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Review: KLM 777-300ER Business Class

Our comprehensive review of a great value Business Class option between Singapore and Bali

Overview.jpg

If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll know we never stay away from Bali for long. A few months ago we booked some (very) last minute leave and flew down there from Singapore the same evening, a true ‘spontaneous escape’, for a long weekend to chill out and wind down.

We managed to get a KrisFlyer redemption on Singapore Airlines in Business Class to Bali around 6pm so we could leave after work, but getting back was a bit more problematic. For such a short trip we wanted to maximise our last day, and as usual Singapore Airlines saver redemptions out of Bali on a Sunday were only available on the morning flights.

We almost resigned ourselves to a low-cost Scoot or Jetstar option to head home, though as we searched for prices and departure times an option we’d almost forgotten about popped up – KLM.

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It looked like one to try, and the price was good, so we went ahead and booked. (Photo: KLM)

It’s probably a bit unnecessary to take a flat-bed long-haul Business Class seat on a 2.5 hour flight, but KLM’s fares are competitive (at about 1/3 of what SIA charge for Business Class on the same route), and finishing off the short trip in style and comfort with the benefit of a full last day in Bali before we went back to work was too good an opportunity to miss.

Flight details

  • Flight: KL836 Denpasar International to Singapore Changi T1
  • Class: Business
  • Seats: 1A & 1C
  • Aircraft Type: Boeing 777-300ER
  • Aircraft Registration: PH-BVF
  • Aircraft Age: 7.8 years
  • Date: 20th October 2018
  • Departure / Arrival: 20:40 / 23:15
  • Flight Time: 2h 35m
  • Cost: S$318.60

Boarding

We were informed at check in of a 45-minute delay to our flight, which gave us a little longer than expected in the Garuda lounge. It’s nothing special, but certainly an improvement on the adjacent Premier Lounge.

We made our way down to the gate at the revised boarding time, however it was still 10 minutes or so before the process actually got underway. A large queue had already formed at the Business Class / Sky Priority side, so we joined the back.

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Queues at the boarding gate. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Generally the process was quite chaotic at the small gate area for such a busy flight, with lots of confusion among passengers about which queue to join and many passengers repeatedly approaching the agent desk with questions.

Where to sit

The Business Class cabin on KLM’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which KLM calls ‘World Business Class’ is split across two sections.

The forward section accommodates 28 passengers across five rows (four rows on the far right hand side), while a single-row cabin behind the second main aircraft doors and directly ahead of Economy Class has a further six seats, for a total of 34 Business Class passengers.

All rows have a 2-2-2 configuration, meaning 23 of the 34 seats have direct aisle access with only the passengers in one of the 11 window seats having to step over another passenger to access the aisle.

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KLM 777-300ER World Business Class seat map. (Image: KLM)

This is a vast improvement on the former 2-3-2 layout KLM offered in this cabin, in which 15 of the 35 passengers did not have direct aisle access including five in the dreaded ‘middle seats’. That configuration has thankfully now been phased out on all KLM 777s.

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The previous version of KLM’s Business Class on the 777-300ER featured the dreaded ‘middle seat’ in a 2-3-2 configuration

Rows 1 and 6, the bulkhead positions, feature much larger footrest areas than the other seats. These are really worth going for if you’re flying on this aircraft. As usual, ignore the useless SeatGuru (can’t even bring ourselves to link it), which even states that floor storage for takeoff and landing is not available at these rows (we can attest that it certainly is available!).

An identical 2-2-2 layout exists on KLM’s Boeing 777-200ER, which you can find flying another short intra-Asia hop – Kuala Lumpur to/from Jakarta.

Incidentally if that route is any use to you, it’s probably one of the cheapest ways to experience this (or any) long-haul flat-bed Business Class product in the region – S$177 in March for the 2-hour hop one-way from KL to Jakarta or S$366 for a return itinerary.

That’s around half what Singapore Airlines charge for an Economy Class round-trip flight from Singapore to Jakarta!

Settling in

We were welcomed on board the aircraft by the cabin crew and directed down the left aisle to our seats 1A and 1C.

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Seats 1A and 1C are the first window pair in the five-row forward Business Class cabin. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The crew brought round welcome drinks, and we both opted for a glass of Champagne (trying to forget that we were both back at work in 12 hours time).

On the large central armrest between the two seats there is an in-built bevelled portion designed to serve as a drinks coaster to prevent your glass from slipping. We doubt it would stand up to heavier turbulence, but for the most part it does its job.

Boarding Champagne
Boarding Champagne. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Already the small touches are apparent – the bevelled glasses are beautiful. KLM serves a non-vintage Nicolas Feuillatte Réserve Brut Champagne, which picks up 3.8 stars out of 5 on Vivino.

It’s a perfectly acceptable Champagne for Business Class, well balanced and pleasantly drinkable.

In our experience you don’t see Nicolas Feuillatte much in Asia, however having both lived in London we know this one is available in UK supermarkets at around the £30 (S$53) mark, with the cheaper non-reserve version quite widely available for around £20 (S$36). In Singapore you’re looking at about S$80 for the reserve from a wholesaler.

The crew also came round with an amenity kit, quite a surprise for a 2-hour flight. We’ll take a look at that later in the review.

The only difference between this and a long-haul flight, like Singapore to Amsterdam, is that no blanket is provided on boarding. We forgot to ask the crew, but it’s likely they will provide one on request even on this short flight.

Edit 9th March 2019: Apparently blankets are not available on the SIN-DPS or DPS-SIN sectors on this flight, only the longer flights to/from Amsterdam. Thanks to PlaneSimple in the comments section for the heads-up.

The seat

KLM selected the B/E Aerospace Diamond Seats for the 777 World Business Class (the seat is now known as the Collins Aerospace Diamond seat, since B/E became part of the Rockwell Collins group).

Other carriers also flying this product include Ethiopian Airlines (A350 & 787), Qatar Airways (A330/A340) and United Airlines (787-8 and -9, though these are set to be replaced).

1A & 1C Low
Seats 1A and 1C. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The seats are staggered from one another by a few inches, improving privacy if you don’t know your neighbour.

There is also a small fixed privacy divider, with some decorative holes presumably to make it look less industrial.

1A & 1C Forwards
A small privacy divider separates the two seats. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The fixed nature of the divider is a bit unfortunate if you’re travelling as a couple, and the small size is a bit unfortunate if you’re flying solo. In other words, we found it a bit of a ‘halfway house’, which doesn’t fully suit either objective.

Even though the seat positions are staggered slightly, the IFE screen is not, affording the passenger in the aisle seat of a window pair (or the ‘D’ seat in a middle pair) some additional space.

2A & 2C
Some seats actually get more legroom than others. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

If you’re flying on one of KLM’s new Boeing 787-9 aircraft, these have a different seat product – the Zodiac Cirrus in a 1-2-1 configuration.

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KLM Boeing 787 Business Class. (Photo: Live and Let’s Fly)

Though these don’t currently fly from Singapore, you can find them flying on KLM’s flights from Osaka, Beijing, Chengdu and Hangzhou, plus on a range of transatlantic flights from Amsterdam.

Rows 1 and 6

We recommend trying to secure a bulkhead position in this cabin, which means a seat in either row 1 or row 6. That’s because there is significantly more foot space at the cubby hole for your feet, since it doesn’t have to make way for another seat in front. This especially improves comfort on longer flights when you’ll be using the seat in bed mode.

The foot area is almost the same width as the seat itself at these bulkhead rows.

1A & 1C Foot
Full width foot space at row 1 (pictured) and row 6 seats. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
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Note the much smaller foot space at the non-bulkhead rows. (Photo: One Mile at a Time)

The only downside with rows 1 and 6 is proximity to the galley and toilets at these locations.

Storage options

These seats aren’t hugely generous with additional storage. Below the IFE screen there is a shelf for personal devices, or potentially magazines and newspapers. Here’s how in iPhone 8 looks inside that area.

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Storage below the IFE screen. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Aside from this space, which is marked ‘no stowage for takeoff and landing’ (does anyone actually pay attention to these?), there is also a side literature pocket next to your seat which you can use for storage, and a shelf behind your head where the power sockets are located.

Amenity kit

A surprising inclusion for such a short flight is an amenity kit for all Business Class passengers. It’s perhaps surprising only because we are so used to flying Singapore Airlines, who still don’t include one even on long-haul flights (except in short spurts for special occasions, or ‘trials’ which never seem to be extended).

Edit 9th March 2019: Amenity kits are apparently only offered for the DPS-SIN sector on this flight, not the SIN-DPS sector. Thanks to PlaneSimple in the comments section for the heads-up.

Amenity Kit
The Jan Taminiau amenity kit. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The amenity kit is by Jan Taminiau, a Dutch fashion designer. It’s fairly simple and contains:

  • Eye shades
  • Ear plugs
  • Socks
  • Lip balm
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Comb
Amenity Kit Contents.jpg
Amenity kit contents. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

This amenity kit is certainly nice to have for a short flight to or from Bali, but nothing special for a long-haul service with no cosmetics to speak of.

Seat controllers and positions

The seat controls are simple and logical. There are two preset positions, upright for takeoff and landing, and fully flat for bed mode.

Seat Controls
Seat controls. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Additionally individual controls allow you to adjust the legrest extension, recline and lumbar support.

A key benefit if you’re sitting in an aisle seat on this aircraft (that’s all except the ‘A’ and ‘K’ seats), is the ability to retract the armrest so that you can easily get in and out of your seat even with the table extended, for example during dinner.

The armrest on the window side of the ‘A’ and ‘K’ seats also retracts, however this is only to increase the space of the bed as being against the window it obviously doesn’t assist with access.

Bed mode

The short flight between Singapore and Bali is not usually one you’d associate with getting much sleep, but this seat converts easily into a flat bed and a pillow is provided in case you want to catch up on some rest.

1A Bed Upwards
Seat 1A in bed mode. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Obviously this comes into play for the long overnight Singapore to Amsterdam flight, for which a blanket is also provided.

The seat reclines into a fully flat 78-inch (198cm) bed, the same as most Singapore Airlines Business Class beds, but is obviously quite a bit narrower at 20 inches (slightly more with the armrest retracted).

1A Bed Downwards 2
Seat 1A in bed mode. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

No mattress topper is provided, so you’re relying on the firmness (or softness) of the seat itself for sleeping comfort.

Pro-tip: If you find yourself in a Business Class bed like this that is a bit firm for your liking, but you’re flying with an airline which doesn’t provide mattress toppers, ask the crew if they have a spare second blanket and use that as your mattress pad.

It’s worked well for us in the past, especially on relatively empty flights where there are usually plenty of extra blankets available.

We didn’t actually sleep on this flight (or attempt to) given the short duration, but the seat appears to strike a decent balance of support and comfort when reclined into the bed position.

The table

The tray table extends from centre armrest of each seat. It includes a ‘half-leaf’ option so you can use it for a smaller item or keep your drink there.

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The table being prepared for dinner. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Beverages

On this flight the menu contained a page outlining the beverage options, though not a dedicated wine list as such. We understand that on longer flights there is a separate wine list provided.

Menu P3

Two white wines and two red wines were on offer however, in addition to the Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne. We both went with a glass of red wine with dinner, Eddie opted for the McLaran Vale Shiraz, while I went for the Rioja.

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Red wine. (Photos: MainlyMiles)

We enjoyed both of these wines, the Shiraz gets a slightly better Vivino rating of 3.8 stars out of 5, with the Rioja scoring 3.6 stars.

A range of spirits, beers and soft drinks are also available, as is ‘The Flying Dutchman’, KLM’s signature gin based cocktail.

Food

KLM’s World Business Class meal service is usually presented course-by-course on long-haul flights. Understandably owing to the short flight time from Bali to Singapore, a trolley service is offered with all three courses served on the same tray.

The food menu is distributed on boarding.

Menu Champagne
The menu. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The back cover of the menu even has the date and flight details printed on it, a nice touch if you want to keep it as a memento of your journey.

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Front and back menu covers

On flights to and from Indonesia, KLM has partnered with celebrity chef Farah Quinn to provide specific dishes on the Singapore – Denpasar and Kuala Lumpur – Jakarta flights. Passengers travelling on the Amsterdam – Singapore / KL sectors also receive these options.

Menu P2

Eddie went for the Farah Quinn coconut chicken.

Chicken
Coconut chicken with tumeric rice. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

I opted for the beef brisket.

Beef
Beef brisket in thyme sauce. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Both main courses were excellent, we were actually pleasantly surprised as we were expecting a lower standard than Singapore Airlines offer on their Regional Business Class.

That wasn’t really the case, the food was well presented and very tasty, the Farah Quinn Chicken dish having a slight edge over the Beef Brisket.

The cutlery and glassware used on board is really attractive, we especially loved the Champagne glasses and the decorative pattern on the handles of the knives and forks, specially designed for KLM.

Cutlery Detail 2
The small design details are a very nice touch. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

After dinner tea and coffee were served, and the crew came round with ‘Delft House’ shaped chocolates – with a choice between dark, milk and white.

Chocolates
Delft House chocolates. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

In-flight entertainment

Each seat has a 16-inch screen with over 150 movies and around 200 TV shows. That’s reasonably extensive, and certainly more than enough for this short flight.

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IFE selection. The remaining flight time is displayed at the top of the screen. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

If you were flying this aircraft on a long-haul trip and are more used to the selection offered on Singapore Airlines or Emirates, you may be disappointed as the selection doesn’t come close to that offered on those carriers.

I got started on a movie almost straight after takeoff (essential on a short flight like this if you want to actually complete the full movie). The system will actually warn you if the remaining flight time is insufficient for the film you’ve selected, which is quite a common feature these days.

The visual and audio quality were both very good. Noise cancelling headphones are provided (unbranded, with just the KLM logo). These were reasonably good quality.

Headphones
Noise cancelling headphones. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The IFE system is touchscreen, or if you prefer there is an entertainment controller in the armrest.

Power sockets

The power sockets at these seats are alongside your headrest in a recessed area with a little shelf area for storing your device while charging, or your headphones when not in use.

Though it’s nicely out of the way, we actually found it quite an awkward location to reach from the normal seated position. When plugging and unplugging devices you almost had to get out of your seat slightly forwards then reach around to the sockets.

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Power sockets and storage shelf. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Ok it’s a first world problem (most things on this site are), but we can’t help thinking there was a better option here.

KLM seem to have changed headset providers in Business Class at some point as each headphone jack was pre-fitted with a small adapter plug suitable for the current headphones.

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Power sockets include an adapter for the new style headphones. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is available on KLM’s 777-300ERs. There is no free allowance for Business Class passengers (at least on this short flight), and the prices were as follows.

  • 40MB: EUR 9.95 (S$15)
  • 120MB: EUR 19.95 (S$30)

Alternative connection options included iPass and Boingo, however we both tried logging in with our Boingo account without success and decided not to purchase any Wi-Fi package.

Toilets

There are two toilets for Business Class passengers on the KLM 777, one at the front right side immediately ahead of seats 1J / 1K, and the other behind the second main aircraft door on the left side ahead of seats 6A / 6C in the mini cabin.

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Nothing special about the Business Class toilets. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

They are nothing special, standard size with what might be regarded as old fashioned intense lighting, unlike some of the more subdued tones seen in newer Business Class cabins.

Toiletries from Zenology are available and include face and body mist, moisturiser and deodorant.

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Zenology toiletries. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Crew

The cabin crew on this flight were perfectly polite and friendly at all times, but the service is what we’d call ‘functional’. Partly that stems from our exposure to Asian airlines, especially SIA, where crew are generally have a very subservient attitude with passengers.

That’s not the case in Europe and the service with these carriers can often come across as brusque in comparison. We unfortunately felt the crew weren’t particularly warm or hospitable with us during the journey. They do operate this duty as a ‘turnaround’ flight and it was delayed, so perhaps those factors also contributed.

If you’re used to the Singapore Airlines’ style of service, where nothing is too much trouble and your smallest whim will be immediately catered for, our experience is that KLM Business Class will certainly feel a bit different to you.

Delft Blue houses

All Business Class passengers on KLM are offered a complimentary ‘Delft Blue house’, a small bottle of Dutch gin (actually called ‘Genever’). This is a longstanding KLM tradition apparently since the 1950s and it’s great to see it lives on.

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The Delft Blue houses we received on this flight, number 68 (left), which was first released in 1986, and number 99 (right), which is the newest from 2018. (Photo MainlyMiles)

Every Delft House depicts a real Dutch building, and each year in October KLM celebrates its birthday by adding a new one to the collection. There are now 99 types, with the 100th due this year for the airline’s centenary.

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KLM Delft Blue houses. (Image: KLM)

There is even a mobile app which shows you all 99 houses, including details of when they were built and their exact location in Holland, in case you want to pay a personal visit.

Delft Blue House App.jpg

On it’s website, the airline says that “over the years, our miniature houses have become desirable collectors’ items, generating a lively trade amongst passengers”.

We found this tradition a really nice and quite unique touch, and we have no doubt there are KLM regulars and collectors sporting model villages at home with all 99 houses featured!

Small touches

From the special cutlery and glassware to the Delft House chocolates and small gin bottle gift, a lot of thought is clearly put in to the experience and keeping up with some nice traditions.

Many of these small touches are inspired by Dutch designer Marcel Wanders.

Menu P4

What’s ‘the standard’ to judge against?

In our experience your impression and judgment of a product is largely based on your expectation.

When you think a Business Class seat from Bali to Singapore is likely to be average, and it ends up being remarkably good, that’s based on your expectation.

When you think a Business Class seat from Singapore to Europe is going to be fantastic, and it falls below your perceived standards, that’s based on your expectation.

It makes summarising this review a little complicated. Are we reviewing a Business Class seat on a short-haul flight, regardless of why it exists on that route, or are we reviewing a long-haul Business Class flat-bed seat on a short sector?

It’s difficult to make a simplistic judgment about a long-haul Business Class product on a short-haul flight.

Clearly this isn’t up there with the latest long-haul Business Class seats, and given that’s what it’s primarily designed to be we can’t ignore that fact. All aisle access 1-2-1 configurations are now the mainstay in these cabins and it certainly feels like KLM has stayed ‘one step behind’ with this 2-2-2 product on its 777s.

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Our job is to be critical. Actually there was very little to complain about on a short flight from Bali to Singapore. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Between Singapore and Bali though, until Singapore Airlines started flying the 787-10 on the early morning flight, this was undoubtedly the best seat on offer on the route, and remains better than most alternatives.

Summary

We have therefore decided to analyse our experience of this seat in two ways; as an option on the shortish hop to and from Bali, and as a long-haul product.

Would we fly KLM World Business Class between Singapore and Bali again?

Yes, definitely. KLM offers competitive Business Class fares on this flight, often from around S$300 one-way or as little as S$400 return.

It may also be possible to upgrade at the check-in desk, subject to availability. We have done this on a flight from Bali to Singapore with KLM for a fixed price of US$150, though that was when the old 2-3-2 layout was still flying the route (we booked directly into Business on this occasion).

Most Singapore Airlines flights between Singapore and Bali still feature the older 2009 Regional Business Class product.

Would we fly this product on a long-haul flight?

Travelling solo – probably not. Given today’s standards, there is insufficient privacy for a long-haul sector, especially overnight and especially in the aisle seat, which features almost no screening from the rest of the cabin whatsoever.

Equally, being stuck in the window seat carries with it the awkward issue of climbing over a stranger’s legs to visit the toilet in the middle of the night.

As a couple – perhaps yes. It’s nicely sociable provided the aisle passenger can get over their neighbour seeing everything they do. The window passenger (in a couple setup) has quite a nice experience here we think.

The bulkhead seats are the ones to go for, offering increased space in the footwell when the seat is in bed mode.

Bed Overview.jpg
(Photo: MainlyMiles)

Concluding thoughts

The food, quite genuinely, was really good. We rarely have any complaints when we fly Singapore Airlines Business Class, so perhaps we’re too forgiving in this respect, but KLM are not skimping on quality or cost here in our opinion, which is fantastic to see on a short sector where it would be easy for them to ‘trim’ the offering.

Wine and Champagne options were good for Business Class.

In-flight entertainment options, though not industry leading, were good.

KLM has put a lot of thought into ‘small touches’ in their 777-300ER Business Class experience. In some ways you can’t help but think this is to detract from the obvious failings of the seat itself. As a long-haul product it is now falling well behind the new norm in this class among full service carriers.

We found the crew to be a little disinterested and functional, quite a contrast to the usually warm and friendly service we’re used to with Singapore Airlines.

Overall, as a short-haul option between Singapore and Bali:

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As a long-haul Business Class seat:

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(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)

5 comments

  1. The time is not good. Evening into Bali(lose a day and have to pay for hotel) and around midnight back to Singapore(so late check out is difficult)

    The price is cheap.

  2. For short haul, this is good business class compare to Recliner Seat. I will definitely choose this one in over Recliner.

  3. Great detailed review Andrew. We did the return trip a few months ago SIN-DPS-SIN. Blankets were not offered on either leg despite asking – both times we were told only for the long haul section to/from AMS, this was quite surprising. Also an amenity kit was only offered DPS-SIN, not SIN-DPS… not sure if this was bad luck or the norm given that SIN is only a stop (I assume they seek out new passengers boarding in SIN to AMS though!). Certainly a fun way to start a short break in Bali as well as maximise the final day.

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