The KLM 747-400 City of Nairobi sitting at the gate in Toronto. A sight that, not long after my flight, was no more – Photo: Matthew Chasmar
How does one get to Rwanda, anyways? This is probably not a question many North Americans have asked themselves. But it is one I heard a lot recently, when I had an unprecedented opportunity to travel to the East African country of Rwanda. This was an incredibly unique experience in many ways, and the flights involved were no exception. For this trip, I flew from Toronto to Kigali (Rwanda’s capital city), via Amsterdam on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. This is one of only a handful of options for that particular trip, the others being Brussels and Turkish Airlines. So, this February, I found myself at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, ready to embark on one of the longest series of flights I’ve ever taken.
That’s no plane! The first leg of my journey was a train ride into Toronto – Photo: Matthew Chasmar
An airBaltic A220 pulls up to the gate at AMS. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson
The advertisement on the jet bridge read “Uncharted Territory,” as an airBaltic Airbus 220-300 pulled in at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport (AMS) in December of 2019. This was the plane that would be taking me into territory that was personally uncharted for me. First, I was flying to Vilnius (VNO), the capital of Lithuania, where I had never been. Second, it was a type of aircraft that I had never flown on before. Third, it was also on an airline that I had never flown before, airBaltic.
To Lithuania In Economy Class on airBaltic’s A220
The boarding lanes prior to boarding. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson
The boarding process at AMS involved lining up by fare class purchased, as displayed by overheard monitors. I lined up in the economy line, scanned my boarding pass, and walked down the jetway, towards uncharted territory. As I boarded the plane, I was struck by how spacious the cabin felt. At 6’2″, there was plenty of space for me to stand up.
The seats were arranged in a 3-2 configuration, similar to old McDonnell Douglas models. The windows were larger than those in preceding narrow body aircraft models. This allowed enough natural light into the cabin that the overhead lighting almost made no difference. The interior was mostly a light gray with neon green accents. Between the amount of natural light and the color scheme, the cabin gave off the feeling that you were almost in a modern day office.
I made my way past the first two rows, which were in the business class cabin, to row 14. Seat 14F was on my left, the side with three seats in the row. As it is an exit row seat, my bags had to go in the overhead bin rather than beneath the seat in front of me. AirBaltic equipped their A220s with Airbus’ Airspace bins, ensuring plenty of room for everyone’s carryon luggage. I put my bags in the bin and sat down.
A while back I got to fly in KLM’s World Business Class on one of their new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. That flight was from San Francisco to KLM’s HQ hub in Amsterdam, and from there I connected onwards on another Dreamliner to Brazil. I took some photos and videos from that second flight and wanted to let them speak for themselves.
Once you start the story below, no more words from me. If you want the lowdown on the seat and service, head to that trip report from my SFO–>AMS flight. Otherwise read on for the photo and video highlights from my long-haul flight in KLM’s flagship premium product. And don’t forget: if you’re an audiovisual sort of person, subscribe to our YouTube channel.
KLM 737-900 (PH-BXT) at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, ready to take us to Prague, with a 737-700 (PH-BGW) taxiing behind
Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij is not exactly a household name in most of the world, but its initials “KLM” and sky blue branding and livery are easily recognizable. I had a quick visit to Amsterdam before moving on to Prague this past spring, so flying on the national carrier of The Netherlands out of its homebase was the most obvious choice.
As I’ve pointed out numerous times, the European concept of business class (some better service, but the same seat as in economy, just with the middle seat blocked) is never worth it on personal trips, especially for a short flight blocked for 90 minutes gate-to-gate. Addtionally, flying KLM (being a member of SkyTeam) meant flying outside my alliance, so no priority anything nor lounge access.
What could possibly go wrong?!