London Heathrow - Amsterdam
- Enjoy all the usual perks of business class on the ground
- It's business class service in an economy seat, with a neighbour
- Enjoy a full meal and beverage service, even on a 45-minute flight
KLM goes head-to-head with British Airways for business class travellers jetting between London and Amsterdam, mixing its flights between mainline KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and its regional offshoot KLM Cityhopper.
Here's what that KLM Cityhopper experience entails following a recent flight from London's Heathrow Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol.
- Frequent flyer program: Flying Blue, SkyTeam alliance. As of December 2019, Qantas Points (although not status credits) can also be earned on KLM flights with a KL flight number.
- Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg as standard, increased to 3x32kg for Flying Blue Silver members and above, SkyTeam Elite and Elite Plus cardholders, and Qantas Silver frequent flyers and higher.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x115cm bags plus one smaller item such as a handbag, laptop bag or briefcase, at a combined total weight of 18kg.
- Priority airport services: Sky Priority check-in was swift, with a scan of the boarding pass unlocking Heathrow Airport's fast-track security channel. Priority boarding was enforced via a separate line, and priority-tagged bags were the first to arrive on the belt.
KLM uses the SkyTeam Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 4: a two-storey space, largely with the same services on each level.
That duplication comes down to how busy this lounge can be, with the agent at reception helpfully highlighting that during this mid-afternoon visit, the upstairs level would be quieter.
Of course, passengers with a Priority Pass card or an AMEX Platinum or Centurion Card can also make use of the Plaza Premium Lounge in the same terminal, which was quieter yet again at the same time of day, and offers barista-made coffee and bartender service.
As far as Plaza Premium lounges go, it's one of the nicer ones: so if you do have access here, we'd recommend it over the SkyTeam Lounge.
Out of Amsterdam, business class passengers on London-bound flights have access to KLM's recently-refurbished non-Schengen Crown Lounge at Schiphol Airport.
KLM offers up to 11 return flights per day between London Heathrow and Amsterdam, some operated by KLM Boeing 737s, and others by KLM Cityhopper, using smaller jets like the E190s.
From gate to gate, it's an 80-minute journey, with the time spent airborne typically no longer than 45 minutes: the rest taxiing around the massive airports that are Heathrow and Schiphol.
KLM also offers multiple daily flights to and from London City Airport: its Canary Wharf location being more convenient for some business travellers, particularly those working in finance with an array of bank headquarters nearby.
Of course, there are no airport lounges at London City, so for passengers planning to arrive early or with an inbound connecting flight, Heathrow could be the better pick.
Business class aboard KLM Cityhopper flights gets you better food, service and priority privileges, although the seat on board is exactly the same as economy, which comes in a 2-2 arrangement.
While KLM blocks the middle seat in business class on its larger Boeing 737s (in a 3-3 layout) which guarantees extra space and elbow room, on these E190 jets, every seat is sold: so on full flights, you'll have a neighbour.
Sitting in row 1 does offer some extra space, however, as there's nobody in front to recline into you. Legroom was also ample, for what was an hour-long hop.
Fixed pockets in front offer storage for items such as tablets, magazines and the like, with everything else belonging in the overhead locker.
At these bulkhead rows, the tray table folds up from beside the arm rest, and expands out. It's adequate for eating but a little bumpy when typing on a laptop given the table has no resting point on its far side.
When not in use, the table sits out of the way, but without impeding your personal space.
Power outlets are not available on these flights, so you'll have to juice up your device in the lounge, or book a KLM Boeing 737 departure, where power is available.
All meals and drinks are complimentary in business class on KLM Cityhopper flights, and what's on offer depends on the length of your flight and its departure time.
Being one of the shortest flights in the Cityhopper network, this late afternoon departure offered a chilled Caesar salad with grilled chicken, egg, cheese, tomato and capers, served with croutons and warmed bread on the side.
To allow for quick service – and consumption, before it's time for landing – the meal comes ready to eat (and respectably presented) in a cardboard box. To finish, a stewed pear pie at the top left:
The extensive beverage menu offers soft drinks, juices, tea, coffee, sparkling wine (Spanish Cava), a choice of two white and two red wines, beer, spirits, cognac and liqueur.
Wanting to sample something Dutch, a Damrak Gin and tonic hit the spot, with the ingredients all served separately to mix to taste.
That was appreciated at first, but on an incredibly bumpy flight, meant trying to nurse four containers rather than one glass while also eating the meal – until a flight attendant came by to take the extras away, which made things easier.
A bottle of water was also provided before take-off, and beverage service remained available until it was time to pack up and land.
Entertainment & Service
Entertainment on these flights is whatever you've brought with you, as there's no seatback TV or inflight WiFi.
That said, the pockets in front of the seat were sturdy enough to mount a tablet for viewing with wireless headphones, while the tray table was occupied by the meal.
Realistically, there's only so much an airline can do on a quick hour-long flight – and only so much that travellers can reasonably expect – and other than the lack of in-seat power, KLM Cityhopper gets the basics right.
Of course, when your departure time is flexible, business class aboard KLM's Boeing 737s is the better pick, given there's more personal space, and of course, inflight power.
Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of KLM Cityhopper.