The airline with the best average rating is KLM with 7.4/10.
The average flight time is 10 hours and 47 minutes.More information
Every year’s journeys have to begin somewhere, and for me, 2019 starts with a quick “comfy mileage run” from Toronto to Johannesburg and back with KLM.
The comfy mileage run, by my definition, is any mileage run taken pretty much exclusively for the purpose of the journey. If normally, getting there is half the fun, here we’re talking probably more like 80 percent. Beyond that, the comfy mileage run aims to earn as many elite-qualifying and redeemable miles as possible, while flying in a premium cabin, all for as few dollars as possible.
This trip was booked on a cheap Delta “V” economy fare, and upgraded at booking with Global Upgrade Certificates. I get in-depth on how all that worked in the Booking section at the beginning of the YYZ-AMS flight-report, linked in the Rundown below.
… he had just arrived into Amsterdam from Toronto and was looking for a lounge to kill the nearly three hours between his arrival and departure to Johannesburg.
That meant I was in search of a lounge. I had thought I had read that the KLM Crown Lounge 25 was the new flagship lounge, but once I’m on the ground, it becomes apparent that it’s the Schengen lounge, being beyond passport control from where I am.
So I guess we’re off to Crown Lounge 52.
Even though it’s 7:30, there’s a lite outside the lounge waiting for the two agents waiting there to scan them in. This is probably not a good sign. It only takes a minute or two to get a scan, and then I’m headed upstairs to the lounge.
The whole escalator up to the lounge is lined with KLM Delft Blue houses. It’s an impressive sight.
The Crown Lounge is KLM’s new flagship, just re-opened last month in its unique concept. It’s already massive, but it’s a work in progress — the rest of the lounge won’t be open for some months, and then it will be truly enormous.
There is lots of seating, in a variety of formats over two levels, ranging from single recliners to long couches. It’s already busy enough that it’s hard to find a single seat.
The defining feature is this “Dutch Mountain” complex that works its way up from the first floor to the second with many different seating options along the way. It is, of course, quite busy.
A view from the top of the mountain.
Behind the mountain, there’s another example of Delft Blue. This time, it’s tiles of the Delft graphics used in the KLM safety video. I guess they’re justifiably proud of their video.
Continuing along the upper floor, there are a food station and a long bar.
And still more Delft Houses. It’s like KLM has a bunch of these or something.
I set down for a while near the top of the Dutch Mountain, and hop in the WiFi long enough to get caught up with things going on overnight and to post my YYZ-AMS flight-report. Even though the lounge is getting more full by the minute, the WiFi holds up well.
I’m not hungry, but time to take a look at the food offerings. Starting with upstairs.
There are two stations downstairs. The first one is smaller and largely recreates the offerings upstairs.
And then there’s a more extensive section with similar bread and pastries and the like, but also some hot breakfast dishes — bacon, sausage, pancakes, etc.
For those looking to ditch their bags, there’s a long wall of lockers available. I wish I’d discovered these a bit earlier. I would have taken advantage of them.
After I got up to get pics of the food stations, I noticed a little too late that the lounge was ridiculously overpacked. I supposed by this time, all of the overnight longhauls have arrived, and the morning bank of connections have not yet started to go out. Perhaps they’ll be able to manage this when the lounge is completed. But large as it may be in its current form, it is woefully incapable of doing so right now.
We’re less than half an hour from the posted boarding time, and the prospects of finding another seat in here are slim and none. I think it’s time to head on out and find my gate.
I arrive at Gate E9 to find a KLM Asia-branded 777-200ER by the name of Hadrian’s Wall looking ready to go.
I thought I understood the Airline Asia sub-brand existed back in the day when an airline couldn’t actually fly to both China and Taiwan. Given that’s not the case anymore, why does the Asia brand still exist? Although perhaps with the way China is pushing around airlines (and countries, and people, and pretty much everyone) these days, they’re wise not to retire it quite yet, in case we find ourselves sliding back into the “good old days.”
Regardless of all that, it’s somewhat curious that this KLM Asia plane is on its way to South Africa today, no?
Oh well. Boarding starts at about 9:30 with a mad rush as both Sky Priority zones 1 and 2 (Business cabin and assorted elites, respectively) are called at the same time. And away we go.
From: Amsterdam Schipol (AMS)
To: Johannesburg O.R. Tambo (JNB)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER
ATD (STD): 11:04 (10:15)
ATA ( STA): 22:21 (22:05)
For this flight, I’m seated in 2G, the seatmate of my seat on the previous flight. The colour scheme is different on this plane — I’m not sure if that’s a plane-by-plane difference, or if that’s part of the KLM Asia experience.
Once again, the seat is equipped with pillow and blanket. The blanket is fine — it’s light, but the cabin’s kept pretty warm, so it’s not a problem. The pillow, on the other hand, is too small. As I said in the previous flight-report, it’s good enough for a lower backrest, but I could really use a second pillow, and preferably a larger second pillow, for sleeping.
Legroom. Given the choice of these two middle seats, I’d take the D seats — the G seats angle towards the aisle, while the D seats angle away from the aisle. While both seats are pretty exposed, this makes the G seats feel a bit more exposed.
Over-the-shoulder storage, and the only storage you get. Headphone, power, and USB ports are located here, as are the headphones KLM offers. My MacBook 12” fits in here, but just barely, and only when standing on end. In short, the seat really needs more storage. Also, the USB port didn’t work. Fortunately, the power outlet worked.
Seat controls, touchscreen IFE remote, and literature. My screen remote would remain inoperative throughout the flight. Fortunately, the touchscreen IFE worked.
Speaking of which — it’s a good IFE offering. Big, high-resolution, modern interface, and a pretty decent selection of movies and TV. No complaints here.
The footwell on the G side is tiny, and it felt decidedly more restrictive than the D seat footwell, further adding to the “pick D” momentum. The storage underneath the screen is too small to store anything of use, but that’s probably a good thing because anything you put there at the start of the flight will be thrown at your face during takeoff. They could probably put some sort of friction-heavy rubber floor on it.
There’s an interesting difference between KLM’s flight to JNB and just about every other European plane to South Africa I can think of. Everyone else (BA, SA, AF, LX, LH) leaves Europe late at night and arrives into Johannesburg early in the morning. For all of the European airlines, that means their planes stay on the ground at JNB until their evening departure back to Europe. SA, I presume, uses their European planes on shorthauls during the day — I know they use them on some JNB-CPT runs, for example. But given the state of SA today, one can’t presume they’re doing the same thing. KLM, on the other hand, leaves in the late morning, arriving at night, and doing a quick turn to leave less than two hours later, at the end of the late-night rush hour of European flights out of JNB.
Service begins with drinks making the rounds - I grab a glass of champagne, and a glass of water, because I’m feeling like, haven’t taken on enough water since my departure from Toronto.
Here’s a difference in the service between this flight and the flight out of Toronto — a couple of little canapés are offered along with the pre-departure beverage. It’s a little sponge cake and a small mushroom quiche tart. Both are nice little bites and a pleasant surprise. Perhaps these are only offered on flights over a certain length — maybe ten hours?
The headphones unpacked. Again, the quality is pretty good, but the noise cancelling isn’t as potent as my Bose QC35s. I’d use my own pair, but I left the cord to connect them into the IFE system at home. So I have to use theirs to use the IFE. They’re fine for that, but stronger noise cancelling is preferred for sleeping purposes.
IFE is activated gate-to-gate, so I make my first film selection mostly on the history of the two main actors. It’s a decent film, but slow and heavy.
Amenity kits are distributed next — this time it’s brownish denim for the men and blue velvet for the ladies. The contents are the same basic kit as featured on YYZ-AMS.
Up next, menus. The flight attendant handing them out takes a moment to explain to each passenger that lunch will be served after takeoff, and then it’s dine-on-demand for the rest of the flight, with a handful of meal packages available. There’s no scheduled second meal service. Again, note on the last page that this menu appears to be custom-printed for this particular flight on this specific date. No wine menu was given to me on this flight.
We push back just about seven minutes behind schedule as the safety video rolls.
As we were boarding, a bit of a snowstorm started to whip itself up around Schipol, to the point that we end up having to go get the snow taken off at de-icing. This process and the taxi takes about half an hour, and we end up taking off a few minutes after 11:0.
Once we cross 10,000 feet, the flight attendants are quickly up, and service begins with a hot towel. This feels great by this point, as I’m feeling pretty ragged after only a couple of hours of sleep on the Transatlantic flight.
The forward lav, located on my side, is about the same as the one at door 2 on the other side, which I used on the previous flight. Same amenities, same tulip, same Delft House wallpaper.
Drinks are the next order of business, and I again choose champagne and water. They’re offered with a choice of nuts or cheese. Well, that’s different. Let’s try the cheese then. The Feuillatte is excellent as always, the water is cold, and the cheese is a nice change of pace from the usual pre-meal nuts. Only ex-AMS? Or just on longer flights?
Movie number one is over at this point, so it’s time to pick what’s up next, and I go in an entirely different direction. I’m not a massive MCU person, but it’s a good enough plane movie for me.
Orders are taken by a flight attendant with an iPad mini. Once again, it’s an either/or choice for soup or appetizer. And once again, I go soup. For my main, I choose the Indonesian simpler, which earns a quick “Good choice!” from the FA.
Appetizer trays are offered in no time. Once again, those cute little red Dutch clog salt and pepper shakers are present. No choice of butter or olive oil this time — you get olive oil, and that’s fine with me. Bread is also offered from the basket. The salad dressing was missing from my tray, but a little bottle of smoked beetroot dressing is offered upon request. A pepper grinder is also provided to season the soup, and who am I to say no. Drinks are topped off, and I decide to stick with water for the rest of the meal — just not feeling like wine right now.
The sweet potato curry soup is delightful, as expected, and the salad is also a pleasant surprise. I’m not a big fan of beets, but I found the dressing quite tasty anyway.
Dishes are promptly collected, and the mains are brought out as they are. I think this dish looks lovely, although it could be improved by better presentation of the sambal and the shrimp crackers.
The flight attendant was right — this was a great main course. Of course, it’s aided that big flavours and prominent spices tend to stand up better at altitude. Both the fish ball and the beef rendang are fantastic and truly memorable. The vegetable dish is less exciting, but still quite tasty, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t care for the consistency of cooked cabbage. Even the rice is quite enjoyable when mixed with both the flavourful gravies from the two meat dishes or the sambal.
In short, an absolute home run of a main course.
It takes about a half hour for desserts to be offered, and I request the cheese and the chocolate cake. The former is provided right away, and the latter will take just a couple of minutes to warm up. That’s fine with me. I was going to start with the cheese course anyway. And it’s a very good one. Thoroughly enjoyed.
The small molten chocolate cake is brought out as I’m finishing up the cheese and is also very good. Small, but just the right size for something this rich.
Rounding out meal service, white, milk, and dark chocolate KLM houses are offered. This time, I go with white chocolate, and it’s okay.
By the time the meal is over, I’m absolutely out of gas and ready to get some sleep. I put a bookmark in the movie and check the moving map to find out we’re over northern Africa at this point, then swap the KLM headphones for my own, put my favourite go-to-sleep podcast on, put the bed down and try to get some sleep.
I’m out pretty quickly, and the bed is decently comfortable, but I struggle with circulation in my arms because of the thin pillow, and we go through a bank of pretty heavy turbulence for a while that also interferes with good sleep. The cabin lights are kept half-way up I guess as a compromise since it is a day flight, but I combat that with the eye mask from my amenity kit.
But I sleep on and off for another two and a half hours and wake up feeling reasonably refreshed about 5:30 out of Johannesburg as we pass over the southern part of the Sahara. Oh well. At least I should be able to sleep when I get to Johannesburg.
I restart my movie and move onto my next selection when it’s over. A bottle of water was distributed while I slept, and that keeps me happy for the time being. This time, another film I’m not familiar with coming in, but seems promising based on cast. It’s a turn back towards the slower-building film and again represents a change of pace from the more action-packed Venom.
About an hour and a half into the movie, I start to get hungry. So I visit the forward lav and request the sausages and sauerkraut for a second meal. I’m told it will be ready in about 20 minutes. And sure enough, it is. My table is set, and the tray with the entree, cheese and crackers, and rhubarb compote is presented. I request a Heineken and a glass of water to accompany it.
It’s a simple meal, and kinda reminds me of the concept of “wieners and beans,” although with a Dutch feel. It’s quite tasty, and I find it satisfying. The cheese and crackers are, as one would expect, very nice. And while it feels weird eating a compote straight with a spoon, the rhubarb compote is enjoyable, mingling tart and sweet.
Midway through the meal, my movie comes to an end. I check in on our progress. We’re well on our way, with just 1,400 miles to go.
Time for my next movie. I don’t hold a great deal of hope for this one, and I feel like I’m already scraping the barrel, and this doesn’t bode well for the trip home.
About twenty minutes into my movie, one of the flight attendants stops by to chat with me, having noticed my photos and notetaking. I was actually working on this flight-report as she did so.
“Are you such a fan of flying that you take pictures and notes?” she inquires. There’s no judgment or anything attached, it feels like honest curiosity. So I explain that yes, I tend to take pictures and report on what I do on flight-report.com. She seems quite happy to hear this, and says that she sees these kinds of posts online, but has never met anyone who actually does them.
Then she gets talking about how it’s a brand new service style — in fact, she and her teammates were just trained on it yesterday, and they’re executing it for the first time today. Apparently, until recently, meal service was done from the cart in the aisle, as it had been done on my YYZ-AMS flight. But for this one, the first meal was delivered from the galley, and she explained how there’s one attendant taking orders, another doing the food prep, and still another the final details and orchestration.
“It’s new, and it’s a lot of fun for us to try it. We got bogged down a bit, I think, but it went well. We’re still learning,” she surmises the experience. The meal delivery still went faster and with less noticeable gaps than on the flight out of Toronto, so I stay they’re doing just fine if this was the first time doing it in this new style.
After so many series of flight-reports without more than the occasional strange look from a flight attendant, this makes two series in a row in which a FA has chatted me up about my flight-reporting. Interesting.
As we close in on an hour left in the flight, the legendary Delft Houses make their appearance, and I welcome #95 into my small but growing collection.
While the Delft tray is being passed around, it’s followed by “a goodbye drink,” which is described as raspberry purée and apple juice. It’s a refreshing little shot.
Not long after that, we begin descent in the night, and again I miss being at a window seat. What would I do without the moving map?
We touch down about ten minutes behind schedule and arrive at the terminal about ten minutes after that. As we’re waiting to board, I chat with the flight attendant who was interesting in my flight-reporting a bit more, giving her the URL for the site. She says she’ll check it out because they’re always interested in the layout and service offered on other airlines — a very similar sentiment to what my CX crew told me last fall. This is a 48-hour turn for them, she says, which together with the training the day before makes for a long week for the crew.
We say our goodbyes, and door 1L is quickly opened.
We’re released into the terminal about 10:30, and begin the long walk towards immigration.
One of the significant advantages of this late-night arrival is that we’re about the only ones in line for passport control. I end up waiting less than a minute to be let through, and even after the rather long baggage hall, I’m out and landside in the quiet arrivals hall at OR Tambo at 10:42.
From here, it’s a short walk across the road to find the airport shuttle for my hotel for the night, the Premier OR Tambo. I check in and putter for a while on the slow Internet because I can’t fall asleep.
But once I do, I really do — I fall asleep about 1:30 am, and wake up at 11:40 am, nearly three-quarters of an hour after checkout time.
As I’m getting my stuff together, housekeeping knocks on the door. I answer, ready to apologize for oversleeping, but as I’m about to do, the woman at the door responds “If you’re busy, you can stay a while.” Surprised, I ask how long, and she says “Two, Two-thirty.”
I thank her very much for her kindness, and set out getting myself ready for the day in Johannesburg, and essential stuff… like writing the end of this flight-report.
And that’s where we’ll leave it for this report. We’ll pick it up from here a bit later, as I start my trip home.
Thanks for reading this installment, and I hope to see you on the late-night flight back to Amsterdam!
Another excellent flight with KLM.
The catering was excellent, highlighted by one of the best business class main courses I've ever enjoyed.
The service was also excellent, above even KLM's relatively high standard, with a good first execution of a new style that reduced the use of the cart in business class, a welcome change.
KLM already has a great business class offering. If this were applied onto a new business class product -- as they're doing with the 787s - they'll be a force to be reckoned with.
All in, a very enjoyable flight experience, and one that I'll remember for a while.