The airline with the best average rating is KLM with 7.4/10.
The average flight time is 8 hours and 15 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 usually, 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 and was in search of a lounge. As usual for me at AMS, it takes few minutes to figure out where I am and where I want to go, but I get it figured out and find my way to the non-Schengen Crown Lounge.
A good sign, there’s no queue just to get into the lounge at this hour, a bit later than I was here on the way out. I can go straight up.
When I get up there, I’m scanned in, and see that while it’s not the insanity it was before I left for Johannesburg. It’s still pretty busy. I won’t offer much of a review beyond what I did on the AMS-JNB sector — you can check that out via the link in The Rundown if you like.
But score! I manage to find one of the little solo workstation cubbies free and set up shop there. The power outlets work, and the WiFi seems to be built to survive the amount of traffic this lounge must generate. I get my JNB-AMS flight-report posted, and catch up on a bit of overnight email and the like from back home.
About 11:30, I’m starting to get hungry, so I venture out of my little cave in search of food.
I notice that things are still pretty busy, but getting a bit better as the morning nears completion.
The Dutch Mountain of seating is the defining feature of the lounge and is tempting to climb just because you can.
There’s not much seating on the upper level, but it’s decidedly less busy and quieter up here. If you can find a place here, go for it.
Back downstairs, I head to the hot food station at the main buffet area. At this spot, there are the usual pastries and the like, but also a few hot food dishes served by lounge attendants.
They seem to be switching between breakfast and lunch at this hour. Pancakes are still available, but the rest of the meal is rice, pasta, and a “Chicken Java” stew. I request some pasta and the chicken and also decide to sample the mustard soup with bacon. Drinks are self-serve. I take a glass of the cava, and the “tropical juice” to accompany my meal.
Neither the pasta nor the chicken is terribly exciting, so I just sample them a bit. The mustard soup tastes great but is merely lukewarm, so gets ranked down a few notches because of that. All in all, I’m less than impressed by the food offering. It seems like it could be good but just falls short a bit. However, it will tide me over until I eat on board the Queen.
The lounge is a bit better than the primetime rush, but I really need to wait until it's done with its current work-in-progress state to fully assess it. As it stands, it is still too small to meet demand.
About 12:30, I decide it's time to head out towards Gate E9, where I hope to become acquainted with a 747 for the first time in way too long.
It’s about a five-minute walk over the gate, where it does indeed look like a 747 is getting ready to take me back to Toronto. Looking back at my flights of 2018, one of the things I regret is that neither 747s nor A380s in my OpenFlights history for the year. I’m glad to be able to correct that so early this year.
There’s quite a mob at the gate, and it takes a while to get wheelchair passengers aboard, but boarding is called about ten minutes behind schedule.The Flight Report
From: Amsterdam Schipol (AMS)
To: Toronto Pearson (YYZ)
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
ATD (STD): 14:10 (13:30)
ATA (STA): 16:10 (15:35)
Boarding at the door 2L, I turned left towards the nose of the plane. There’s a relatively small business class section in the nose of the KLM 747, with another portion upstairs. KLM’s configuration includes the long galley along the starboard side of the plane just aft of business class, as do TG’s 747s. This means there’s a small economy class section of only five across forward of door 1, which is quite unique. TG has business class in this space.
Finally, I arrive in the nose of the Queen and find my throne at 1A, the only window seat with aisle access on this plane, and one of two seats not in a pair — the other one would be a middle seat at the rear of this section in the nose. This is probably “the” seat to have on a 747 and the fact that it was available when I booked these flights certainly helped me decide on my dates for this trip.
The seat is set up with the standard KLM pillow and blanket. My thoughts here remain the same — the blanket is fine, but the pillow needs an upgrade. It’s just too small for sleeping purposes, though it does fine as a lumbar support.
The throne is unique in that it has not one but two storage cubbies, one over each shoulder. The aisle side has my headphones for the flight, and the window side has headphone ports and a universal power port. As Rewardflying has already pointed out — no USB port on the 747. It must be an older version of what KLM still calls its “new” world business class.
The screen looks a little different as well and isn’t active at this time. The footwell is a little bigger on this seat than on the 777, while 1K and 1J seem to have the much larger bulkhead footwell setup. There’s also the same storage space under the screen, carefully designed to both be not large enough to really store much of use, and to turn anything you put there into a projectile aimed at your chest upon takeoff. Take the “no stowage” warning seriously this time, folks.
There’s a very broad armrest along the aisle side, which houses the table, seat controls, wired IFE remote, and literature and documentation. The IFE remote is not a touchscreen like on the 777s, confirming this is likely an older version of the WBC seat.
Hello, windows! Oh, how I have missed you on my last three flights!
Immediately in front of me is the standard 747 front-of-cabin closet, which is packed because the overhead bins in this section are for the most part not large enough for a standard rollaboard. Mine has to go in there too, as there are no overhead bins over row one, and the ones over row two are smaller and on an angle.
Pre-departure beverages are offered - the standard Heineken, OJ, water, or champagne. And I make my typical choice.
The headphones are the standard KLM offering and have decent noise-cancelling. Not that this would matter, as it turns out.
Amenity kits are then distributed — the same brown denim-like bag offered ex-AMS to Johannesburg. It’s a pretty standard business class kit.
Up next, menu and wine list. We’re back to a more traditional approach here, with lunch served after departure, and then a pre-arrival meal. That suits me well for the timing of this flight.
It’s about then that the flight attendant working in the nose, charming lady that she is, drops by saying there’s “bad news.” The IFE system on this plane is dead, and with it, the attendant call button and overhead lights are out too. So there will be no IFE on this flight, unfortunately. “She’s a Grand Old Lady, but….” she says, caressing the wall over the first window, but letting the sentence tail off to the obvious conclusion. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but I have faith that KLM wouldn’t dispatch her if she weren’t mechanically sound.
I ask if the AC power port will work, and she says that if it’s working, it will be active in flight, “hopefully.” I have less hope. She says that if they have my contact information, KLM will reach out with compensation within 48 hours. She’s not sure how that will work if I booked through Delta, but urges me to contact KLM via their website if I don’t hear from them in a couple of days. I’m curious to see what kind of compensation is offered. Dare I dream of a partial refund? And if so, will it be of the V fare I booked or the Z fare I flew? This could get interesting.
So my plans for watching movies on this flight are done. That’s a big disappointment, as is not having the moving map
The senior purser for the flight stops by for a quick hello, but that’s about it from her for now.
A quick lav check before we take off. There are two located aft of the business class section, and they’re pretty standard old-school 747 lavs. I’m left wondering that if the attendant call system is dead, what does one do if stuck in here? Just pound on the door until someone notices?
There’s a delay in departure, explained by the captain as the result of a passenger missing the flight, necessitating the removal of bags. We push back at about 1:55, 25 minutes behind schedule.
The flight attendant working the nose does the safety demonstration manually, doing a little pose at the beginning, and quipping “Pay attention, this might be the only entertainment you get on this flight.” Ouch. Still, I have to laugh at it. What are you gonna do?
A Qatar 777-300ER as we taxi.
We have to wait for 737s from KLM and Transavia to pass. What a difference a livery makes. The KLM plane is much better looking. Then we join the conga line on the way out to the runway.
We turn onto the active runway about 2:09 and away we go! I love the nearly-forward view afforded by the seats in 1A. IFE or no IFE, it’s a treat to sit in front of the flight deck. I’d almost forgotten how loud the nose gear is when it comes up right underneath you in these seats. Good times.
When we reach cruising altitude, I grab the gear I plan to use in flight. I’m glad I charged my Bose in the lounge. They were down to 30 percent, and I was planning on watching movies using the KLM headset on this flight, but now they’re pressed into duty as my entertainment plan switches to podcasts, and my computer for however long the battery lasts. It makes me wish that the super-high-power USB-C power bank I backed on Kickstarter had shipped on time because then I’d have it and be laughing. Of course, nothing from Kickstarter ever ships on time, right?
Let’s check in with the power outlet, just in case, shall we?
Yep, that’s a big fat nope. Me and my batteries are on their own for this flight.
Well, that and I have natural IFE, I suppose. Unfortunately, I’m on the sun-facing side, so I end up having to close the shades for much of the flight.
Once we reach 10,000 feet, service begins promptly with a hot towel.
Meal orders are taken, and I request the veal hotpot dish, and the soup. I don’t think I’ll need the second starter, so I don’t experiment with asking for both starters. Then drink service is offered, and I go the traditional route — a glass of champagne, a glass of water. It’s served with nuts or cheese, and I’m never one to turn down cheese, especially since I enjoyed it so much when it was offered on AMS-JNB.
The starters are presented just shy of one hour after takeoff, with the soup accompanied by bread and olive oil, along with a salad with the smoked beet dressing again. And of course, little red clogs.
The soup is delicious. Of course, any curried soup is going to taste good at altitude.
The salad is the same as ex-AMS to JNB, and it’s just fine. I appreciate that there’s a little bit of variety to the textures and tastes, with the seeds and olives.
The bread and olive oil are also just fine.
Breaking from tradition, I accompany my meal with a glass of water and, gasp, red wine. In this case, I go with the Malbec, and I quite enjoy it.
While I wait for my main course, a look at the overhead. The lights don’t work, but the air nozzles do if you’re into such things.
Between courses, the senior purser stops by to chat again. She motions at the black screen in front of me and asks if I’m enjoying my movie, before offering her apologies for the non-functioning IFE system. She reiterates that KLM will be in touch to provide compensation soon, and again apologizes. I appreciate the gesture, and I will be impressed if KLM does, in fact, reach out with decent compensation for the lack of amenities on this flight.
The main course is served as requested about thirty minutes after the appetizers. It’s accompanied by another piece of bread to enjoy the rest of the olive oil and a refill on both the Malbec and the water.
The veal dish is tasty — I enjoy it quite a bit. Based on my limited exposure to Dutch dishes with KLM (the sausage and sauerkraut dish on AMS-JNB, the mustard soup in the lounge, and this dish) I’m left with the conclusion that Dutch cuisine prominently features rich brown gravies, mashed potatoes, and mustard. Granted, I’m working on a small sample size.
About twenty minutes after the main course is presented, it’s time for dessert, and once again, I go with the cheese and the sweet, in this case, the citrus mousse.
The cheese dish is quite nice, although once again I’m surprised by what the menu describes as goat cheese, the cheese on the left in this case. Isn’t goat cheese usually a soft cheese? This one is much harder and closer to cheddar in taste and consistency. It’s delicious, but I’m curious about KLM describing it as goat cheese unless there’s a Dutch goat cheese that has a very different texture. Either way, it’s okay. And I really like the fig bread.
The citrus mousse is much better than expected — an unusually tart mousse, and that’s a good thing. I enjoy it very much.
I decline port, coffee or tea, but accept a refill on the glass of water, and request an Aberfeldy for a digestif. Does scotch count as a digestif? Either way, it does for me.
The KLM chocolate houses — Belgian chocolate on a Dutch airline? — are offered next, and this time I go with the dark chocolate. It’s the best of the three types, in my opinion.
Service ends with a bottle of water to keep me hydrated for the next few hours.
With that, I’m left to my own devices (literally) for entertainment. I catch up on writing this flight-report, and relax for a little bit, listening to podcasts. I’m torn on whether to try sleep or not. I’m a bit tired, but not feeling really tired, and I’d prefer to try to “power through” so I’ll be sure to be exhausted once night arrives in Eastern Time back home.
1J is the one unoccupied seat in this cabin, and with the guy in 1K with his bed down, I’ve pretty much got privacy for days here.
Here’s a look at the cabin from the rear mid-flight.
Eventually, I decided that I should try to get some sleep because I’m dozing off while watching a video on my iPad. So I put the bed down and get things ready.
I sleep for a while and then wake up as we hit some turbulence that has me bouncing around pretty good. It subsides after a few minutes, and my go-to-sleep podcast does it job and puts me back out for a while. It’s hard to tell exactly how long I sleep, but I estimate it’s a couple of hours.
When I wake up, the primary flight attendant working this cabin approaches me nearly immediately to check in and see if I need anything, but I tell her I’m okay for now.
I finish the video I was watching pre-nap on my iPad, and just as I’m pulling out my now half-charged lappy to do a bit more writing on this report, the senior purser appears over my shoulder with a hot towel, suggesting that we’re probably about an hour and a half out of Toronto, and it’s time for the pre-arrival meal to begin. My phone suggests it’s about 2:20 Eastern Time, so that would suggest we’re looking at an on-time arrival into Toronto.
We seem to be in the middle of a cloud bank despite being at cruise level, so there’s no chance to try to get my bearings based on the geography below. I’m thankful that pilots don’t get their location data from the moving map.
Pre-arrival lunch is offered from the cart, and I choose the steak sandwich. It’s presented with a roasted vegetable salad, mayonnaise and what the menu describes as gherkins, but is actually more like hot dog relish. Well, that’s a bit of a disappointment. I was looking forward to some little pickles. Oh well. There’s no sign of the dessert on the tray — I presume it’s coming a bit later as it’s served hot.
I take a glass of Pellegrino and another Malbec to accompany my meal.
The salad is very enjoyable, the leaf on top is the only one to be seen, and the rest is grilled and marinated veggies, which makes it a break from every other airline salad ever.
The steak sandwich is simple but full of melted cheese and sautéed onions. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s tasty and satisfying for a pre-arrival meal.
The sandwich comes wrapped in a waxed paper made to look like a newspaper — complete with a “news story” proclaiming KLM’s new tableware by Marcel Wanders, dating back to 2011. I really hope this sandwich is fresher than that. One small problem is that the waxed paper plus cheese plus heat means there are some points at which the paper sticks to the sandwich and has to be carefully removed.
As I’m eating my sandwich, the dessert is offered. As expected, it’s the same one as I had on the main meal on AMS-JNB. Except for this time it’s presented in its wrapper, which is odd. This one is also piping hot. It has to sit for a few minutes before I can scarf it down like I hadn’t eaten in days. What can I say, I liked it.
It’s a pretty good pre-arrival meal, another success for KLM in the catering department. I’m asked if I want anything else, and initially say no, but then ask for a Coke. Because sometimes, you just want a Coke. On a semi-related note, the Coke in South Africa is especially delicious. They must use real sugar there, I have to think.
With the meal over, it’s coming up on 3:00 pm, meaning the meal was either served late in the flight compared to usual, or we’re running a bit behind schedule. I’d confer with the moving map to figure out what our situation is, but we all know how that’s gonna work.
Shortly after lunch dishes are collected, the tray of Delft Houses is brought around by a male flight attendant I have not heretofore seen. I pick #9 and note there are a lot of lower numbers in the collection on this flight. Hmmm… older houses for the old bird?
Not entirely sure how long is left in the flight, I decide to make one last trip to the lav just to be sure. Naturally, we get some light turbulence just as I stand up. Why do the Turbulence Gods hate me so? The lavs are immaculate even so late in the flight, not a drop of water out of place. This has been the case throughout this whole series with KLM.
It’s looking a lot nicer out the window as we start our descent — there’s even evidence of a sky!
Sooner or later, there’s even some indication that the ground is below. Oh, happy day!
After a while of staring at the ground and trying to figure out what aspect of the suburban sprawl that is the GTA I’m looking at, I manage to pick out Buttonville Airport. I have my bearings!
Downsview Airport shortly after that.
Then Woodbine Racetrack.
And finally, the airport.
It’s a pretty direct taxi route, taking us past Jet Airways. Another airline on my to-do list.
We end up pulling in next to Etihad. I always forget that they come to Toronto.
And here our adventure ends.
Sitting in the nose of the plane, it almost feels like we’re going to run straight into the terminal building. Hello, people waiting for a flight!
KLM is one of the only airlines I can think of that makes an announcement requesting that people let business class passengers deplane first. Then they block the aisles to enforce it. To get us off the plane, they route us through the galley on the starboard side. Kinda cool to get to see this space up close and personal.
About 4:25 we’re released into T3. T3 international arrivals couldn’t look more generic.
A little spotting from the hallway — El Al colours looking good on a Dreamliner, and PIA’s 777.
And finally, a step back in time a couple of decades for Air Transat’s A310. Air Transat may not update its fleet very often, but at least it updates their livery.
Arrivals is a zoo, but with my Nexus, I’m through in about ten minutes. With a bunch of international arrivals expected, there’s a mob in the waiting area for arrivals. Get me out of here!
Upstairs I go.
And then it’s time to catch the train over to T1, which takes me to the train to the city.
And that’s where we’ll wrap up coverage for this series. Thanks for joining me for this, and keep an eye out for what comes next. I’m looking forward to….
… oh wait, I’m not going to spoil it quite yet. But I’ll see you soon.
All four flights posted quite promptly into my SkyMiles account. (Note: I have no idea why the YYZ-AMS segment posted separately from the other three. You'd have to ask the fine folks at Delta IT about that.)
So that's a total of 59,616 SkyMiles. The list price on the receipt for this flight was $734.50 US, which would put me at a cost of 1.23 cents USD per mile (plus two GUCs).
That includes bonus miles as a result of Delta Diamond status. But then, one would have to have Diamond status to have Global Upgrade Certificates to use.
While Delta's management may be trying to drive everything to one cent per mile value for SkyMiles, there are still many ways to extract significantly more value than $0.01 per mile from SkyMiles.
Oh, and there was the business class trip to South Africa included.
So I'd consider this to be a success. I think I'll be doing this again.
As of Saturday morning, 48 hours after the departure of this flight, I had not heard or seen anything from KLM regarding compensation (or anything else for that matter.) If I have not heard from them by Monday morning Toronto time, I'll reach out to them. I'll update here or leave a comment when I have any results.
Thanks again for joining me for this adventure. I'll see you around the site!
How nice to get reacquainted with the Queen on this flight, even if she wasn't at her best this day. And it's always a treat to sit in the nose of the plane.
This particular seat does away with most of the problems of the seat type literally everywhere else in the fleet, providing a window seat with aisle access, and increased privacy and storage space.
Catering and service were of KLM standard quality, which is quite a decent level for business class indeed.
There was really only "one thing wrong" about this flight. But unfortunately, that's a big thing for a Transatlantic flight.