Beyond The Red Light District: Review Of KLM Business Class, Amsterdam – Austin

After flying from Austin to Amsterdam for the last week of holiday break and spending six nights at the Hyatt Regency Amsterdam last month, it was time to head home.

We arrived at the airport a couple of hours before our flight and proceeded to business class check-in. I saw on my phone that our aircraft had been swapped from a Boeing 787-9 to a -10. It would be a similar product, but we were no longer at the bulkhead of the business class cabin.

We headed through passport control and security and then to KLM’s international (non-Schengen) Crown Lounge. First, signage for finding the lounge is odd: “Airline Lounge 52.” How ’bout just calling it “KLM Business Lounge” or “KLM Crown Lounge.” It would be much clearer.

This lounge, opened in 2019, is enormous. It’s over 70,000 square feet and with more than 1,000 seats. And it’s busy! Even though it’s the lounge for SkyTeam business class passengers and with access for all SkyTeam Elite Plus members flying coach, too, it’s busier than you’d expect given the size.

Food is… ok. It’s about what I expect from a British Airways business lounge, which is to say nothing special, competitive, better than you’d get from American or United domestically. But they have upcharge services in the lounge – a premium paid restaurant called Blue and paid sleep rooms.

The lounge is quite gorgeous for what it is, across multiple levels, and with light woods and nicely done lighting plus Delft Blue house displays. The stairs up to higher levels in the lounge aren’t practical when traveling with luggage, of course.

We only spent about 35 minutes in the lounge before heading out towards our gate. Boarding was delayed slightly without any announcement. But crew was very friendly once we were on board, and I do like the light blue aesthetic of the KLM business class cabin.

The KLM seat, which predates their new suite on Boeing 777s, is about average for a transatlantic carrier – fully flat four abreast with direct aisle access. Since it’s a Boeing 787 with narrower fuselage than you’ll find on a 777 (or equivalent Airbus), seats are a bit narrow. And there’s really very little storage to speak of. My test is whether there’s a place to put your laptop in a compartment, and there’s not here.

Instead of a cabinet, there’s a small open space beside the seat with headphones and bottle of water.

An amenity kit was at each seat. It’s functional, with plenty of items, and decent for business class but still felt a little bit cheap – mostly due to the packaging and the soft-sided kit itself rather than the contents.

Predeparture beverages were offered and I simply had a glass of water, something I’d been denied on British Airways weeks earlier.

Then I went to the lavatory to change for the flight. A short transatlantic in business class I know that the airline doesn’t provide pajamas, so I bring my own airline pajamas – something to get more comfortable in for ten hours.

Back at my seat I perused the menu, though on KLM I’m almost always going to opt for their ‘tasting of delicacies’.

We then took about a 10 minute delay to offload the luggage of passenger who didn’t show up to the gate, and were on our way.

Up in the air I had a Coca-Cola – I drink soda maybe six times a year, and half of those will be Dr. Brown’s sodas – and I really like that KLM offers cheese. I almost always skip nut mix, unless it’s super interesting.

Meal service was done pretty efficiently, which I appreciate most on an overnight flight but I’d rather get the service flow over quickly either way so that I can nestle into a show or get work done uninterrupted.

I appreciate some of the small, unique touches of KLM. It’s not the flashiest business class, but the way they bring their signature Delft Blue Houses throughout the product is nice and the use of consistent blue as well. Their chocolates are even shaped as houses.

The midflight snack setup at the front of the cabin was extremely sparse, but they brought through a warm snack midflight as well.

The pre-arrival meal was quite good (I opted for the poke). In fact, overall I’m really impressed by KLM’s business class meal quality.

To end the flight, crew came around the cabin offering passengers their choice of a Delft Blue House. One benefit of traveling as a part of three is – 3 new Blue Houses to add to the collection!

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 branding value.

We arrived around 20 minutes late. I really like landing off of an international flight in Austin and not having to make a connection. This trip made sense largely because of the non-stop flight. We wouldn’t have picked Amsterdam for the trip without it. KLM is upgauging the flight to a Boeing 777, though personally I’d prefer an increase in frequency above the current three day a week service. I couldn’t ask for more than three saver business class awards on my preferred dates, though.

Customs and immigration in Austin is odd, in that you have to wait for checked bags to arrive before going through immigration. Our bags came out among the last, and my daughter was conditionally-approved for her Global Entry extension. My wife and I didn’t have to do interviews, but presumably they require it for a five year old in order to update her photo (since her last one was as a baby).

While going through Global Entry I asked to do her interview and was pointed to an area to wait. We waited, and waited. I asked how long it would be? And I was told they were clearing the entire next flight before helping anyone looking for a Global Entry interview. A couple more families came over to wait. And wait. I went back and pointed out this is just a renewal for a five year old. They agreed to see us, and we were on our way quickly.

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. Nice, mostly agree with your KLM assessment. Flew the 787-10 yesterday. Was on a Garuda connection from CGK which included the VIPService lounge in AMS. Similar to P/S in the US where they drive you from/to your aircraft and have a private lounge. Can be for either arrival, departure or transfer. Quite nice. Excellent food and of course no crowds. Similar in price to P/S in LAX or ATL, only no member fee.

  2. @ Gary — That is one of my favorite amenity kit bags! I generaly like nicely colored soft bags to carry stuff around in. They are easily crammed into to my overstuffed bag and easy to spot by color. I use this one for my contact lens stuff.

  3. Just now learned theres alcohol in those gift houses, I have a few sitting at home for last 2 years not knowing about that!

  4. I have been on the Amsterdam to Austin KLM flight in first class twice in the past year. Inconsistent service! The first time was amazing, and the second time made me regret flying KLM.
    We originally thought there was not enough time for the lounge, but then the flight boarded about an hour late. We sat on the floor at the gate waiting since there was not enough sitting or standing space.
    The first time we flew with KLM the flight attendants were amazing and checked food and service for our son’s food allergies. The second time, they would not and could not care less.
    They would not accommodate food allergies to egg, nuts or dairy (even when requested in advance) and we had a medical emergency on the flight due to nut allergies exposure since the flight attendants gave misinformation on ingredients. Even their “regular” meal served in first class smelt and tasted like dog food.
    Nonetheless service was so inconsistent and the most recent flight made me reconsider every flying with KLM again, especially since they are significantly raising prices for this flight option.

  5. @Gene

    I agree about the amenity kit. It’s a nice material, has a nice zipper, and looks attractive with that hue of blue. I keep it stocked with mini medical kit items like steri strips and surgical sutures, advil/Benadryl, a pen light, backup earphones and usb c to iPad adapter, back up credit cards, and etc. It replaced my leather This is Ground American amenity kit where I stored the same items when flying. This has more space. I did notice a loose thread in the picture and I had the same thing but nothing a 1 second snip can’t fix.

    The Delta amenity kit on my return flight was fabric but nothing special. I haven’t found use for it yet.

    The House is really special. Little things like that build goodwill and I bet ten thousand each year fly on KLM over cheaper alternatives just to add to their collection. I regret going back on Delta but I booked late and if there was a seat before sold out it was on the old 777 KLM. Thinking about it I wish I had booked that so I could have a second house.

  6. They do have a quiet/sleep room right at the end of the lounge that you don’t pay for. On entry just keep going until you cannot go any further, through the glass doors. There are some nice couches for peace and quiet. Until some idiot gets on their phone.

  7. The story goes that an American multinational wrote KLM that they would not fly the Dutch airline anymore if they would stop handing out Delft Blue houses when they went from 3 to 2 Class configuration. Until then business class travellers received Delft Blue coasters.
    It makes KLM unique. hopefully parent AF realises that its separate brand should be kept separate
    Paul (platinum 4 L)

  8. Gary, great review of the KLM lounge. Can you give more details on the global entry extension process for kids? We’re just past 4 years on ours (2 adults + 4 & 7 year old kids), and I’ve been meaning to research what the process will look like. I was really hoping we wouldn’t have to book another non-trip drive to an airport like we did for the initial sign-up…I recall reading something about online renewals?

  9. @JD – i filled out the online global entry renewal for my daughter just like i did for my wife and myself. Ours were fully approved. My daughter required an interview.

    To take advantage of a remote interview after tentative approval you have to meet 3 criteria, which excluded our 5 year old:
    * Be at least 18 years of age;
    * Have a photo on file with CBP that was taken (1) within the past 10 years, and (2) after the applicant was 14 years of age; and
    * Have previously submitted fingerprints to CBP.

    You can do a walk up interview at Dulles airport without leaving the country now though.

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