I flew with my wife and daughter to Amsterdam for part of the Christmas holidays. While I think that you don’t need to wait for school break to take a trip, travel is a great way to have something to do when your young child is off from school for nearly three weeks.
You may not think of the start of the year as the right time to travel to Europe, but I’ve always loved Paris in December and Amsterdam in January is nice as well. The weather may not be, but it’s cold in the States too! People are home from work and the streets aren’t busy. The place isn’t overrun with American teenagers!
And Amsterdam seems like an odd place to go with a five year old, but the city is a lot more than the red light district. There are great museums for kids, there’s great food, and it was something different. Plus there’s a non-stop flight from Austin, and there were three business class saver award seats on our preferred dates. The perfect trip!
We left on New Year’s Day and turned up at the airport around two hours prior to departure. Check-in was quick, and the agent recognized me from this blog. He invited us to use the Delta Sky Club with our business class tickets (no need to use the Amex Platinum this time!).
There was no line for security, and we headed down to the Delta Sky Club… only to find that it was closed. They closed early, at 4:30pm, for New Years Day despite the KLM flight leaving at 6:15 p.m.
We went next door to the Chase Sapphire Terrace next door for a quick snack. By the time we’d get in the air and dinner would be served it would be after my daughter’s normal and she might be too tired to eat. The weather wasn’t cooperative, but we had jackets since we were getting off the plane in Amsterdam anyway.
Food in this ‘lounge’ is (free) from a vending machine. It’s packaged salads and noodles mostly, decent for prepackaged food but still meh. Drinks and packaged chips and similar snacks are available from lounge staff. There’s no ‘full bar’ there’s canned beverages, and there’s no ice, not that we needed ice on a chilly New Years Day. They really should have heat lamps outdoors, since the space is almost entirely outdoors.
You do get nice views from the lounge, which is directly beside the Sky Club and which has its own outdoor space as well. Here was our aircraft:
Boarding was printed as beginning 35 minutes to departure, which is impressive for a Boeing 787-9. We boarded about 5 minutes late and yet we still pushed back a couple of minutes early. That was impressive!
This was my first time on board this aircraft with KLM, and I found the seats fine (very little storage) and comfortable enough. I liked the color and design of the cabin. At first blush it is pretty plain:
But then you have a look at the seats and the blue and gold really work, and the crown logo is a nice touch. The product still has ‘World Business Class’ branding, in some sense like it’s 20 years ago.
The seat features a cubby where a bottle of water and headset were pre-placed. Opening it reveals a mirror.
This is a Boeing 787, so four-abreast business class is actually fairly tight. It’s no surprise that there wasn’t other meaningful storage space at the seat. However the space under the ottoman was available for use during taxi, takeoff and landing which helps.
The footwell is small, though, and I found it constraining later in the flight when I was trying to sleep.
I mean, there was this storage too…
The cabin began to settle in, and I had a look at the amenity kit.
The bag felt cheap to me, but basic items were there, including a pen even though immigration for the Netherlands wouldn’t require filling out a form.
My wife, daughter and I were in the bulkhead row of the aircraft. I tend to like that, even though it’s close to the galley and lavatory, because I don’t see the passengers behind me for the bulk of the flight. That makes it more relaxing, to me, since crowds can be stressful. I also like the extra space in front of the seat (a shelf of sorts) before the bulkhead.
Above the bulkhead was a celebratory “Happy New Year” which seemed a nice festive touch.
The seat’s entertainment has a touch screen, but there’s also a handset for use especially while laying down. The seat has a universal power outlet as well as USB power.
As a predeparture beverage I just had water, and then had a look over the menu.
Here was the main meal menu:
And this was breakfast:
Once we were in the air I visited the lavatory to change into a pair of pajamas I’d brought with me for the flight. Flowers in the lavatory are always a nice touch. The wallpaper with KLM’s delft houses is perfectly on brand.
Back at my seat, mixed nuts and a drink of choice were served. I had a glass of pinot noir. You can see my daughter’s juice.
I chose the lobster salad as my appetizer and it was quite good with their Thai lime dressing. While I’m rather partial to soups on a plane (since they reheat well) a ‘mild’ cauliflower-curry soup didn’t sound especially appealing. The appetizer was served on a tray with a small salad and choice of bread.
For my entree I selected the “tasting of local delicacies” which was a short rib in a mushroom sauce, potato and roasted apples.
Then for dessert I went with the white chocolate raspberry cheesecake.
In between courses I helped my daughter get settled for bed. My wife set her up with the pillow and blanket, and I gave her my blanket to use as a mattress pad. KLM’s bedding really needs improvement, but with the second blanket she was comfortable. We follow our usual bedtime routine on a plane, so after she changes into pajamas I read her books and tell her stories – then she slept for the rest of the flight even skipping breakfast.
I started to watch a show on the inflight entertainment. I made it through one episode of Brooklyn 99 (I found their choices varied enough though little struck my fancy). I caught up on email after I managed to connect to the inflight wifi. And then I laid down to try to get some rest.
The seat itself seemed fine at first, though bedding more like United offers would be a real treat. But the narrow footwell was a bit uncomfortable. I’m a side sleeper and after awhile found the seat uncomfortable for my lower back and shoulder. I’d turn over, but then experience the same thing on the other side, so I’d rinse, repeat. I tossed and turned for a couple of hours and then got back up and worked on my laptop for a little while until it was time for the second service.
The breakfast tray included oatmeal, smoked salmon, turky ham, gouda cheese and a boiled egg. I chose the crepes rather than the poached egg, though I saw the egg my wife selected and wondered if I’d chosen poorly.
After breakfast dishes were cleared, a crewmember came around with KLM’s famous delft houses as a departing gift. This is something that business class passengers on the airline really look forward to, and many people collect them. There’s even a Delft Blue Houses app in both the Apple and Google online stores to help with tracking all 104 of them.
Each house is a replica of a real Dutch building, and is filled with Dutch gin. The story of these is that KLM wanted to give a gift to its premium passengers, but doing so ran afoul of the country’s regulations. There was no prohibition on service a drink (Dutch gin), and no rules around what that drink could be served in (the delft house), however.
The houses provide KLM with outsized value. Crew on the flight were friendly, in a jovial and gregarious sort of way. Staff even came around with connecting gate information and advice on navigating the Amsterdam airport. And the food was pretty good! But the rest of the product is decidedly mid, and yet I look forward to flying with them.
There’s something special about being given a unique gift at the end of the flight. I first experienced it many years ago flying Asiana first class. I still have the Wedgwood wine bottle stoppers I received on that flight. It really elevates the product, at the very end of the experience, and creates a real keepsake of the airline. Between my wife, daughter, and I, we picked up three houses on our outbound – and three more on the return.
We were held a bit arriving into Amsterdam, and then had a long taxi, so while we had originally been showing as turning up about 20 minutes early we wound up about 15 minutes behind schedule. Immigration was a relative breeze.
We made our way out the terminal quickly, and arriving mid-morning the first week of the year there was no traffic to speak of into Amsterdam. The non-stop from Austin was a breeze.