When Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines joined forces in 2004, they became Europe’s largest airline group.
But as I learnt while flying KLM business class on a Boeing 777-200 from Dubai to Amsterdam, size isn’t everything.
Yes, the staff were friendly and the plane was clean. But with the rise of the Middle Eastern carriers such as Etihad and Emirates, a business class ticket has to be so much more.
So let’s begin with the good stuff.
The Dutch are well known for their size and that is more than obvious with the amount of leg room I was offered; most professional basketball players would feel like a child in an armchair with the space I had to stretch out in.
There is a trendy vanity bag offered in male and female versions carrying socks, sleeping mask, tooth paste and cologne and when disembarking, you are offered a collectable (there are 94) Delft pottery house – the Netherlands’ distinct blue and white pottery.
The menu has been designed by the Dutch triple Michelin-starred chef Sergio Herman, so no complaints there. And the beverages were diverse and plentiful – so far, so good.
However, the seats.
If you pay about three times the price of an economy seat then you want three times the experience.
Apart from the fact I was in the middle seat, a position I believed was no longer possible when flying business, the seats have a 1980s dynamic with the television screens having to be extricated from the armrest to sit in front of you on a prosthetic arm. This means the small screen is constantly in the way whenever you want to move.
If the person in front decides to recline the seat to its full potential (not flat) you have a wonderful view of a recumbent stranger’s head.
The seats also have a massage function which is basically useless unless you want to simulate being poked in the back by an umbrella.
KLM is in the process of upgrading its seats, and with good reason. If you are flying with the airline it’s wise to check the update status of the plane you are flying on before you take off.
Tell me more about KLM teaming up with Air France?
By joining forces as Air France KLM, they became the largest airline group in Europe with three core areas of business: passenger, cargo and engineering and maintenance. Together they carry more than 77 million passengers per year; they operate 753 aircraft and fly to 243 destinations in 103 countries.
But they still fly with their own logos on the planes. Why is it that?
As part of the deal, each airline retained its individual identity, trade name and brand. And both operations run their business from their respective airports – KLM from Amsterdam-Schiphol and Air France from Paris-Charles de Gaulle – Europe’s No 1 airport in terms of connections.
What’s the history behind these two airlines?
KLM launched in 1919 and is the oldest airline operating under the same name. It made a big move in 1996 with its acquisition of a holding in Kenya Airways. Meanwhile, Air France launched in 1933. Among its major milestones are a holding acquired in UTA in 1990 and a merger with Air Inter in 1997.
How is the partnership faring then?
The turnover for the 2012 financial year €25.62 billion (Dh129.89bn). Together they employ over 100,000, and their shares are listed on the Amsterdam and Paris Exchanges. In 2009, Air France KLM took a minority stake of 25 per cent.
Do they also have a joint frequent flyer programme?
Yes. It’s called Flying Blue and you can earn rewards and claim miles with both airlines.
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