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
Saying goodbye to any 747 is hard, but one that is unique, is harder.
Thanks to COVID, the majority of airlines have grounded their four-engine widebody planes. Most A380s, A340s, and 747-8s will see the skies again. But a return to flight isn’t as certain for many 747-400s, which were already long in the tooth.
The same KLM Boeing 747-200 now with a Stretched Upper Deck. Taken in August 2003.
The Dutch airline KLM was already working towards a 2021 retirement for its 747-400s, but thanks to COVID the fleet was retired a few weeks ago. And the AvGeek nostalgists that we are, we felt it was a departure worth commemorating. Especially because KLM operated the oddball passenger/freighter hybrid called the Combi, which included a cargo bay in the rear part of the main deck.
Read on for a quick farewell to the KLM Combi and the rest of its proud 747 fleet.
Update 4/18: It looks like KLM has brought back a small number of 747 Combi flights connecting Amsterdam and a few Asian industrial centers. Not sure how long that will last, but we’re happy the Combi has one final job to do with KLM.
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.
Founded in 1919, KLM is actually the world’s oldest airline still flying under its original name. How do you keep an airline with that long of a history feeling fresh? New planes definitely help, and for KLM’s long-haul fleet the freshest faces are its 787 Dreamliners.
Since joining the fleet a few years ago, the 787-9 has been KLM’s pride and joy. One of my very first AirlineReporter stories was a KLM pop-up exhibit in San Francisco back in 2016. Both then and now, folks at the airline are super proud of the Dreamliner fleet and its newest-generation onboard product. A few months ago, I scored a great deal on an award ticket from San Francisco to Amsterdam and on to Rio, and I’d get to try KLM’s long-haul Dreamliner service along the way. And it ended up being one of the best international business class experiences I’ve had.
For more of the highlights — from gin-filled ceramic houses and fancy Dutch glassware, to bubbly flight attendants and incredible views of that Dreamliner wing flex — keep on reading!