Air France Economy vs KLM Economy – What’s Best?

You might think that being all part of the same airline holding company, comparing Air France economy vs KLM economy would not be necessary. Surely, they maintain some similar standards across both airlines, making a comparison pointless, right?

KLM vs air france
The two airlines are like sisters from another mister… so what sets them apart?

However, as our review has revealed, there are some stark differences between Air France vs KLM, which are worth thinking about if you’re faced with a choice of flying one or the other. With many routes shared between the two airlines and fares often similar, it’s worthwhile getting to know where one outpaces the other, so you can fly with only the best.

Despite being all part of one big happy group now, KLM and Air France are historical rivals. As a group, the Air France-KLM consortium has faced some tough times recently. Following a year when the group’s profits were down 81.6%, the appointment of their new CEO has raised hopes for a better future for these airlines.

Let’s dive in and see who wins and who fails in all those areas we care most about.

air france
Can Air France do better than KLM on all fronts?

Introduction

Having been a passenger on both these airlines numerous times for trips across the continent, I’m keen to dive in and get to grips with which airline does it best. I know what I think, but let’s crunch some numbers, stack some stats and see which airline really deserves our dedication. I’m going to look at all the important elements, from seating to food, entertainment to pricing and, of course, the all-important customer service.

KLM
It’s big and blue, but what makes KLM better than Air France?

Fares

From my searches, there’s really not a lot in it in terms of basic flight costs between Air France vs KLM. As both airlines are in the same parent group, they often advertise fares for each other’s routes on their own websites. They often share routes too, so on some trips you might make the first leg on KLM, but then transfer to Air France to complete your journey.

I ran a few searches to check the prices, based on trips taking place on November 19th one way. Here’s what I found:

London – Montreal

Air France £1,039, KLM £1,036

Paris – New York

Air France £1,836, KLM £1,824

London – Munich

Air France £110, KLM £127

Amsterdam – Paris

Air France £143, KLM £143

There really is very little to choose between the two carriers in terms of price, so I guess it all comes down to the other benefits of flying with these guys as to who is the winner out of KLM vs Air France.

KLM economy vs Air France economy
The cost of flying can’t help us decide, so what can?

Seating

The economy seats on both carriers are relatively similar, but there are some crucial differences as you’ll see. Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Air France:

Pitch: 31” – 32”

Width: – 17.3” – 18”

KLM:

Pitch: 30” – 31”

Width: 17” – 17.5”

These specs are for straightforward economy, not economy plus or any other upgrade. It’s clear to see that, with Air France, you get a little bit more in most cases. Their largest seats, with a pitch of 32” and a width of 18”, are some of the most generous economy seats around. While it’s only a matter of an inch, or even half an inch, when that’s the difference between being comfortable and being in pain for your flight, it makes all the difference.

Food and drink

KLM short haul will see you blessed with a small sweet or savoury snack free of charge, and one drink in a tiny can. You can ask for a second, but it will depend on the mood of the flight hostess whether you get it or not. Longer European flights also include sandwiches or wraps.

KLM short haul food
The short haul offering from KLM

Air France on the other hand regularly hand out delicious snacks in the sky. The morning will see a fresh croissant or pastry landing on your tray, and later on it’s a sandwich or a sweet treat outside of mealtimes. Longer flights which are still within Europe get a hot meal served up.

On long haul flights, passengers get a choice of two hot meals, and may get snacks or breakfast too depending on the time of day. Cocktails, champagnes, hot and cold drinks are all available throughout the flights.

air france economy long haul food
The Air France long haul meals are generally a choice of pasta or meat (usually chicken)

For a treat, long haul passengers can avail of the a la carte menu from Air France. These feature a choice of meals, covering traditional French cuisine, comfortable Italian eating or a fishy ocean focussed plate, as well as some specialities. Prices range from €12 to €28. There’s also a kid’s plate for €13.

air france a la carte
The a la carte selection from Air France comes at a cost, but is designed by some top French chefs

KLM long haul similarly welcomes guests no board with a drink, and then they can choose from one of two hot meals. A second meal will also be served on longer flights. Between meals, they are fairly generous with the handing out of snacks, ice creams, sandwiches and hot and cold drinks. In fact, you can expect to be offered a drink at least once an hour, if you’re still awake.

KLM long haul food
The long haul meals on KLM are pretty standard stuff

Their a la carte offering looks pretty good, but with Dutch food not being particularly well known or loved, it’s a bit of an odd selection. Some of the choices include Indonesian rice dishes, Japanese selections and an Italian choice. Prices start at €12. Kids meals are also available and, even better, are free of charge!

KLM a la carte
KLMs a la carte offerings are also chef designed and look somehow more plentiful than those from Air France

Comments have been made that KLM serve up real coffee, rather than the instant that’s the norm on Air France. Personally, that could be a deal breaker.

It’s hard to pick a winner from Air France vs KLM for food and drink. Again, it’s going to come down to personal preference. As someone who flies frequently with children, the free kids meals and hourly alcohol service tip me towards KLM. But if fine dining is all part of the inflight experience for you, I reckon Air France has got the edge.

Entertainment and Wi-Fi

So far, Air France have only equipped the 787-9 with in flight Wi-Fi. The newest 777 and the 787-9 have laptop power to all seats, but other classes of aircraft do not, although AC power is available across the fleet. All have on demand TV though, showing a rotation of current blockbusters as well as a selection of homegrown French movies.

air france in flight entertainment
Treat yourself to a homegrown French movie on Air France

Many of Air France’s planes are due a cabin upgrade, and having seen and reviewed their new specs, the future for in flight entertainment with Air France is looking good. Air France’s updated economy cabin comes with a better in flight entertainment standard, with the latest generation 11.7” touchscreen device. The new cabin features power sockets on all seats too, as well as Wi-Fi throughout the flight.

On KLM flights, there’s a real mixed bag of features. All their widebody jets have on demand TV available, but for narrowbody economy there’s no TV available. AC power is available on all flights apart from the Embraer class craft, but laptop power is again lacking except on a few of the newer widebody craft.

KLM in flight entertainment
KLM only have TVs on their widebody jets

If you’re looking for in-flight Wi-Fi, you’re not going to want to fly KLM. There’s nothing on any of the narrowbody craft, and for the widebody fleet, only the 787-9 has been equipped to keep you connected so far.

Should I fly with KLM or Air France?

In some ways, my verdict is based on not solely what the aircraft provide, but what the overall experience is going to be. For the majority of Air France flights, you’ll need to make a connection in Paris to continue your journey in any direction. Charles DeGaulle airport is notoriously inefficient, and from personal experience is one of the most stressful places to undertake a transfer.

On the other hand, KLM will always connect you in the wonderful Schiphol airport. If you’ve ever had a transfer at this Dutch masterpiece, you’ll already know what I’m talking about. Refined, pleasant, laid back and altogether a nicer place to spend a few hours than CDG.

However, if you’re flying direct with no messy transfer to worry about, then my pick would be Air France. The seats are more comfortable, the in flight amenities tend to be better and the food just has the slightest of edges over the Dutch carrier.

KLM service
Is it wrong to want to fly KLM for the beer?
1 comment
  1. Good comparison. Some of points to add. First of all I generally find AF staff more agreeable, KLM staff can be remarkably impersonal and lacking warmth at times. Second, regards Schiphol, whilst I agree that the airport is preferable to CDG, the transit between Schengen and non-Schengen zones can at times be quite harrowing, particularly if you have a short connection! Finally, if you are an AF-KLM frequent flyer, when traveling economy, some privileges such as where you are seated in the aircraft frequently do not transfer between mixed AF – KLM all economy flights ie as an AF based FF I get offered near the front seats whenever available, that privilege doesn’t pass on into a follow-on KLM flight…

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