The airline with the best average rating is KLM with 7.4/10.
The average flight time is 11 hours and 14 minutes.More information
Haley and I were heading out to Las Vegas tot take part in charity bike ride through Death Valley to raise funds for Type 1 Diabetes research, organised by JDRF. Before the bike ride we planned to take advantage of some of the amazing national parks in Nevada, Arizona and Utah on a little road trip.
I make a point before almost any flight to know what plane each flight is on and am following news on cabin upgrades. This flight was indicated to be a KLM 777-200 at the time of booking. The KLM 777-200s started undergoing refurbishment in 2014, including a new economy class designed by Dutch designer Hella Jongerius, with responsive 9 inch, HD, IFE touchscreens. So while I am not a fan of the 3-4-3 cabin layout that most airlines use in Economy in their tripple 7s at least I figured the IFE would be up to scratch on the long flight.
As always I had made time to check-in right when check-in opens in order to get some decent seats but not have to pay for seat assignment in advance. I did not have any status with KLM at the time. When I logged in I noticed that the cabin layout was different than what I expected. Even more curious, whenever I selected one of our 2 seats to assign the free seat next to the 1st seat was gone. It appeared that literally every economy passenger was checking in at the same time, which I found hard to believe. After switching seats three times and still not having seats next to each other I figured I would have to solve this at the gate before boarding.
We arrived by train to Amsterdam Schiphol airport by train. The train station is right under the main terminal hall, called Schiphol Plaza, from where its only a short walk to Departure 1, 2 & 3. At Departures 1 we used the automated luggage drop-off machines. They worked reasonably well, though many passengers seemed to have a bit of a hard time using them. This might have led to slightly longer waiting times than I had expected. Maybe throughput will improve if people are more used to these machines.
Security was a breeze, which has been my experience most of the time since the non-schengen screening area has been refurbished. Especially the dedicated space per person to put their belongings in the plastic buckets make it a fairly relaxed experience.
We did not have too much time, especially since I wanted to resolve our seat assignment before boarding. We only grabbed some snacks and water to take on board and headed to gate F05.
Arriving at the gate we were greeted by the mighty Queen of the Skies, a KLM 747-400. This explained why the seatmap was different from the 777-200 we had expected. The last time I flew on a 747 was from HKG to AMS in 2015, though back then it was a mixed configuration 747-400 where part of the passenger area has been turned into an extra cargo hold.
I went up to the gate to talk to the gate agent. Only 2 people were ahead of me, also discussing seat changes. By the time it was my turn another 30 people had gotten in line. The gate agent was very friendly and did her best to get us seats together. She assigned us 42K and H, so with a seat in between. This was closest she could assign us and I overheard her colleague mentioning that they had more that 160 seat changes.
The reason was that flight KL601 a few hours earlier was cancelled. So KLM switched from the 777-200 (316 seats) to the 747-400 (408 seats) and re-booked as many people as possible from KL601 to KL603 to still get them to LAX with only a few hours delay.
As a kid I always loved the 747 and I still think it is hands down one of the most sexy planes in the sky. Seeing that more and more 747s are being phased out I was excited to fly on a 747 once more, after all who knows if / when I get the chance again. The one thing I was unsure of is whether the 747-400 had gotten a cabin upgrade anytime recently. I certainly was underwhelmed by the 747-combi in 2015 and since KLM is phasing out its 747s I was not sure what the interior would be like.
Considering this was a packed flight boarding went reasonably quick. Maybe everyone from the earlier flight was just eager to get going.
We boarded in the general economy class group and found our seat. We managed to switch the isle seat for the middle seat. A no-brainer foe the guy that would have been stuck between us otherwise.
I recognized the interior from my 2015 flight, giving a very 2000s vibe, looking quite used and dated, definitely compared to the new KLM interiors. KLM is certainly getting a lot om mileage out of this interior and its 747s.
We left the gate a little late and taxied for a long time and took off turning west towards the coast (could have been polderbaan). We got a nice view of the Dutch coast from Ijmuiden almost to The Hague. We had just been cycling there on a training ride the weekend before.
The crew started a drink service not long after take-off. Food however took a long time to be served, however drinks were served again with the meal. The crew was very friendly, especially for such a full flight I was impressed by the friendliness, paying attention to every passenger, even in economy.
The cabin showed a lot of wear. Especially the armrests, walls and bathrooms looked rough. The armrest was so worn down that the outer layer was pretty much gone and you could sea the pores of the blue foam it is made of. The bathroom, even though I believe it was cleaned regularly just felt dingy and unsanitary because it was so worn. I made use of the very old personal IFE (more on that below) and watched Shock and Awe (I enjoyed it a lot!), Incredibles 2 (which I largely missed because I fell asleep) and The Commuter (Liam Neeson, what do you expect?).
About halfway through the crew served ice-cream or chips and water. Also water and juice was brought around several times. It just makes a big difference if the crew keeps the water coming, keeping you hydrated and not always having to climb out to walk to the galley to get a drink.
Roughly 1.5hrs before landing the 2nd meal was served.
I very much enjoyed the views of the last 1.5-2 hours, flying over Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Nevada. The landscapes are just spectacular and looking out of the window when it is not cloudy is still one of my favorite things to do on almost any flight!
We descended towards LA, crossed over the pacific coast north of the airport, looped back eastwards over northern LA, eventually tuning back westwards going into final over the houses and warehouses of Huntington Park and Inglewood.
The IFE is worth its own section for this flight. It very much reminded me of the first IFE with personal screen that I got to use on Continental (now merged with United) in 2005. Yes, its much better than overhead screens and KLM managed to use the same GUI as in their new systems. However the screen is not a touchscreen and uses the remote in the armrest to navigate. It definitely took some getting used to.
The size and quality of the screen is also a far cry from newer HD systems. The glare on the screen, even if I closed my blind was quite annoying and the brightness of the screen was very weak.
The system still used a 2-prong headphone jack in the armrest and the jack was in really bad shape. I often had to wiggle the jack to get stereo. Every time I moved I either lost sound on one side or the sound dropped altogether.
Yes, I am complaining about how dated the system is, also because I was expecting to fly on a 777-200 with the refurbished interior. After all it was still better than not having it. Also the selection of movies was very extensive, I could start and pause the movie at any time and it did get me through the longest part of the flight.
However if given the option I think I will avoid the KLM 747s in the future, unless nostalgia hits me :-)
Right after take-off rinks were served. A while later the first meal. The choice was between chicken or vegetarian pasta. I went for the chicken.
On the tray was a plastic bowl with the chicken, a coleslaw salad with tomatoes, a stroopwaffel cream dessert and the obligatory bread, crackers, cheese and a small bottle of water. I asked for a gin tonic with dinner, which it turns out was being prepared in the galley (this is something I have noticed more often lately on KLM flights).
The tray, all packaging, down to the salt and pepper are all clearly recognizable as KLM with their intricate designs. Always a nice touch on KLM.
The chicken came in a black bean sauce together with rice and green beans and was surprisingly tasty. I thoroughly enjoyed the dish and of given the choice would choose it again.
The trays were collected quite quickly, which I appreciated. Its just annoying if you are stuck with the trash on your tray table for the next hour as I have experienced on other flights.
Halfway throught he flight the crew handed out chips and ice cream. This was a nice touch on the long flight!
About 1.5hrs before landing the second meal was served. It was some sort of pizza stick, with the same salad as earlier and a mocca or tiramisu cream dessert. I had a ginger ale as we had a long layover and more travel ahead of us. The dessert was good, the pizza was sad looking and not all that tasty. Definitely not comparable to the chicken from the 1st meal.
Overall the food was adequate for the long flight. The frequent rounds of juice/water as well as the ice cream were a nice touch and made the flight a lot more bearable.
Considering how full the flight was deplaning did not take all that long and we headed towards customs. There were plenty of machines available to get your immigration ticket. As is often the case in the states the lines for getting your ticket and passport checked by an agent were longer. However we made it through in about 20 minutes, which is very acceptable.
There was another long line for customs after collecting the luggage. As is usually the cases in the US we collected our luggage, passed customs and dropped the luggage off again for the onward flight. The customs line moved fast and thanks to my girlfriends global entry we were through in 10 minutes.
We had more than 5 hours to kill before our onward flight to LAS. Before we boarded in AMS we got in touch with friends in LA. When we landed we heard they were having a housewarming not too far from the airport. So instead of hanging in the terminal or paying for a lounge we grabbed an uber and joined the housewarming for a few hours, enjoying mexican food, cold beer and good company. Definitely beats hanging around LAX!
Overall the equipment change did have a negative impact on the experience, mostly due to the old IFE and worn interior of the 747. The nostalgia of flying on the Queen of the Skies did not make up for it. The big difference, as often on KLM in my opinion, was the very friendly and professional crew. The catering, especially the first meal and ice cream in between, were a definite plus and made the long flight much more bearable.
I am happy to recommend KLM to anyone, mostly because of their crews, but would suggest you check the plane you are on and avoid the 747s when you can. Sure, you might still end up on a 747 for the time being. In that case enjoy the nostalgia, as you don't know when you will get to fly on one of the sexiest planes out there!