottle stoppers I received on that flight. It really elevates the product, at the very end of the experience, and creates a real keepsake of the airline. Between my wife, daughter, and I, we picked up three houses on our outbound – and three more on the return.

We were held a bit arriving into Amsterdam, and then had a long taxi, so while we had originally been showing as turning up about 20 minutes early we wound up about 15 minutes behind schedule. Immigration was a relative breeze.

We made our way out the terminal quickly, and arriving mid-morning the first week of the year there was no traffic to speak of into Amsterdam. The non-stop from Austin was a breeze.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I have always limited my winter travel to airports that sometimes get significant snow because that was the time of year that airplanes seemed to fall out of the sky. Things are now better but I don’t push my luck that way.

  2. The Dutch houses are always a treat. After KLM and NWA set up their joint venture NWA gave a landing gift, too – a specially produced jazz cd. Not sure how often they created new cds because I wasn’t traveling that much then. I also got a pound of Kenyan coffee flying KLM from NBO. As recall it was branded Kenya Air.

  3. @jns … but if you went to Munich and Salzburg and Innsbruck , the good food and the brisk snow weather would do you good . Nothing better in the brisk snow weather than returning to the Hotel Goldener Hirsch in Salzburg , or having a mulled wine and hot strudel at the Christmas market at the Marienplatz in Munich ..

  4. @Alert, I grew up north of Buffalo, NY so I know all about snow weather. I hit -20 Fahrenheit temperatures while moving to California in the middle of the winter. I have car camped multiple days at -25 Fahrenheit at Teton Village. Further, I have driven all around the western USA skiing, including is white out conditions and with chains when most other vehicles weren’t moving. I have shoveled myself out when chains weren’t enough and once was pulled out by a tow truck in Colorado. When I was younger, I liked going out in the snow (I used to go to the beach almost every free day in the summer, too) but as I have gotten older, Southeast Asia is my haunt away from the USA. As for the German food, I got that at home when I was growing up along with some Hungarian food.

  5. You didn’t get around to any of the Indonesian food in the country? Amusingly, I have yet too myself — perhaps out of dread that it will turn out like Thai restaurant food in Scandinavia even with the Thai community in Scandinavia.

    I find January a great time to visit Europe as hotel rates can be much cheaper in this month and upgrades for hotel program elites tend to be better for me in January than in most other months of the year.

  6. I think the best way to think of the Dutch is that they are very conservative culturally (not like US bonkers conservative 2024 but like maybe conservative in like a 1960s sense.). They are permissive because it’s not worth fighting and people should be allowed to do what they want. All that said, they go to great lengths to instill in children/teens/society that just because “it” (drugs, prostitution, etc) are allowed doesn’t not mean that those activities are not looked down on broadly and that good Dutch ppl don’t engage in such low life behavior. The low-landers in this instance take the high road.

  7. I enjoy Europe in January and am currently finishing up a two week trip (Spain & Portugal). My goal is to improve the chance for better weather.

  8. I love the little delft houses, and the crew are always great. Sadly, the catering, especially ex-US, leaves very much to be desired. Second meal service never has a vegetarian option, and best I can tell, all special meals are the same: a salt-free, bland pile of sad, overcooked vegetables with half-ripe fruit for “dessert.” On the other hand, the only thing worse than flying into or out of CDG is connecting there, so KLM it is.

  9. On pur trip to Amsterdam, we stayed st the Amsterdam Marriott, which was walking distance to the Van Gogh museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Heineken brewery.
    Highly recommend dur to location!

  10. That Chase Sapphire Terrace is such a disgrace. The vending machines are almost always empty in my experience, in the summer it’s way too hot to be outside (which is 90% of the available space), there’s only a single WC without any kind of amenities, and the location on the extreme eastern end of the airport means a long walk if you’re not on DL. Oh, and it’s not open before 10AM which means that when it *would* be most usable during 70% of the year that you can’t take advantage of it.

    The staff is friendly and they try, but it’s gotta be the worst premium lounge in the industry.

  11. I love AMS. Was there in Oct and heading back tomorrow. Also going to drop into Antwerp for a couple of days and visit The Hague(the Escher museum is great), Lieden & Haarlem.

  12. Gary – headed to AMS in March with our 5 year old. Curious where you stayed / what you did. Will you post at least about hotel setup? Thanks!

  13. I love love LOVE Amsterdam!!!!

    I was debating a trip to Paris or a trip to Amsterdam. As a well bred, respectful traveler who has never been to either city, I googled etiquette in Paris:

    1) always say bonjour and au revoir (which I cannot even pronounce)
    2) don’t eat while walking
    3) restaurant servers might be snobs (but they do make a pre-tip living wage…)
    4) don’t speak english (which is my 2nd language, now you want me to learn a 3rd just to tour your city?)
    5) the bus drivers might be rude
    6) the carrefour grocery cashiers might be rude
    7) everybody might be rude

    ooooookay. Then I googled etiquette in Amsterdam

    1) it is hard to be rude in Amsterdam

    So I went to Amsterdam and had a blast. I spoke no Dutch. Everybody was polite.

  14. @evan – stay report coming up! Hyatt Regency Amsterdam using confirmed suite upgrade (Andaz was available also but their standard suites are smaller)

  15. I was in Austin a couple of weeks Flying First on AA to DFW.

    Surprised First on domestic flights didn’t give Lounge Access. (So much for us poor Europeans expectations!)

    So I took the Long March down to the Chase Lounge, and when I saw the vending machines my food expectancies were set to zero, but was pleasantly surprised at the cold, fresh healthy salads.

    Returning to Europe on BA first ( incredibly low cost upgrade when booking) I give high marks to the AA Flagship lounge in MIA.

    If I fly on SkyTeam, I like many others, avoid CDG. It is staffed by “shrug my shoulders” folks who do nothing to make the airport run efficiently, while the AF on board service is fine.

    Have done the KLM SFO-AMS 787 and like you write, it is a solid pleasant product with slightly cramped biz seats.

  16. @ Dignity

    I’m glad you enjoyed Amsterdam. I like it, too. But I like Paris more, even though I’m far better at reading French than speaking it. Pluck up your courage and don’t believe everything you read about Parisians being rude.
    I’ll bet you have a cell phone. Download a translation app that will render your English in acceptable French and brave the Gallic world. You’ll be richly rewarded: there are only so many Nederlandish and Van Gogh masterworks a person can see, and Paris has the Louvre and the Jeu de Palme with all those magnificent Impressionists. Besides, the French eat far more interesting food than the Dutch, even in cosmopolitan Amsterdam. To my mind, Amsterdam surpasses Paris in its orchestral music; for the Concertgebouw play in Amsterdam. On the other hand, Paris has two opera houses and stages operas with wonderful casts.

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