It seems that this year, I have a bit of a predilection for visiting countries that begin with the letter N. After twelve days in Namibia, it was most certainly time to come home – despite an amazing safari.
Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport is about 43km from what constitutes the Central Business District of a city of over 5000 square kilometers. It takes about thirty-five minutes to get there.
While it is better than O.R. Tambo in Johannesburg, it is a crowded and claustrophobic check-in hall, linked to an equally crowded and claustrophobic security and immigration hallway.
Apparently, the Namibian Airports Corporation is aware of these constraints and plans to construct not only a new terminal but a second runway as well. Given Namibia’s focus on infrastructure, I doubt that is a boast.
Surprisingly, given how small the waiting area is – there are two Premium lounges.
KLM uses the Amushe lounge, which is overseen by Menzies. It’s nicer than the Crown Lounge in AMS, but the WiFi is slower. Also, because Namibian security seems to be more for show – I was not able to spend that much time there as KLM requires every single passenger undergo manual hand-baggage screening prior to boarding.
After completing that, it seemed that every sky priority passenger was corralled into a tiny glazed foyer with no air conditioning until the aircraft was actually ready for boarding. There are no jetbridges in Windhoek, so it was a pleasant walk towards the A330-203 of the day – Federation Square.
That’s about where the pleasantry ends. So, if you defend KLM for reasons beyond me – probably best to stop reading.
It was either late last year or earlier this year that KLM said that they planned to reconfigure their A330-200 fleet with a somewhat decent business class while also removing 12 seats to increase density in Economy. It seems that while the aircraft were down for reconfiguration, they decided to only complete the latter half of their promise.
It is 2002 in there. Maybe earlier. Let’s discuss the features of the alleged World Business Class seat on the A330-200 fleet.
It is a 2-2-2 layout offering each passenger a staggering 20.25 inches of seat width. I would say that includes the armrest. It is the width of most premium economy seats in actuality. Perhaps a bit narrower given that the armrests contain the IFE and tray.
Storage space is non-existent. Forget to try to find somewhere to put your glasses; forget to try to find somewhere to put your smartphone. There’s a meshed area below the seat in front of you, but it is tiny. The area containing the safety cards and magazines is a very bad idea. I put my water bottle up there, and when the other passenger reclined sometime during the night, it was lost to history.
Each seat offers up to 170º of recline.
Each seat contains a 4:3 aspect ratio 280i AVOD unit that is roughly six inches in size.
There is the plus that the seat has in-seat power, but there is no WiFi. It also turns out if the IFE needs to be rebooted, the power, as well as the seat controls, cease to function. To make things even more interesting. The IFE for both cabins is on the same control panel. If the IFE in Economy does not work, your seat is not moving in business class.
WDH-LAD-AMS is blocked at thirteen hours.
This seat would be acceptable, sort of, with better IFE, as a Business Class on a U.S. transcon. Though the competition would have long surpassed it there.
Every other airline flying long-hauls out of Windhoek offers a seat with at least 178º of recline. KLM clearly decided that there was no reason to reconfigure the Business Class cabin whilst removing seats – so this is entirely on them.
KLM can only sell 16 of the 18 seats in World Business Class as two are reserved for crew rest – in Windhoek, four revenue passengers and one upgrade were boarded.
Even with the lack of passengers, this cabin that is the antithesis of privacy and personal space didn’t feel open. You would think with two cabin attendants and a senior purser, service in J would be responsive and quick.
Pre-departure beverages of Sparking Wine, Orange Juice, and Water took a few minutes to appear, they actually arrived after the amenity kit. Eventually, 4:25 p.m. rolled around and we finally taxied towards runway 08.
Takeoff was fine. Climb was fine. You know you are really scraping the bottom of the barrel for compliments when you are resorting to discussing competent airmanship.
It would be a two-hour flight to Luanda and roughly forty minutes into the flight; the “light meal” appeared. The choice was either a salami quiche or a shrimp quiche. Both came with a confusing carrot and beef salad as well as a Dutch apple pie.
I chose the salami quiche, and found myself dismayed.
Never in my life have I seen so many peppers. Had this not had glassware, I would have assumed this was a one-tray Economy meal. Nothing there portion-sizes looks like or tasted like Business Class.
The fact it sat after its completion, languishing on my tray-table, for half an hour also felt about as Premium as Basic Economy.
I, plaintively, hoped that the catering would be better out of Luanda and returned to watching “Deadliest Catch” on my laptop. Of course, I could not recline my seat as the IFE was rebooting. It made for a strangely upright flight.
We landed at Luanda’s February Fourth International Airport nearly half an hour early.
I longed to be able to get off the plane and gaze upon the wonders of the ramp. Smaller Antonovs, Il-76s, even some rotting 707s. It’s a stunningly gorgeous ramp. But nope, one cannot leave the plane. It turns out, on the voyage back to AMS – one cannot even leave their seat due to the refueling.
I expected a considerable number of passengers to board after the crew change. Instead, six passengers got on. Yes, six. At least, for the sake of revenue management, all of them were in the front cabin.
It was time for another PDB, another viewing of the safety video, and another disappointing menu.
Oddly, the senior purser came around to introduce himself to every single other passenger. Regardless of status. It was such a strange omission.
Once again, we were airborne, and soon after it was time for yet another meal. Man, was I glad I ate before. I had chosen the Beef Stroganoff.
That was not good. You see, Beef Stroganoff on a sweet potato is a cloying and tough affair. If it is indeed a Stroganoff. The chilled duck and chicken salad had decent chicken, but unpleasant duck. The coconut cake dessert, goodness me. What was wrong with the texture?
Yeah. No. This was all on one tray, just like every KLM long-haul I have ever been on. Having said that, it might have been one of the worst J meals I have ever seen. I suppose, if you are going for poor quality it is important to go all in.
I gave up, after another forty minutes of a languishing tray, and brushed my teeth. It was time to recline.
“Ow.” Was my first thought.
There is just something about the seat’s construction that leaves parts of it to feel as if they are digging into one’s spine. Better remember to kick out the footrest, or you will slide off. You are by no means flat, 170º of recline (if it really is that high), feels surprisingly upright.
It’s worse in turbulence. You are neither low enough nor upright enough, to really let your inner ear find equilibrium. I learned this the hard way after being shaken awake somewhere over Benin.
It’s surprising. The A330-200 handles turbulence quite well. It has to be the seat or KLM’s dispatch. I have no idea. For about an hour, things were shaky enough to maintain slumber’s elusive nature.
On top of that, KLM’s bedding is extremely basic. A fading blanket and a tiny pillow. Perhaps a mattress pad could have made the hard and awkward seat a little better? When I awoke after an extremely unrestful pseudo-nap, we were near Cannes and it was time for breakfast.
Another single tray of sadness where the hot-meal was a minuscule pancake. That large plate is reserved entirely for a croissant.
So, here’s the thing: KLM is not acceptable in Business Class on any aircraft but the 787-9. If the service were better, they’d be okay on the B/E Diamond equipped 777 fleet. But it’s not. Combine KLM’s, lack of, service with the antique cabin they consider acceptable even after cabin remodeling and I will go out of my way to recommend any airline but them.
I’d have been peeved if this were an award redemption, but because this was on my own dime- I am irate. Even more amusing, KLM is clearly aware of their… issues. I wrote KLM months ago to ask for advance boarding to take some cabin shots, and their reply was almost an immediate “NO!”
Just no. Like what you should think before you book a Premium ticket with them.