Tuesday, 27 June 2017

UAE: KLM Giving More Luxury

When travelling in business class on a non-Gulf carrier, it makes sense to judge the service for what it is rather than what it is not. In that light a recent trip on KLM’s business class - from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport - was pleasant, if not luxurious. It gave a feeling of being provided for, though not pampered. And that’s enough.

For many travellers, flying KLM to Amsterdam also has the advantage of connections to other KLM destinations. On my flight, the list showing passengers’ quick connections included the oil cities of Aberdeen and Stavanger. And if you are in business, this transfer will always be smoother: you’re first off the plane and have dedicated baggage screening.

My flight left Abu Dhabi on time at 2am. The business cabin had 18 seats in a 2-2-2 formation, and every one was occupied.

All I wanted was to sleep and the airline understands this. A welcome-aboard beverage, a slice of Beemster cheese with candied ginger, then take-off and dim go the lights. I recline my seat - not quite fully flat on the A330-200 but pretty close - the cabin attendant brings me a blanket and a pillow and I slumber until central Europe.

Morning comes, the lights are softly raised, I sit up and the attendant asks what I would like for breakfast. She sets out the linen, serves the food, pours me tea and I watch an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The food was fresh without being too cold. The fruit came in a Delft-style ceramic dish, blue and white, quite nice.

All in all, a smooth flight. Not the lap of luxury but comfortable and brisk.

And let me add a last word here about the attendant. She was middle-aged, like me. I prefer attendants with experience. It’s good to know that if there is a problem, you are in a veteran pair of hands. I don’t get this feeling when all the attendants are 25 and spend half their time gabbing with one another. But maybe that’s just me.

Rob McKenzie offers more insight into his business flight on KLM:

What are the UAE flight times?

KLM flies non-stop from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam daily at 2am, arriving at 7.10am; return flights leave Amsterdam for Abu Dhabi at 11.20am, arriving 8.05pm. From Dubai to Amsterdam departure is at 12.50am, arriving 6am; return flights leave Amsterdam at 2.25pm, arriving 10.55pm.

And prices?

They vary, of course but a search for weekday flights on KLM’s website resulted in business class return fares of €4,611 (Dh18,880) from Abu Dhabi and €3,922 from Dubai. The fare includes transport to and from the airport by a limo; in my case the car was a very comfortable Audi.

How was the lounge at Amsterdam?

Crown Lounge 52 is airy and naturally lit with lots of big comfy chairs. The lounge has showers; I waited two hours for an opening but it was worth it. The further back you go in the lounge, the sunnier and quieter it gets. The lounge is being renovated, with completion to come in phases in 2018 and 2019.

If I have a longish stopover, should I pop into Amsterdam?

It’s certainly tempting. I had a seven-hour stopover on the way back. My plane pulled up to the gate at 7.24am. By 8.30am I had been through customs, obtained guidance from an information officer, withdrawn euros from an ATM, boarded the number 197 bus to the city and was stepping out in front of the Rijksmuseum. Reversing the process was more laborious, but in the end what will I remember more: seeing Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and Vermeer’s Milkmaid, or standing in a passport queue for 20 minutes?