Report #3: KL835 - my first proper J flight experience
This trip report will be my report on flying KLM business class from Singapore SIN to Denpasar DPS, an international flight within SE Asia and a fifth freedom route continuing from Amsterdam AMS, on board their Boeing 777-300ER For trip report on the return flight from DPS to SIN, please check it out here.
A few months earlier, my parents suggested to have a family holiday at Bali. However, due to the briefing I needed to attend for my upcoming internship, I would need to fly from SIN directly to DPS instead of going from home together with my parents. Since end of December is expected to be a holiday season, the ticket price of economy class flights on that period would reach around S$300 (US$210) or more roundtrip, even on a LCC. With KL offering a relatively good bargain at around S$550 (US$380) roundtrip in business class with lie-flat seats, I then opted to choose that. While economy class ticket prices can be significantly cheaper on off-peak season, the high price of economy class for this occasion eased me to justify the added premium.
Departure to airport and check-in at SIN
I went to the airport by car, so on my way I had the chance to see SJN's famous control tower.
On arriving at T1, I got to see quite a large crowd waiting near the check-in area, which would be otherwise unusual at T2 or T3. Even though it feels a bit uncomfortable for me, I presume it must be more due to its age and the fact that T1 is occupied by 2 large LCC groups (AirAsia and Jetstar), so I'm quite hoping for T4 to open soon to reduce the crowd from AirAsia passengers (including myself should I fly to JOG).
AF/KL operates at row 12 and the row boasts several self check-in machines, which are mostly left unused since passengers need to have their self check-in boarding passes (on web and on kiosk) verified at the manned check-in counters, rendering it useless except for selecting seat. Since I was flying business class, web check-in was also almost useless since seat selection can be done almost anytime (including on booking) free of charge.
On this flight, AF/KL's counters were closed on 14.05 to 14.35, which was quite inconvenient as I needed to wait without any alternative check-in options (Air France-KLM uses dnata for their ground handling, while only SATS provide premium check-in lounge for airlines it cater).
Check-in was afterwards a rather slow affair even on the Sky Priority area (slightly above 5 mins from when I started queuing to my exit from check-in area) as there was a couple having excess luggage issue. From the business class image I believe KLM tried to upsell customers in economy class, although it was quite subtle. Since it was Christmas season, stick candies were given to each passenger upon check-in.
Immigration was a breeze with close to no queue on manned counters and no queue on autogates, and since I am in Singapore on long term visit pass I opted for the autogate as usual, which took me less than 1 minute.
Lounge test #1: dnata lounge
After I passed the immigration, I went to the duty free store to claim the free gift offer from a whisky brand, although it was by then out of supply. Instead, I went for a small gin and tonic drink as part of a promotion, and also had the chance to sample some of the whiskies on offer at the duty free store.
I then proceeded to the dnata lounge upstairs, and with a scan of the boarding pass I was let in. While I had close to no expectation of the lounge, I still had a hope to be able to work there as I had a deliverable due for submission.
Some self-serve alcoholic drinks and coffee served by barista or self-serve were on offer.
Quick meal options included some wraps, sandwiches, pastries, and "fresh" orange juice (since I don't know when they actually squeeze it)
More substantial offers included chicken rice (with a rather dry chicken, almost unforgivable for a purportedly local offering), satay, dim sum, and braised beef. These offering remained the same when I visited the lounge on arrival, except for the missing chicken rice (post coming soon). The foods tasted quite bland and didn't seem worthy of business class. If you prefer a more localized offering, I would strongly suggest you to have a meal at T1 staff canteen on public area, which is also open for public and reasonably priced (take the lift from 2nd floor to B1).
Since there was a barista at the lounge, I opted for a cup of cappuccino, provided by Hudsons Coffee.
Self-serve beverages area at the far end of the lounge with the same beverage options as the one at the main buffet area.
A quick meal before I started working on the deliverable. Not the most palatable since I found it just edible (even I put a meh remark of the food), but at least the coffee offering helped a bit. The only other upside I could see was that there was a dedicated lounge cleaner coming around to remove the empty plates, which helped me to clear my space.
The lounge seating area, while reasonably comfortable and features universal plug (necessary since my laptop charger uses 3-pin plug while my phone charger uses 2-pin plug), have quite a poor lighting and are not too well-suited for working. The overly dim lighting was behind where I took the photograph, so it may not be nearly as evident.
I then proceeded with a quick shower, but the lounge staff who provided me the towel doesn't seem to be that friendly. Generic soap and shampoo were put on dispensers, which felt a bit cheap. Otherwise, it was quite an uneventful shower, and I proceeded to continue with my works afterwards.
When it was quite near to boarding time and that I would have no time sampling cocktail from the Long Bar by Raffles at T3 (see the brief review here), I went to the perfume shop for a while and proceeded straight to gate.
SIN transit area and departure
But first, a unique view: AB A319 (OE-LND) flying all the way to Singapore SIN? No, since apparently she's flying for PG.
Walking to gate. Glad KLM got gate D44 for this flight, which is quite near from the main retail area (and the lounge).
A surprise awaited me near the gate: the security was quite crowded as security was done at the gates and people from AMS continuing to DPS needed to disembark and clear security again. At least they have a separate queue for Sky Priority which was still a bit long, but otherwise queuing together with the rest would be a painful affair for me due to the sheer length as shown at the background on the second photo. At least they didn't conduct enhanced security screening equivalent to flights to Australia/US, but I can still see the opportunity to open the gate a bit earlier to reduce crowd from people originating in SIN. This may explain the reason behind the close to 30 mins delay on departure and arrival.
Gates at SIN are enclosed since security is done at the gate, and for this flight a small area was reserved for priority boarding (i.e. families with infants and Sky Priority) which was guarded. However, the location was unsuitable for taking photos of the plane, so I needed to move outside of the area a few times.
This is the 77W which would bring me to DPS: Sian Ka'an National Park (PH-BVC). When the photos were taken, she was being loaded with cargo.
The gate itself features several self-boarding gates, although they were unused at this time.
BA' A380 (G-XLEA) beside us: how long has it been since its exterior was cleaned? Quite a sight as well, since there are not that many airline flying A380 to SIN besides SQ.
Boarding was soon announced, and it seems to be pretty well-organized.
As soon as I boarded the plane, I was welcomed by the flight attendants. I can say that the flight attendants serving business class for this flight (and the return flight as well) seemed to be quite senior, at least compared to the faces I would usually encounter on board Asian airlines.
A quite blurry photo of the business class cabin from the aisle.
My seat and the almost mandatory legroom shot. The IFE was available from gate to gate.
The foot cubby was quite narrow, and beware: it doesn't matter whether you're in aisle seat or window seat as I learned the hard way on the return flight since there isn't that much fuselage curvature on 777 planes, at least comparing with 744's upper deck.
Later on, welcome drink was served. I opted for the champagne, which was Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve. Its bubbles were quite fine it may seemed like yet another fizzy drink, but it was a reasonably good start for the flight.
Before taxiing, I took some photos of the tired-looking wallpaper and the carpet claimed to be made with old flight attendants' uniform.
One thing I appreciated was that smaller electronic gadgets were allowed from gate to gate while some other airlines may require all devices to be turned off on take-off and landing, so I was able to document some of the views I saw during taxi and climb, including AF 77W (it must be quite crowded back in row 12!) and NH's 50th 787. Here are some of the photos:
Menu was distributed, featuring meals designed by Farah Quinn. Following are the menu for the flight:
Hot towel was provided. Afterwards, the table cloth was put on the table. The same design as the menu cover appeared again, only this time more subtly.
As this was a rather short flight, the meal was served on a single tray with two choices of main course (I opted for the chicken) and fixed appetizer and dessert. When the meal was taken from the tray, the flight attendant simply removed the aluminium foil cover from the main course right before serving the meal. It feels a bit on the cheaper side, although I don't think they have much room for a more elaborate setting. The tuna searing was on the drier side although still tasted acceptable, while the mango was acceptable. The chicken with fried rice meal seemed not too much to my liking with the purportedly grilled chicken comes more as par-fried fried chicken, acceptable fried rice, and long beans which don't look fresh. Dessert was apparently better with the klappertaart reminding me of the one found in Manado, though felt a bit different without the coconut chunks. On overall, it was a quite acceptable meal for short-haul business class.
The same design by Marcel Wanders appeared again on the tray cloth and cutlery. It was quite fun seeing KLM takes the same design to many items for dining.
I opted for the Flying Dutchman cocktail to accompany the meal. I would love to try some of the wines to accompany each dishes, although since the meal was presented all at once I didn't think it would be highly possible. It was quite refreshing with slightly sour taste. Good for starting meal, but not too good as a pairing.
After the meal service ended, pralines were offered, so I asked for the dessert wine to accompany it. I found the dessert wine to be quite good to match the praline with its fruity taste.
I then proceeded to continue with my work again. The table was able to accommodate my 15.6" laptop fairly well, a nice move from having myself barely able to move while using my laptop back in economy class.
Delft Blue was provided, since even though the flight was only less than 3 hours, it was still classified as World Business Class, one of the main supporting reasons to take this flight. For this flight, I chose the Delft Blue number 11 (which unfortunately I misplaced later on, so I could not take a better photo of it). When I asked the flight attendant, however, there was no amenity kit offered for such short flight, but she offered me an older generation amenity kit. Since the flight is marked as WBC, KLM may as well provide amenity kits together with the Delft Blue.
Some more photos of KLM's business class took earlier:
The flight was fine most of the time, although nearing Bali we encountered some slight turbulence. Due to strong wind at Bali, the arrival was slightly delayed. Photo of the approach:
I soon arrived at Denpasar DPS and bid farewell to the crew.
Arrival at DPS
DPS was apparently very heavy on tourists unlike even JOG since there was quite a queue on the manned counters for foreign passports. As I have registered my passport to use Indonesian autogate (registration needed for Indonesian MRP holders), I went to the empty autogates at the left end of the immigration area and went off in less than 1 minute as well. In Indonesian airports, autogates are still only available at CGK and DPS. The immigration hall is apparently quite huge, but seem to me more of a waste of space since it can otherwise be optimized for retail (note that in Indonesia there is still no duty free shop available at arrival area).
FIDS after the immigration. Notice the SJ1*** flights, which presumably were charter flights since I didn't think the flights were bookable on website.
Baggage claim took a while, although priority bags still managed to arrive first. As the carousel was slanted and loaded from the centre, the sound of bags falling into place may spell some fear to those bringing fragile items.
I then went out of the baggage claim area and found a crowded pick-up area. The airport layout forced me to pass through duty paid store, and among the items sold there I found Moet NV champagne which was priced at more than US$100, which to say the least was borderline extortion (but note that Indonesian customs only allows 1 L of alcoholic beverages per person regardless of type, which isn't that much)
Due to late arrival, somehow the driver supposed to pick me up to the hotel (provided free of charge by the hotel even though my stay at the hotel costed less than US$30 per night) went missing, and I needed to wait for around 30 minutes due to the crowded airport. The public area after arrival was quite crowded since there were a lot of flights arriving at that time.
My bag with KL's priority tag
Dnata Lounge - 1
Singapore - SIN
Denpasar - DPS
This flight did not disappoint me too much at the current price point, although there need to be some significant circumstances for me to be able to sample the offering again since I'm not based near DPS. With fully lie-flat seats, acceptable meal and wine offerings, and lounge access (even if it's a contract lounge since lounge access in SIN isn't that cheap), I can say this flight is the second cheapest business class offering on Singapore - Indonesia route after ID's flights to CGK which can be only very slightly more expensive than Garuda Indonesia economy class and also value-wise the best deal.
While the ratings may be a bit on the harsher side, I can see that it was due to the limitations KL has since the flight was from an outstation base. Some details can be improved, but I focus more towards my ability to feel comfortable and stay productive throughout the trip, and also to get easy access to and from the airport.
Some thing done well for the trip: + Reasonable price + Acceptable contract lounge, especially its quietness and coffee + Reasonably good window at Singapore SIN for plane spotting + Terrific hard product (considering the flight length and its competition) + Consistent design found on items for dining + Acceptabe wine and drinks offering, including drinkable champagne + Reasonably good entertainment + Delft Blue even on short flight
Things that can be improved: - Crowd at SIN T1 - Check-in counter opening times - Meals offering at dnata lounge at SIN - Seating at dnata lounge at SIN - Security queue length at SIN - Slightly aged wallpaper at the cabin - Foot cubby size - Crews can be slightly more personable (but it's European airline, so ....) - Onboard meal's taste and choices - Amenity kit provision (though I've asked KLM about it and they said it's provided only during the long-haul segment) - Immigration and baggage claim at DPS - Road access within and around DPS
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