Cape Town is a trendy destination for plenty of Europeans. As such, many European carriers offer flights out of Cape Town to the U.S. The likes of Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, British Airways (sometimes in heritage livery!) and Turkish Airlines fly to Cape Town. Since my destination in the United States was in Minnesota, flying KLM and connecting to Delta was the best option. KLM flies a 777-300ER on this route and it comes with a few local perks.
One-way flights from Cape Town to Amsterdam can be found for as low as $2,557.
I parted with just over $3,400 for a one-way itinerary to Minnesota. For 25 hours of travel, I thought the price was steep, but reasonable compared to some other itineraries and costs. Given that I have Skyteam Elite status and was racking up some Delta SkyMiles, I decided to fly with KLM and Delta.
If you want to use miles, you could check out Flying Blue or Delta SkyMiles. Note that Delta doesn’t publish an award chart, so the cost of your itinerary can vary. Flying Blue also doesn’t have a mileage chart, but they do provide a price estimator. For flying between Cape Town and Amsterdam, tickets in World Business start at 67,500 miles.
I arrived at Cape Town International Airport at about 8:30pm for my 11:05pm departure. There was a dedicated check-in center for Sky Priority passengers. As a Skyteam Elite Plus member, I received access to this check-in line. Otherwise, normal World Business travelers also receive Sky Priority check-in. In order to accommodate a couple, I was asked to move from 3A to 1A. I agreed. Since a supervisor had to approve the change, it took a little longer for me to check my bags. Nevertheless, after about 30 minutes, I had boarding passes in my hand and had checked my bags.
After clearing immigration and security, I made my way to the Bidvest lounge. This was perhaps the worst contract lounge I’d been in. The lounge was packed. By the time I arrived, there was one seat left (thankfully!). I’m not sure if it was because of the relatively late hour that they had slim pickings for food, but it was slightly disappointing. I just had a can of Coca-Cola and did some work before it was time to board. The wifi was reasonably fast, but, probably due to the sheer number of people accessing it, I couldn’t manage to stream or download any content.
Everyone boarded through the second door. There, I was greeted by perhaps the most ecstatic flight attendant I’d ever seen for this late of a departure. She gleefully welcomed me aboard and pointed me left into the larger business class cabin.
KLM arranges their World Business class in a 2-2-2 lie-flat configuration. There are 28 seats in the forward cabin (row five does not have a pair of seats on the right side of the plane) with another six seats located behind the galley and directly in front of the economy class cabin. Since those seats tended to get plenty of traffic from flight attendants serving economy class passengers, I was glad to have gotten a seat in the forward cabin.
At my seat, I found a pillow and a blanket waiting for me. For a 12-hour flight, they weren’t terrible, but they didn’t even come close to the bedding on Singapore Airlines or even Delta One for that matter.
Immediately offset and behind the headrest was a little storage nook, power outlet, USB, and headphone jack. This place was perfect for storing a water bottle or small handbag mid flight.
On the armrest between the seats were seat controls. They were simple and responsive.
Below the seat control was the remote control for the inflight entertainment system. The remote was handy since the screen was quite far away.
In front of the seat, there was a large entertainment monitor, a small storage nook, and the footrest.
The footrest becomes part of the bed when the seat is reclined. The Dutch are very tall and as such these seats had a fairly decent amount of pitch! I’m 5’8″ and it was a little difficult for me to reach the footrest without reclining even a little. It felt like there was more room legroom on KLM than on my previous flights with Singapore Airlines and Vietnam Airlines.
The seat had a decent amount of storage. I didn’t have a lot with me that I needed during flight so I didn’t have a problem finding a place to store things.
In bed-mode, the seat was comfortable and I had plenty of room to stretch out thanks to KLM’s generous pitch. I was able to sleep for eight hours between meal services.
As I mentioned before, a pillow and blanket were waiting at my seat when I boarded. Shortly after I settled in, I received headphones and an amenity kit.
The best way to describe the headphones is where they should go: the garbage. Unfortunately, they didn’t do a good job at noise cancellation and at times I had to readjust the connection since it would start making a high-pitched sound or a static sound. KLM really could improve this.
On the other hand, the amenity kit was solid. I loved the case it came in!
KLM’s amenity kit case is easily something you can use in the future for carrying cords, bulky items, passports, phones, etc. Jan Taminiau also exclusively designed this for KLM.
Prior to landing, World Business travelers received a Delft house of their choice from a selection presented on a tray.
KLM has a solid inflight entertainment system. They have a large collection of films, TV shows, and some audio programming that can keep you occupied for a long-haul flight. I appreciated how they had a combination of new and old films. Multiple genres were also available.
The remote control came in handy and you could see previews of the content on the smaller screen.
Just after takeoff, I settled for Mary Poppins since I had never seen it before. After some sleep, with my breakfast, I decided to watch Mary Poppins Returns. Personally, I like inflight entertainment that has multiple films in a series since I can make a double feature out of them, so this was a plus in my book.
KLM didn’t offer wifi on this 777-300ER. They are, however, working on expanding wifi offerings.
After boarding, I was offered a pre-departure beverage with the choice of champagne, Heineken, and orange juice. I selected a glass of orange juice.
Flight attendants handed out menus as we taxied to the runway for departure. The menu was as follows:
The wine list was as follows:
Service was a bit slow to start. About 45 minutes after takeoff, flight attendants came around with a drink and meal cart. I selected the beef bobotie since it is a South African favorite according to my host mother. The entire meal was served on one tray.
I loved how KLM incorporated some local delicacies into the meal. The ostrich appetizer was interesting. Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of it and probably won’t go looking for ostrich dishes elsewhere.
The beef bobotie, however, was fantastic, especially with the chutney. I was most impressed with the temperature of the food. Usually, when I am served food on a plane, it is either too hot to eat right away or far too cold. This was just the right temperature.
KLM is proud to be Dutch and it shows in their tableware. I loved the ceramic designs they have on all their dishes. The little red clog salt and pepper shakers were awesome! Most of all though, I enjoyed seeing designs embellished on the cutlery.
The supper service concluded about two hours after takeoff. I reclined into bed mode and got a solid eight hours of sleep before I naturally woke up. Shortly after I woke up, the breakfast service started two hours prior to arrival. I was first offered a beverage and I selected some apple juice.
A few minutes later, the meal cart came around and I was asked my choice for breakfast. I went with the pancakes. The entire meal, again, came on one tray.
Much like the last service, everything was at the right temperature. The pancakes were delicious. However, they felt and tasted more like crepes. Nevertheless, they were filling despite lacking a little in the presentation. The portion sizes were also just right. I finished the entire breakfast and didn’t feel overly full.
As usual, this KLM crew was utterly delightful. They seemed genuinely enthusiastic to have us onboard. We were delayed about an hour due to fog in Cape Town. However, the entire crew managed it well. They, along with our female captain (which the aviation world needs more of), provided us with plenty of information regarding our plan of action. Flight attendants offered some water during the delay.
Although a minor detail, if KLM wants to improve their service, calling passengers by their name would add a personal feel to the experience and just improve things a little bit more. It isn’t the end of the world that flight attendants didn’t address me by name, but plenty of other carriers have flight attendants who do use passenger names.
KLM needs to improve their bedding and their headphones. The bedding is fine for a medium-haul, U.S. domestic first flight, but a bit lacking for a long-haul redeye. The headphones are just terrible.
I would definitely fly KLM again. They have a few areas of improvement, but overall, they are consistent in their offerings. Now that all their widebodies have flatbeds, this will allow for greater consistency since I know what to expect in terms of a hard product on certain aircraft.
While the 2-2-2 layout isn’t ideal, KLM scores some points due to the fixed privacy partition between the seats. Their 787s have reverse herringbone seats so if I had the choice, I would prefer to fly on a 787.
Have you flown with KLM? Would you fly KLM? Let us know in the comments!
All photographs are by the author.