The first volley of a whirlwind RTW trip begins with KLM flying the queen of the skies, their 747-400. The ensuing journey:
Planning for this trip began back in 2017 when the schedule opened for reward tickets to be used in August 2018. The destination was Australia. I was waiting for a specific flight going west to Australia to become available when the schedule hit 331 days out. At that time Qatar had just introduced their Q-Suite business class seat. It was only flown on Paris and London routes to Doha. On a whim I searched for CDG to Sydney. Bingo, Q-Suites to Doha and A380 service in first class to Sydney. Going east now. The only issue is I had to get to Paris. Enter KLM.
Booking a year out is when many great reward seats are available. In this case I had the choice of flying KLM in their 747 or Air France in their A330. Easy. However a year is a long time to wait for this...
Chicago's O'Hare International Terminal 5 is not known for outstanding lounges. I've been in the Swiss lounge and it's nothing to get to the airport early for. Today's lounge was the Skyteam lounge next to gate 9 and Swiss wins that battle hands down.
Narrow, crowded, no washrooms and limited food.
I'd rather stand at the gate.
They rent cars in Amsterdam, I think.
With a view of something I will end up riding soon or later, maybe.
My favorite part of any airplane, the nose of a 747.
And when you book a year in advance on a KLM 747 you can select what is really a first class seat, in terms of space and privacy. 4A where you have no one next to you and full access to the aisle.
There are 2 other single seats in a KLM 747, 1A and 4C which is very nice as well, assuming you don't mind the galley activity and no window.
1A would be a nice snag as well. Everyone else in business class, including the upper deck, are configured 2x2.
Here's the TV for 4B.
Prior to flying KLM I didn't like the pictures of their cabins. Once inside they are attractive, clean and pleasing.
Separating business class from economy are 2 lavatories for business class use only.
A stock 747 Lav without a whole lot in amenities.
KLM has the galley similar to Thai's 747 (and probably others) where it's set alongside the starboard side of the aircraft in front of forward doors.
Since you got a sneak peak of the amenity kits in the prior photo, let's take a closer look.
The contents, which were basic, i.e. eyemask, toothbrush, etc., got tossed but I lugged the kit around the world, not sure why.
The first of many nuts and champagne too.
For unknown reasons, as I certainly can't blame it on lack of sleep an hour into this marathon, I didn't snap a photo of the champagne being served. But the Le Grand Verdus Bordeaux was a useful wine at 36,000 feet at a cost of $12 on the ground.
The food menu was adequate and surprisingly specific for this flight, at least in terms of menu identification.
When ordering the flight attendant offered a cup of saffron carrot soup to go with the seared tuna selection. How could I say no!
Boy was it good too!
And the appetizer was not to be outdone by the soup. It was beautifully presented, colorful and tasty. The tuna was fresh, the roasted peppers were perfect and the chili aioli gave the dish a huge kick. Delicious.
While small, the salad was fresh which is all that really matters.
And in case you missed them, how cute. And stealable too!
I ordered the beef shank for my main meal. The concept was great and it was almost really good. But as typical on a plane the meat was a little over done.
But nothing that this couldn't overcome.
Sweets or cheese, hmmm.
Sweets came from a Belgium Callebout chocolate house.
The problem with European flights that leave the US in late afternoon means you are landing in Europe when it's time to go to bed. Translation, no sleep. So I really didn't even try, just made use of their IFE system and my own mobile content.
The IFE screen was large. Much larger than the 777 monitor as shown to the left.
Obviously it wasn't HD but size made up for that and the airshow was good. The remotes with that little ball as a selector can be frustrating, not at times, but all the time.
What's most viewing fun on an overnight evening flight to Europe in the summer?
KLM's World Business Class Seats in all long haul aircraft other than their new 787 are B/E (now Rockwell Collins) Diamond seats. A guess is that this seat is one of the most used seats used in premium cabins by airlines across the world. They are really comfortable seats. The only issue is the design of 2/2 or 2/2/2, unless you snag 4A on KLM's 747.
This seat even has an extra storage area and cup holder.
I'd fly this to Europe anytime.
I do have a complaint with the Diamond seat. And that is where the power outlets and AV connections are placed.
How many times the headset cord has been yanked out of the jack when bending forward is countless for me. And on this aircraft there is another issue. No USB charger. I was SOL until one of the VERY friendly KLM Flight Attendants offered me her personal AC adapter. (Mine was layers away in the carry on bag resting above me.)
KLM has a nice little feature of a nightlight when the cabin lights are dimmed.
Before long it was time for breakfast. While not really hungry, why not? I must admit I wasn't familiar with the term Strada even though 2 of 3 choices were such a thing. But I figured an Apple Pie Strada served warm had to be good. And besides, no airplane eggs please.
In a word, outstanding!
And another example US legacy airlines on how to be a little creative with your fruit presentation.
Only a little over 6 hours going east with tail winds and soon enough the little houses were offered. I took 59.
Reward Ticket Redemption
This ticket was my first reward redemption with Flying Blue and before their 2018 devaluation. Cost was 62,500 points which is reasonable and $248 in fees which is not. But Flying Blue has a steep charge for their own aircraft using points. I found the agents to be friendly albeit strict with rules.
When I booked this flight there was a 1 hour and 5 hour connection on KLM to Paris as well as a flight later in the day. In addition there were a couple Air France flights to Paris in the morning. I was concerned with the 1 hour connection so I asked about the Air France flights. Nope. Had to be KLM. So I took the 5 hour connection. Later on I inquired about changing the AMS-CDG leg to later in the day to see Amsterdam. Yes, for a stiff change fee. Nope. Bottom line very little flexibility.
Carrier: KLM Airlines
Date: August 2018
Route: Chicago - Amsterdam
Flight #: 612
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400 (Combi) Reg# PH-BHT
Configuration: J35 / W436/ Y197
On Time: Yes
Reward Flying Rating: 7.1 out of 10 ✈
✔︎Nose of a 747, enough said.
✔︎Diamond are comfortable and this configuration eliminated the main issue of window seats not have direct aisle access.
Cabin/Seats Rating: 7 out of 10 ✈
✔︎ There wasn't much in the way of amenities. A typical business class amenity kit, standard pillow and blanket.
✔︎Both meals were beautifully presented, dutch plateware and all.
✔︎The food was very good. Great colors, mix of flavors and hearty portions. The only miss was the main dish beef was a little dry and the cheese serving was a little pathetic.
Amenity/Food rating: 7.5 out of 10 ✈
✔︎Larger screen than counterpart 777, decent content too.
✔︎ No wifi
IFE rating: 7.5 out of 10 ✈
✔︎The crew was great. Friendly, smiles and accommodating. Not overly personal, will leave that to the Singapore FAs.
Flight Attendant rating: 7.5 out of 10 ✈
✔︎747-400 Each time I fly the queen I think it might be my last. Maybe the 400 but not the 8i. If the plane wasn't 20 years old I'd give it a 10. However KLM had this one is great condition.
Aircraft rating: 6 out of 10 ✈
My original connection to Paris had a 5 hour layover. But we were a bit early and there was a flight that left about an hour after we arrived. I went to the gate and the super friendly KLM agent got me a seat. It's a 40 minute flight.
This is a plug for the CitizenM hotel at the airport. Obviously I was tired at this point. I arrived at 10AM and was asleep by 10:30AM.
Tiny yes, comfortable bed yes, rainshower yes, cost, $65.00