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After a crazy busy few weeks (months?) of flying all over Europe, I decided to splurge on a business class award ticket for my trip from Amsterdam to New York. I came to this conclusion for two reasons:
- The flight is usually during the day so if you choose to sleep on the flight to pass time, you'll mess up your entire sleep schedule when you're back in the States. So I always try to stay awake, so I place more weight on a pleasant flying experience.
- On flights from Europe to the U.S., the flight is always longer (by about an hour) than the reverse leg due to jet stream direction. I don't mind flying economy from the east coast U.S. to Europe because the flight is usually overnight and I can sleep on planes without issue.
Using Search Engines
Whenever I decide to book an award ticket, I first check what revenue tickets cost (on Skyscanner, Skiplagged, Kiwi or Kayak). Just in case the flight is ridiculously cheap for whatever reason, I'd rather book it as a revenue ticket through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal (and earn elite status qualifying miles) than redeem miles outright and earn nothing. Flights found on the above-mentioned search engines usually show up in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal (unless the carrier is excluded by Chase). Prices can vary, but if they don't, using Chase to book can be a good way to use miles while saving money. This is especially true if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which provides 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
A quick search on Skyscanner revealed nonstop flights with Lufthansa, KLM, and Delta. The cost of business-class tickets was in the thousands, so paying for the plane ticket wasn't an option.
Airline Award Search
Dutch carrier KLM (SkyTeam) is the main airline servicing the Netherlands. Using that information, Air France KLM and Delta were the carriers I checked first. On KLM, a nonstop business class award was 57,500 miles + $265. Although the taxes weren't super low, mileage-wise, it was a great value. Many other carriers have higher mileage requirements for a transatlantic business-class award. Other programs that have low award requirements for business class include American Airlines (57,500 miles) and Aeroplan (55,000 miles).
KLM certainly does have some sweet spots, and if this flight were a Promo Reward, it could have definitely been one of them.
Delta's dynamic award chart was showing economy award tickets for 130,000 SkyMiles. #nothankyou
Although a nonstop business-class award on United could be as low as 60,000 miles + $45, there were no low-level awards the week I needed to fly. When flying during peak summer season in and out of Europe, award tickets are hit or miss. I would have loved to spend as little as possible, but I was limited with my dates.
After searching on KLM, Delta and United, I decided to book with KLM. I put my award on hold for a few days (KLM allows a 48-hour hold), hoping that something would pop up with United. Unfortunately, United was still a no-go, so I transferred 58,000 points from Chase and was ready to book the ticket I had on hold. When I tried to book online, the KLM site wasn't showing my reservation so I had to call customer service and annoyingly pay a $15 fee.
Note: The rest of the post is a quick recap of the flying experience followed by a video of the trip from lounge to landing. If you want to skip the description and just watch the video, scroll to the bottom.
Business Class Experience
As expected, the experience was great. I arrived at the airport and went straight to the KLM SkyPriority check-in counters. The counters were in a separate area that was sectioned off with rope. It was very obvious that KLM took a lot of care in creating an exclusive vibe for the SkyPriority area. After I dropped my bag, the agent gave me directions to the lounge. Despite having flown in first and business class many times, after a really quick and smooth check-in, I was giddy all over again and excited for what was to come!
KLM Non-Schengen Crown Lounge
I was pretty pumped to visit a non-Priority Pass lounge for once. The KLM non-Schengen Crown Lounge is a beautiful two-floor lounge with outside seating and all sorts of comfortable spaces to hang out in. I had a quick meal with a glass of wine, and after about 30 minutes, it was time to board the flight.
The aircraft was a 747-400 Combi with a two-floor business-class cabin. The seats opened up into standard flat beds and were pretty spacious. I was frustrated that there was no WiFi onboard. I wanted to work and was hoping to do so during the seven-hour flight. I'm still amazed that in 2019 not all planes are equipped with WiFi.
Food, Wine & Meeting the Pilots
I spent the flight watching movies, listening to music and eating. The food was great, but not excellent. I've definitely had better on flights. There was plenty of wine and champagne to pass the time, and the wine was very good.
My favorite part of the flight was when I went to meet the pilots in the cockpit. During the flight, I asked the flight attendant if meeting pilots was an option. I've seen people on Instagram do it so I figured I would ask. She said I was good to go, as long as it was after landing. I was so excited and giddy about it! It's the first time I've ever been in a cockpit and I asked all sorts of questions. The pilots were nice and friendly and I really enjoyed my 10 minutes hanging out with them.
Flight Recap Video
Flying business class is always great, and this experience with KLM did not disappoint. Meeting the pilots was the best conclusion to my flight and one I will remember for a long time!
Have you ever flown business class with KLM? What did you think? Have you ever visited the cockpit and met the pilots after a flight? Tell me below in the comments!
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