Way Down South: KLM World Business Class SCL-EZE

Delta Business Elite ECP-ATL-SCL
Four Points by Sheraton Santiago
W Santiago
Exploring Santiago
KLM World Business Class SCL-EZE
Hilton Buenos Aires
Exploring Buenos Aires
Aerolíneas Argentinas Club Economy AEP-USH
Alto Andino Hotel Ushuaia
Exploring Ushuaia
Aerolíneas Argentinas Economy USH-AEP
Sheraton Libertador Hotel Buenos Aires
Aerolíneas Argentinas Club Economy AEP-GRU + Delta Business Elite GRU-ATL-ECP

When I was first starting to research my itinerary options, I figured that I would have pretty much one choice when it came to flying between Santiago and Buenos Aires: Aerolineas Argentinas (AR). However, as I played around on Delta.com one night, I saw a KLM flight being listed between the two cities. I did some further digging and found out that KLM operated an SCL-EZE-AMS flight three days per week! Seeing as it was listed for low Business Class availability, I knew I had to make it on to this flight.

I’ve only flown KLM twice before and each of those times was in World Business Class going to/from the Middle East in 2012 and since then, I’ve been hungry for another opportunity to fly on the Royal Dutch airline. With this trip, I would get to check out one of their Boeing 777-300’s and get to collect another Delft Blue House – yes, getting that house filled with gin, was a motivator for booking the flight.

Departure – Santiago
Not knowing how traffic would be on a weekday or how the Santiago airport was laid out, I opted to leave a little on the early side from the W. I hailed a taxi downstairs off Isidora Goyenechea and found myself at the airport surprisingly earlier than I had anticipated due to encountering very little traffic en route. All that would mean is more time in the lounge prior to my flight!

I found the Air France / KLM check in counter pretty quickly and as this flight wasn’t going to be anywhere near full, especially in Business Class, I only had to wait behind the one other person in front of me in the Sky Priority lane. Once it was my turn, I approached the agent, handed over my suitcase (figured that I would might as well check my carry-on) to be tagged and was quickly handed back a boarding pass and a lounge invitation. I had asked if there were any window seats available with no one sitting in the aisle and I was reassigned from seat 3A one row back to seat 4A.

Security and Immigration was easy enough to get through although given that the checkpoint was under renovations, had there been more passengers that morning, I’m sure it could have been a real mess. Once through on the air side, I went for a quick walk to check out the terminal prior to the lounge. When I got to what would be my gate, I was confused when I noticed an Air France jet sitting at the gate – had some weird thing happened and my KLM been swapped with Air France equipment? I didn’t see a flight listed on the monitors, but that was because I ultimately found out it was an arrival from Paris and it would depart later that day back home, non-stop.

Delta Sky Club – Santiago
KLM utilizes the Delta Sky Club in Santiago, which makes perfect sense given their relationship. Strangely, the Sky Club appears to be open invitation only for this flight as it was not listed on Delta.com as being open for this flight. This had me at first wondering if they would use the Sky Club or if they had contracted with another lounge to provide the benefit. I thought about trying to get in with my Sky Club membership card or my Platinum Medallion card versus the invitation, but went for the easiest route approach and handed over the invitation to the agent. After she wrote down my information, I was let into the small and quiet lounge.

Lounge Invitation

To the Sky Club!

With it being on a lower level of the concourse, I figured that it was probably going to be a dark and windowless closet with some snacks. Luckily there was a row of windows that let the golden morning light in which definitely made it feel more open. It’s styling was definitely reminiscent of the older Sky Club / Crown Room Club style, but didn’t appear too worn out looking. There was a continental breakfast spread, which didn’t really have anything too impressive, but it filled the role of a good pre-flight snack to get me until the meal was served onboard.

Delta Sky Club – Santiago

A Simple Lounge Breakfast

That many passengers never really showed up. I was the third person in the lounge when I showed up and by the time I left there was no more than ten others. The only thing that I did notice is that the one agent seemed to spend the entire time talking to one of the passengers, that I am assuming must have been a regular. I wonder if some people had walked up to the entrance during that time, saw no agent, then turned around and left. Eventually, I figured that it would be time to head to the gate, so I made my way back down the concourse to the gate where the bright blue KLM 777 was waiting for me.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines #702
Santiago, Chile (SCL) to Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Argentina (EZE)
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Depart: 11:05AM Arrive: 2:00PM
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300 Seat: 4A (World Business Class)

Boarding happened to be right after I got to the gate and unlike my AMS-BAH flight two years prior on KLM, there was not a mad rush the minute they called Business Class to board. As I walked down the jetway, I got a few good looks at today’s aircraft. As with all of KLM’s aircraft, it was named and quite honestly, this one couldn’t have been more fittingly named for the journey I was on: Nationaal Park Vuurland, which in Dutch translate to English as Tierra del Fuego National Park. Where was I going to be in two days? Tierra del Fuego!

KLM Boeing 777-300 – “Tierra del Fuego National Park / Nationaal Park Vuurland”

I made my way to my seat and got all settled in – as I’ve mentioned, it wasn’t going to be a full flight for the hop over to Buenos Aires, so there was room for everyone to spread out. It wasn’t long before one of the flight attendants came by to offer me a pre-departure drink (obviously, I went with Champagne) and then a little later to hand out amenity kits.

KLM World Business Class Seat

Definitely Getting Settled In

I took the time to get familiar with the seats in the World Business Class cabin as they were (thankfully) different from the ones that are on the A330s (at least what was on the A330s two years prior). Those seats honestly didnt impress me one bit, but the ones on the 777 were definitely better. They felt a little wider than Delta’s lie-flat Business Elite seat on the 767s, and provided ample enough legroom. Comfort-wise, it wasn’t uncomfortable, but I wonder how they would be on a long-haul flight where you would want to get some sleep. Given that this was a two hour flight across South America, I wouldn’t find out. However, I did get to play with the entertainment system pretty extensively and found a pretty good selection of movie and TV shows on a decent-sized screen. I remember feeling the same about the IFE selections on my previous KLM flights, so there’s that.

Decent Amount of Leg Room

Looking Forward

It seemed that our departure was slightly delayed, but that didn’t really bother me as that just meant more time to enjoy my time in World Business Class. Taxiing also seemed to take an eternity as we went around the entire airport; that took us past several parked jets from American and Delta as well as local airlines LAN and Sky Airline (which I had been planning to fly on for that side trip to Valdivia). Once on the runway, given the light load, the two GE90 engines were able to put us into the sky in no time.

On The Ground In Santiago

The climb out of Santiago was fairly scenic with good views of the surrounding mountains, but there was no distinguishing of the city below. You could see sprawling city, but I was never able to make out any of the features I had visited in the past few days. As we climbed even higher, either smog or low clouds started to obscure the view of the ground, so I started focusing on the mountains.

Leaving Santiago Behind

Actually, that was probably the best part about this flight, and why I wanted a window seat for this flight. We went over the snow capped Andes Mountains, saw (based on an announcement from the flight deck) the World’s highest lake and then the transitions from the mountains across Argentina to Buenos Aires. Although I had something always playing on the IFE screen, I probably spent half of the flight looking out the window.

This Was Probably The Best View To Have As I Ate Lunch

Looking Back West Towards Chile

Meal Service – Lunch
KLM does cater this flight with a meal, but it’s not a multiple course meal due to the fact that the flight time is less than two hours. In fact it was pretty similar to the meal option they served in the middle of the night on my late night BAH-AMS flight in 2012 – you won’t be stuffed, but you aren’t going to leave hungry either.

Welcome Aboard

There were two options on today’s flight with a choice between a beef casserole and a vegetable mille-fueille; both of which were served with a smoked salmon tartare appetizer and a lemon tartlet. Not know what a mille-fueille was…I opted for the beef casserole. I won’t lie, this probably was not one of my favorite in-flight meals. The beef was a little bit on the dry side, but the appetizer and desert were both good, so there’s that. As for the beverage, I went with one of the white wines available, but I don’t remember what exactly it was.

Menu Of The Day

KLM World Business Class Lunch

Seemed Fitting To Drink A Dutch Beer

Before we landed, I had noticed that they had not come through the cabin to distribute the little Delft houses, so I asked one of the flight attendants. I guess they had assumed that most people would be continuing on to Amsterdam and as such had opted to not go through the cabin, but I was lucky in that one was brought to me shortly so I could add another to my collection at home!

Another KLM Delft House!

It felt like we probably pulled into the farthest gate from immigration, but the airport wasn’t exactly busy. Most of the passengers I’m sure were continuing on, and those that were were picked off before reaching Immigration so that they could go to the terminal. Luckily that meant that immigration wasn’t ridiculously busy. However, it did take a good bit to make it through even with the number of agents that they had working – I just took this as my first experience with Argentine bureaucracy. It seemed like many passengers were getting questioned with most of those were people who seemed to be entering on ID cards versus passports from what I could tell. Getting through for me was pretty hassle free and then it was on to Customs.

On The Ground In Buenos Aires

Goodbye KLM!

Luckily KLM had properly priority-tagged my bag, so I didn’t have to wait too long there. However, there was a very impressive line to get through customs and so I got in line and proceeded to wait. I wish I could say that although it was long, it moved quickly, but it didn’t (if I recall correctly, it took nearly 45 minutes to get through). But once through I found myself fully in Argentina and it was time to make my way to the hotel.

After you clear customs in Buenos Aires, there will be a number of stalls for taxi companies to get you into the city. I pretty much just picked one randomly, as I had done in Santiago, and got set up to go to my hotel – the Hilton Buenos Aires. It was straight forward and I think only cost me about $40, plus I could tell the person at the counter where I wanted to go to in English. Which is a good thing, because there was a very impressive language barrier with the driver they gave me to. Made for an amusing taxi ride though!

Overall, I was impressed yet again with KLM’s service. The food could have been better, I will admit that, but everyone seemed to receive prompt attention from the flight attendants throughout the flight, including myself. One thing that I thought was cool that I saw, was that there was a kid in Business Class traveling with what I can assume was family. After the meal service had completed, I noticed that one of the flight attendants led him up to the front of the cabin and then into the flight deck! Honestly, I was a little bit jealous, but figured if I were to ask I probably wouldn’t have lucked out.

I’ll continue to look for opportunities to fly on KLM again on my future travels. At some point though I am going to have to try them in Economy, just so I can see what that is like…ha!

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