Written by Debbi K. Kichham
I flew KLM on my first plane trip ever, in 1964. To this day, I remember what a wonderful experience it was.
I was 11 years old, all dressed up for the occasion (with black patent leather shoes, of course), traveling with my mom and sister Chris on our way to Poland to see our family. (At that point, my mom hadn’t seen her parents in 25 years since she immigrated to the United States before World War II.) I can still recall the food, the service, the stewardesses, the fun. A boyfriend of my sister’s had actually sent me a gift of crossword puzzles, which was delivered to me onboard and thrilled me even more. The only other thing I remember was suffering from motion sickness, and I can still recall the helpful KLM steward who took care of me and gently escorted me off the plane. Notwithstanding, it was a great trip and one that I still remember fondly.
With such an experience under my (Gucci) belt, the three of us once again flew together on KLM last July, 52 years later, and I am pleased to report it was an even more wonderful experience. Lucky me, I luxuriated in World Business Class, and to my complete delight, had a seat that turned into a bed so I could sleep — but more on that in a minute.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was founded in 1919, making it the world’s oldest airline still operating under its original name. In 2004, Air France and KLM merged to form Air France KLM. The merger produced the strongest European airline group based on two powerful brands and hubs — Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
It was a delight to fly over “the Pond” in such pampered style. Of course, one of the nicest aspects of this plush environment was the comfort amenity kit presented to all passengers on intercontinental flights in World Business Class. Created by Dutch designer Jan Taminiau, the new bags contained items that are essential on a long flight, following in the footsteps of Viktor&Rolf, which launched their design for a KLM comfort bag in 2011.
But let’s get back to that seat-bed. You’ll float to your next destination in new comfort, with in-seat power, a privacy canopy and a personal entertainment system. I don’t know about you, but for me, the ability to sleep while flying is perhaps the world’s greatest luxury. With this snooze, you just can’t lose.
Dining was also divine. KLM serves meals created by a three-star Dutch chef, Jacob Jan Boerma of the De Leest Restaurant in Vaassen, who is one of the leaders in Dutch gastronomy.
Dinner started with grilled scallops with preserved lemon and crushed red peppercorns, or a butternut squash soup. For a main course, you could order rigatoni pasta, miso-glazed cod or beef stroganoff with spring vegetables. And, this being KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, for dessert, you got Gouda as well as chocolate mousse and seasonal fruit. For breakfast, there was egg quiche plus yogurt, granola, cold cuts, hot rolls and Viennese pastries.
Right before landing, the airline distributed adorable, ceramic, miniature models of the old Dutch houses that are situated along the canals in Amsterdam. Each contained the liqueur Lucas Bols, which is known as the world’s oldest distilled brand.
But that’s not all. KLM gives to the community in many ways as well. For years now, KLM has worked toward the development of a market for sustainable biofuel. It also has high ambitions for sustainable catering. By co-designing smart techniques to reduce weight and waste, KLM takes part in reducing CO2 emissions.
Just as impressive, KLM closely cooperates with national and international organizations that promote biodiversity, fair trade and animal welfare. Last June, KLM transported six lucky tigers from Amsterdam to Lionsrock Big Cat Sanctuary in Bethlehem, South Africa, where they would have a chance to live in freedom. The “Four Paws” shelter saves animals from circuses or private owners who keep them in atrocious conditions. Having lived in captivity, the tigers can never return to the wild. But their new home at Lionsrock offers them a spacious alternative where they can live to a ripe old age.
Kudos to KLM for providing such comfortable transport. Like their human counterparts, tigers Cromwell, Juno, Mirza, Rafik, Zita and Rasputin had a comfortable and luxurious journey.