This post was sent in as a guest article by a local business executive.
Singapore is a popular hub for global businesses not because of the large local population, but because it is centrally located to cities within the region. Many expat executives find themselves heading to the airport multiple times per month to travel to customers or partners. Fortunately, there are many great options for business class travel like Singapore Air and Cathay Pacific, but there are also some really bad ones. Topping that list of really poor options would have to be KLM, and my most recent experience with that airline should encourage readers to think long and hard before flying on KLM’s world business class in Asia.
I needed to be in Dublin, Ireland for a couple days of meetings. My outbound trip from Singapore was in Singapore Air’s business class and the trip as always was fantastic. For my return, I foolishly chose KLM since their arrival time got me back to Singapore the earliest in the day. This turned out to be one of the worst mistakes I have ever made in my decades of business travel. In the paragraphs below, I will elaborate on my experience, but spoiler alert: KLM has yet to get back to me to even apologize for this experience.
My terrible experience with KLM began even before I arrived at the airport for my flight. When I booked my flight I made a special meal request. As I frequently do before making a long trip, I contacted the airline the morning of my flight to confirm that everything was in order. In this case, it was not in order and KLM employees made it even worse. I was informed that I had no special meal request on my reservation, but not to worry since I can “buy snacks and bring them on board”. I reminded the customer service rep that I was flying business class and had spent 2,000 Euro for my ticket and they should contact catering to get my meal changed since there was still 12+ hours to the flight. Again I was rebuffed and told this was my fault for failing to book my meals and there was nothing for them to do since it was within 24 hours of the flight. I resigned myself to starving on my 15 hour journey and hoped things would just get better, but they did not.
Upon arriving at the Dublin airport for the first segment of my trip to Amsterdam where I would connect to my Singapore flight, I was informed that there was no business class on the plane. Despite my ticket stating that I had purchased a business class seat, I was going to be sitting in economy. I had no issue flying economy, but I did request a refund for the downgrade. None was offered and I have since discovered that this is illegal according to EU law. As an economy passenger, my bag was not tagged with a priority tag, and as I feared my bag was actually lost. More on that later.
I arrived in Amsterdam with just 20 minutes to run to my Singapore flight, but I had just enough time to read a Facebook message from KLM telling me that I had free access to the lounge in Amsterdam where I could get snacks for FREE. Again the snacks, but I would have to choose snacks over a missing my flight. The choice was obvious.
Once on board my Amsterdam to Singapore flight, I settled myself in my seat and prepared to spend the next 12 hours alternating between sleeping, working and watching movies as I typically do on long haul flights. But again KLM fell short. My entertainment system was faulty and there was no audio output. To her credit the flight attendant made multiple attempts to get the system working, but it was to no avail. So there I was on a 12 hour long haul flight without a meal, in a seat that did not turn into a bed (this was an old plane), no working entertainment system and just my frustration at not taking another airline for this trip. Before disembarking from the plane, the purser on the flight offered me a $25 bottle of wine as an apology. I found this to be extremely insulting given the price of my ticket.
Upon landing in Singapore, I received one more disappointment courtesy of KLM. I was informed by the airport staff – not KLM – that my bag had been delayed in Amsterdam. To be honest, I almost expected this after my series of horrible mishaps with KLM. There was no apology, just a form to fill out. Thankfully, my bag wasn’t completely lost as it showed up at my house the next day wet and smelling like old food. It was delivered by a courier – not a KLM employee – who demanded that I sign a waiver absolving KLM of any responsibility. I, of course did not sign, and instead filed a complaint on KLM’s website. This brings me to the capstone of this tremendously disappointing experience.
I never heard back from KLM on those customer complaints. It has been a month with no response! If this is how KLM treats, what should be their most valuable customers, business class travelers on long haul flights, what sort of torture could they possibly subject their economy fliers to? If you are a business flier looking to travel on a route that KLM flies, avoid KLM. KLM’s business class is simply not a premium product and your money should be spent elsewhere.