KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) KL 407
Amsterdam – Astana (AMS – TSE)
Departure : 14:55 Actual Departure : 15:01
Arrival : 00:35 Actual Arrival : 00:25
Duration : 5 hours 40 minutes Actual Duration : 5 hours 24 minutes
Aircraft : Airbus A330-200
Registration # : PH-AOM
Seat # : 37 A (initially was 31 A)
Friday, 2 September 2016
I flew KLM for the first time this September (2016). In fact, within a span of just one month (September – October), I had not one, not two, but 6 flights in total with this airline! And here is my first ever review of a KLM flight.
Generally I’m not a fan of European airlines. Especially because their service is not as great as the big ME3 (Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways) or even as leading Asia-pacifican carriers like Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, or Qantas. And for intra-european short haul flights, it’s best not to mention anything about those European carriers because honestly, there isn’t much interesting stuff to mention really. But I do want to fly some long-haul routes with leading European carriers such as Lufthansa, KLM, British Airways, Swiss etc. Because I want to try out their products and services to review them later on my blog 😉 Plus it would give me a chance to compare airlines from different parts of the world!
So I took the opportunity to fly to Astana with KLM. The airline has just recently launched this new route on May 2016. On 2nd September 2016, I flew into Amsterdam from Hamburg onboard KLM’s Boeing 737-700 and I had a tight 1-hour transfer at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport for my next flight to Kazakhstan. Transferring at Amsterdam can be really annoying, chaotic, and exhausting due to passport control between Schengen and non-Schengen flights. And each of the passport control queues can be several hundred meters long… it took me about 25 minutes to pass through immigration and to my gate for the next flight.
I reached the gate at 14:15, still plenty of time left until the gate closing time. But at the gate area it was quite empty, so that meant that boarding must have begun about 15-20 mins earlier. Nevertheless I was glad to make it on-time. The Airbus A330-200 was already waiting for me outside. I entered through the second gate/door (first one is for first/business class passengers).
Upon presenting my boarding pass at the door, I went through the right-side-aisle towards my seat. Before heading towards the economy cabin, I took a picture of the business class – which didn’t look like a modern business class.
There are two different seats on KLM’s economy class – Economy Comfort and just Economy. The only difference is that Economy Comfort seats have more legroom. These seats are ‘marked’ by some sort of overhead ‘divider’. I didn’t want to pay extra for those ‘comfort’ seats so I had a regular economy seat. Plus it wasn’t really much of a difference for me.
I chose my seat already before during booking and it was 31 A. But wow, when I arrived at 31A, a young woman was already seating there with her… no idea who he was. I told her that it was my seat and she requested me whether we could switch between her seat and mine. Her seat was also a window seat 6 rows behind (37 A). I asked whether she was traveling together with the guy next to her. She said that they just met at the airport and apparently seemed to be getting along well 🙄 As someone who is usually kind, I didn’t want to be the asshole at this stage so I politely said it was fine and moved myself to 37 A.
Although the seat had basic amenities like pillow and soft blanket, it took me a while to realize that its an older kind of economy seat. By that I mean it wasn’t one of those modern slimline economy seats. Plus I shouldn’t be so surprised after seeing the business class anyway. Later on I google about the aircraft and found out that it’s age was a bit over 6 years, which wasn’t too old neither too new.
I settled down on my seat and got quickly acquainted with my seat neighbor. But what disappointed me more was the IFE screen in front of me. It was probably 9-inch small, definitely not HD, and not very user friendly. But at least there was a USB port…
Then I realized there was no (remote) controller around the screen area until I noticed the old school system of it being latched inside the armrest. Headsets were also absent, but I assumed that they were distributed after take off. Now that I settled down on the seat I took a moment to observe the cabin. The interior looked rather old school and poor. Seriously, many economy class cabins nowadays don’t have such appearance! And KLM weirdly has each cabin class written on the bulkheads 😕
Boarding was done in about 30 minutes and the flight was fairly full. I’d say about 90% occupancy and among Kazakhs and Russians, there were passengers of several other nationalities. The captain then announced that our flight would take 5 hours 15 minutes among other information.
Pushback started at exactly 15:01 and it took around 14 minutes of taxi to the runway for departure. By 15:15 local time, the A330-200 was airborne and on its way to Astana.
Seatbelt signs were turned off just 7 minutes into takeoff. I was wondering whether they hand out menus for the meals they serve. There was also no ‘refreshing/hot towel’ service on the ground before takeoff. I got my answer as soon as I started to browse the movie and entertainment selections on the IFE. They apparently had the meal menu on the screen and no, I didn’t like that. But what was worse about the IFE system was that it actually lacked an airshow or flight map! Like seriously wtf?! Which in-flight entertainment system comes without flight map or airshow?! That really disappointed me. I prefer to know where our current position is during the flight.
We were distributed headsets about 15 minutes into the flight. The headsets were not your everyday typical ones, but rather weird looking ones which you could fold and makes it really uncomfortable to wear and fit on your ears. The movie selection had quite a few latest releases, though nothing of my taste. So I settled in for a 2011 movie ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’.
30 mins after takeoff, the snack & drink service started. Every economy passengers get a small pack of salted nuts and a choice of drink. I chose the apple juice, and this is when they also hand out refreshing towels.
Btw, despite being old fashioned, the seats were rather comfortable. Although the recline function works only backwards.
Lunch service started about an hour 20 mins into the flight. I’ve mentioned earlier that the meal choices (menu) are displayed on the screen instead of traditional paperback. But what was even more strange was that they actually announce the meal choices over P.A. to the whole cabin! I guess it’s because not everyone might notice the menu on the screen and therefore would have no idea what’s being served. Seriously, paperback menus are definitely the way to go!
I chose the chicken menu and this is how my meal looked like.
Despite the letdowns so far, I was quite surprised by the meal! It was seriously delicious and quite unexpected on a European carrier! The bread roll was warm and crispy. The tropical salad appetizer had a sweet and spicy mixed taste to it – which is not really my type. But the chicken was just fantastic – soft and tender! The finishing with the dessert was the best part, which tasted heavenly! Overall it was a truly great lunch which I finished in about 40 minutes. Also, I find it great that KLM actually serves a water bottle instead of a small cup or glass of water.
At this point, we were probably somewhere over Russia and evening was almost upon us. I took a stroll throughout the economy cabin.
When flying into Kazakhstan, you will be given immigration/landing forms to fill up. This form you have to present to the immigration officer after your arrival. The landing forms were handed out about 2 hours 25 minutes into the flight.
As evening arrived, I captured some beautiful views outside!
I finished watching the movie about 3 hours after we took off from Amsterdam. There were still 2 hours 14 mins until arrival. Hot snacks were served around an hour before arrival, and I chose the Cinnamon Roll (forgot to take a picture sorry!) but it was also very tasty! In the meantime, I watched some ‘cockpit videos’ on the IFE. These are some interesting and informative videos about how planes take off, fly, land etc.. you can also find them on YouTube. They are published by KLM.
We started our descend about 28 mins before landing. It was a very smooth flight with almost zero turbulence! So in that way, the flight was actually quite pleasant. At exactly 25 minutes past midnight in local Astana time, we landed and after a brief 7 minutes taxi, we arrived at our gate next to a LOT Polish Airlines’ Boeing 737. It was a charter flight used by the Polish national football team who arrived in Astana for a FIFA Qualifying match that weekend against Kazakhstan. The match ended in a 2-2 draw thankfully 😉
To Sum Up
So let’s see, the best part of this flight was its smoothness and the food! It wasn’t really a long flight so I didn’t feel uncomfortable or anything. Plus the cabin crew were quite friendly and helpful!
Otherwise, the aircraft’s old seats, interior products, and in-flight entertainment system was really disappointing! I am not sure how long KLM plans to keep these A330-200s in its fleet, but if they will stay around for long time, then KLM really needs to upgrade the interior! They need to fit in slimline seats with modern HD ife screens, which are available on their Boeing 787s. They need to get rid of those crappy headsets and provide proper headsets like in Emirates for example. And they need to handout paperback meal menus as well as refreshing hot towels before departure!