Flt KL 642 Dep. JFK 6:00pm, Arr. AMS 7:15am, Boeing 777, Economy Comfort
Flt KL 1363 Dep. AMS 10:05am, Arr. WAW 11:45am, Boeing 737, Economy
KLM flights operate out of JFK’s Terminal 4, which accommodates a potpourri of international airlines, Virgin America, and random Delta flights, including my flight last month to San Juan. It will also become Delta’s main terminal, replacing Terminal 3, and is currently under significant construction for expansion. (Although I still think it would make a lot more sense to co-locate alliance partners. Right now, most SkyTeam characters are in Terminal 1, including Air France, Aeromexico, and Alitalia. Terminal 1 also has Star Members Lufthansa and Austrian. Terminal 4 has OneWorld members LAN and El Al. It’s just all over the place.)
The facility at Terminal 4 is after security is actually quite lovely. But security itself is poorly designed as there are only 2 lines- one for elite, and one for general passengers, that somehow snakes into 4 lines with no easy feeding mechanism.
The other downside of Terminal 4 is that all of the lounges are pre-security. As a Delta Gold Medallion, I had access to the “Oasis” lounge, formerly the KLM lounge. The last time I used the lounge I had a negative experience, as it was early in the morning and a ghost-town- service wise and customer wise. This time was very different, although the lounge employees were not friendly at all – typical of contract lounge employees in my experience. The lounge was fairly crowded and there was a whole range of hot and cold food being served. And most importantly, self-pour booze- essential before a red eye flight. The food wasn’t all that great- chicken meatballs, some breaded chicken cutlets, and a variety of salads. But there were also a variety of packaged snacks (chips, cookies, etc.) which maybe would easily fit in your carryon bag. 😉
Before I’d even finished my second Finlandia Vodka and Diet Coke, an announcement was made for my flight, and that passengers should approach the reception desk in order to be “escorted to the checkpoint.” For future knowledge, I would have just gone myself, as it took us longer to travel in a group to the regular Sky Priority security lane than it would have for me to walk myself. Also learned, El Al flyers are not the best to go through security with.
By the time I got through, general boarding had already started. I made a quick pitstop and then boarded in the front “Economy Comfort” cabin. It’s very difficult to make seat reservations on Delta.com when flying KLM metal, and my assignments were frequently coming and going. On KLM.com, I didn’t have access to any preferred seating, and KLM was offering me the option to buy into Economy Comfort for $110. The day prior to check-in, though, Delta.com reflected I could book an Economy Comfort seat for $56 – which reflects a 50% discount for Gold Medallions.
The thing I noticed upon boarding was the overabundance of blue. Blue seats, blue carpets, blue FA uniforms, blue walls, blue blankets. I settled into my seat fine, until an overaggressive recliner in front of me fully, and suddenly, reclined her seat, almost crushing my netbook. Now, I understand it’s a redeye flight, but this was before boarding even finished. For most of boarding, the two seats next to me remained empty, and I waited with bated breath hoping they would stay that way, because I knew this aggressive recliner, who was about 5’3, would be back.
The gate agent came by to the gentleman in the middle seat in front of me and said, “Mr. X, we noticed you were a Diamond elite so we wanted to offer you an aisle seat that’s opened up.” He was directed to an aisle seat in the middle section of the 3 x 3 x 3 cabin. As boarding continued, and two seats in my row remained empty, Mr. Diamond chose to relocate to the aisle seat in my row. The purser politely came over and explained that the seat was taken. Mr. Diamond did not like this, and grudgingly moved back to the first aisle seat he had been given, and then proceeded to tell everyone in Economy Comfort, and the FAs, “They made me move. And I’m Diamond!” Classic DYKWIA (“Do you know who I am?”)
About 5 minutes prior to wheels up, a douchebag came to my row and sat in the aforementioned aisle seat. He was a douchebag for several reasons, but I recognized him right away as the guy who had been in the lounge talking very loudly nearly two hours earlier. Rather than even try to fit his two carryons in a bin, he just placed them in front of the empty middle seat, cramping my legroom (a FA did eventually take one). He also insisted on staying on his Iphone speaking a mix of Dutch and English well after the power down notices. As we waited on the runway line, he grew impatient, and the Iphone came out again. Grumble.
Overall I was satisfied with the inflight service. It wasn’t KLM’s fault, but the aggressive recliner in front of me kept reclining and unreclining her seat fully. With the seat fully reclined, I was unable to watch the personal entertainment system at all.
Shortly after takeoff, the flight attendants came by with a beverage service, including complimentary wine and Heineken, natch, and packets of almonds. Later, this was followed by hot (disposable) towels – a nice touch in coach. Dinner service followed, with a choice of vegetarian pasta or beef. The food was fine, though small portionwise. I’m not sure what it was, but generic beef in brown sauce with mashed potatoes and frozen vegetables. It came with a small chicken Caesar salad, cheese and crackers, and a tasty cake.
After dinner, I was ready to sleep. The cabin lights were never dimmed, which I found unusual. But I had planned ahead and brought eyeshades. I woke up over Ireland, just in time for breakfast service, consisting of a blueberry muffin, yogurt, and juice. And then we were on the ground.
After a shlep through Schiphol and clearing immigration and security, I made my way to the KLM lounge, which was pretty crowded, mostly with business men. I definitely felt that I was in Amsterdam given the number of men drinking beer at 7:30 am. Upon entering, I put my name on the waiting list for a shower. Halfway through my cup of coffee, I was paged and given a shower key. The showers were nowhere near as nice as those in the SkyTeam lounge in Heathrow, and I couldn’t figure out how to work them, but it was still refreshing.
After indulging in the adequate continental breakfast spread and a mimosa, I did some email catchup and, and then it was off to Warsaw.
When I checked in in New York, my Warsaw boarding pass had shown up with a seat assignment in row 5. On the seat maps on KLM.com, as well as on Seatguru.com, Row 5 appears as Business class. After some investigation on Flyer Talk I learned that on intra-European flights, KLM often will adjust its business class partition depending on how many business seats are actually sold. (Intra-European business class is the same seats as coach, with a little more legroom and the middle seat blocked out.) Sure enough, when I boarded, Row 5 was in the second row of Coach, but with the legroom of business class and in-seat power. And I had an entire row to myself. So the only difference was I didn’t get the business class meal. Fine for a midmorning flight
Of the fifteen seats in business class, a grand total of two seats were taken, making the theatrics of closing the curtain kind of entertaining. I also saw the purser wheel out the full beverage cart to serve the two customers. Since the purser had extra time on his hand, he came into coach to welcome me as an Elite flyer and shake my hand. A nice touch. (I apparently was one of only two elites on board. An upgrade would have been nice :). )
The economy snack was two sandwiches, one egg salad and one mystery meat. I picked. Afterwards, the Flight Attendant came around with stroopwaffel cookies and a second beverage service. We were soon landing, and I was soon in a taxi to the Intercontinental . . .