My Unexpected Flight Experience With KLM

I have to be honest, I wasn’t at all looking forward to my flight with Dutch carrier KLM. Although it’d been a while since I last boarded one of those baby-blue planes headed to Amsterdam, I thought I knew what to expect; the same type of service too many European carriers offer. Sadly, that service isn’t the best, especially in Economy when it seems most (but not all) of the airlines are just going through the motions. That’s why I was so very surprised after my experiences with KLM, in both Business and Economy; experiences that may have made me a KLM convert. Maybe.

Business Class

Unlike so many other carriers, KLM has found a way to make last minute upgrades easy and, depending on the flight, not too expensive. US-based airlines are terrible at this and demand a proverbial arm and a leg be given both in frequent flier miles and cash. Upgrades on KLM though can be quite reasonable ($250 for a one-way upgrade to business class as an example) without additional payment of frequent flier miles. It’s a great system and is how I ultimately found myself sitting in the front of the cabin on a flight bound for Amsterdam.

Even in Business Class, my experiences with some European airlines haven’t been great; especially flying from Washington, DC. We don’t usually get the best airplanes and so the Business Class sections tend to be out of date. I was pleasantly surprised though to see that KLM’s A330-300 Business Class service from Washington Dulles International Airport was bright, airy and definitely updated.

The actual flying experience itself wasn’t all that unique, except in a couple of slightly negative ways. The menus passed out looked like they were just taken off of a copier machine – a far cry from the laminated menus nearly every other carrier offers. The amenity kit itself was ok, but lacked a few normal items like lotions and fresheners. The faults I found weren’t great, but just odd. Why not include hand lotion in an amenity kit or provide Business Class menus that don’t look cheap? Easily fixed mistakes and yet they persist.

The in-flight experience was a very pleasant one with lie-flat beds, good food and pleasant cabin crew. One thing that was unexpected was the small treat we all received before landing. Apparently, KLM is famous for its tiny Delft porcelain row houses, which it has been passing out to premium customers for decades. They’re quite the collector’s item and it was a nice little gift to receive. I love when airlines retain their personalities and spirits, even in this world of mergers, fees and hyper-interconnectivity.

The Business Class experience was affordable, relaxing, comfortable and very pleasant – the perfect start to any trip.

KLM airplane

Economy Class

I wasn’t as lucky on the way back and there were no upgrades to be found. That meant I found myself sitting in row 27, not even privileged enough to be in a Premium Economy row. This was the moment when I expected KLM to flail and flounder. It’s one thing to offer great service to Business Class passengers, it’s quite another to offer it to the folks in the back of the plane. But almost immediately I could see that once again, my suppositions would be proven wrong. The flight attendants were smiling and welcoming – an absolute abnormality in modern international aviation – and while the seat certainly wasn’t spacious, it was manageable even for my 6’2” frame.

I’m used to flying in perfectly ok Economy Class sections – nothing new there. But there were several moments during the flight when I was pleasantly surprised; instances that make KLM slightly better than many of their rivals and in the competitive world of aviation, that means something. The main meal was fine, maybe even good, but the real treats came during the snack services. Plural, more than one snack service and while it may seem silly and not important, it’s a nice perk that I’m just not used to in Economy. The first snack was just an ice cream, but came about the same time when my belly started to rumble. The second came in the form of choices – choices! – between a chicken wrap or a cinnamon roll. Other airlines offer snacks, but they don’t always offer choices and what they offer usually isn’t as good as that cinnamon roll I enjoyed.

More than the food or seats, what honestly impressed me the most on both of my flights was the cabin crew. They weren’t rude, dismissive or bored. They smiled, joked, were attentive and seemed to care about their passengers. On my many flights to and from Europe, I can only count a handful of instances when I was that pleased with the service and honestly, service means everything.

So KLM I owe you an apology. I expected the worst. I dreaded the flight and even thought about changing to another airline. But wow, am I glad I was too lazy to make any changes because had I done that, I would’ve missed out on what honestly was a pleasant and enjoyable flying experience.

Have you flown with KLM? What was your experience like?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

12 thoughts on “My Unexpected Flight Experience With KLM”

  1. You should fly Air North in Canada! I flew them for the first time up to the Yukon and was blown away- smiles all the way, a meal (on a 3 hr flight) and, wait for it…FRESH BAKED CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES. Yes, I could smell them baking in the oven behind me!

  2. i’ve flown KLM numerous times and find their service better than most American carriers. I’m flying with them in the new World Business class in a couple weeks to/ from Nairobi & Kilimanjaro. Super excited!

  3. I have used KLM often as it is a partner to Delta and it will be my Amersterdam-Nairobi connector for my trip to Kenya/Tanzania this July. Flying Premium Economy I have found, as you wrote, KLM’s crew to be friendly and helpful and the accomdations fine and am looking forward to flying them again soon.

  4. Well described; KLM is not perfect but does seem to have the human touch; even economy is good, especially if you get one of their newer planes. Another thing that I like about them is that you are not made to feel like a leper for asking for an upgrade, even when one is not available. They are nice and polite, almost sympathetic. Their pay for a late upgrade is a smart business move, why not get those extra dollars for the price of some posher food and an amenities kit, the plane is flying anyway! Regards from Scotland

  5. Dear Matt,
    Thank you very much for sharing your review on KLM.
    I did have the same experience as you. Took KLM for the first time in 9 years (!) on a long-haul flight from Amsterdam to Cuba – and was pleasantly suprised. Great services, nice team and good food. On the way back from Cartagena, Colombia I was able to fly them in the new Dreamliner and again, the flight was perfect.

    Ever since I have been flying KLM to destinations both in America and Asia, not just because of the great inflight experience but also because of Shiphol Airport. In my opinion one of the best airports in the world. What’s your thoughts on this?

    All the best!

  6. Elizabeth A Hedger

    I fly to England a lot
    My best trip was premium economy w klm…lax to Amsterdam…then klm 30 min hopper to Norwich to see family….just awesome.

  7. Chris van Wijngaarden


    Just read here that most flights that people take are from, or to europe from another continent. And it`s great to read that The Oldest airliner in the world, still performs a good service towards it`s Costumers. Me and the family only fly one route and that`s within Europe. It`s the Edinburgh (Scotland) Amsterdam route, mostly every once a year. And i can tell from that experience, that the service on the so called Short Flights are just as good. You even get a Snack and a drink on this 50 minute flight, not many airliners do that on a short run. Leg space is slightly bigger in the Business class then in the Economy section, but , in my opinion, you`re not sitting for that long anyway, so shouldn`t realy be a complain factor. Crew are also awesome on the short flights. One tip, if you`re flying a short flight in Europe, try to get a seat in the last row(back of the plane), you then can get, most of the time, an extra drink or snack if you ask for it. And that on a 50 min flight, i call top Service.


  8. Matt,

    That sounds like a surprisingly great experience with KLM. I am based in the U.S., and have never flown with the airline myself. I totally get your griping about making last-minute upgrades in seating in the U.S. Our carriers could really learn a lot from European ones like KLM. I may just have to give them a try in the future!


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