Flying KLM from London to Lima
I’ve always loved the way that Europeans treat their airlines like trains or buses. I remember growing up in Australia and almost any international flight was an adventure – it was guaranteed to be at least a few hours long and you would get there early so full of excitement. My father used to unplug all the appliances and turn off the hot water heater if we were going away for more than a week.
In Europe, though, it’s all about efficiency. A trip to another country just for the day is common and so the whole network needs to be smooth to make things easier for the commuters. I was amazed the first time I saw an airport with a normal train station inside it.
When I had the opportunity this year to fly to Peru with KLM, all of this was on perfect display. The same efficiency that has become standard within Europe has been applied to international journeys as well. KLM uses the main Schiphol airport at Amsterdam as a hub to bring people together for long distance flights.
I flew from London Heathrow and arrived at Amsterdam mid-morning. Much like a bus or a train station, there are peak times for Schiphol around this time in the morning and again in the afternoon. Rather than having passengers arriving all throughout the day and then waiting hours for a connecting flight, the timetable is designed to bring you in as close to your onward departure time as possible. There are 15 airports in the UK alone that KLM flies from, so I imagine this is quite a task but everything ran smoothly for me ahead of my flight from Amsterdam to Lima.
I didn’t have too long to wait but, even if I did, Schiphol Airport would probably have been quite a nice place to do so. I’ve always been a fan of hubs like Singapore and Dubai that make the transfer experience comfortable as well as practical. Amsterdam seems to have taken the best of all of them and then added a ‘cool’ Dutch atmosphere to it all. There’s the café with seats made from giant teacups, the art gallery, a library, a children’s play area, open plan bars, free wifi, smoking areas and plenty of signage.
Interestingly, when I searched the usual sites online, I found this KLM flight from London to Lima was pretty much the cheapest one available. Even then, most of the other options involved longer routes (through the US) and much longer layovers. The idea of 30 hours of travel and transiting through the US was not appealing – so a cheaper flight that took a total of 15 hours and transited through Amsterdam seemed like an obvious choice. (Full disclosure here: I was a guest of KLM for this flight but still did the research into availability and costs myself at the time.)
This, however, is where my biggest issue arises with this option for Europe to South America flights. KLM is one of the cheapest, it is one of the quickest and it is one of the best airlines offering this route. But that also means it is pretty much the busiest. On both my outbound and inbound flights between Amsterdam and Lima, the plane was completely full. The check-in took a long time (especially in Lima on the return), the line to board was long, the overhead bins were packed and there was certainly no chance of a spare seat next to you. You certainly can’t blame an airline for offering a popular flight but I fly enough to always enjoy the routes where I know there’ll be some extra space to stretch out and not fight for the armrest. I’ve already mentioned that the KLM flight network seems to run like a train system and this is definitely a peak hour express.
Even with a full flight, though, I couldn’t find fault with the service, entertainment or catering. KLM used a Boeing 777 for this long-haul flight and that helped to make it more comfortable in economy. The flight attendants regularly brought around drinks and snacks and were always friendly and helpful if you wanted something extra. The selection of movies was more than enough (and I definitely enjoyed catching up on some big blockbusters that I had recently missed).
In summary, would I recommend using KLM to travel between the UK (or Europe more generally) and South America? Definitely. The efficiencies built into the timetable and transfers save a lot of time and stress for such a long international flight. It is also very good value considering the level of service you get for the cost. The only downside is that the flight is likely to be very busy but a stroll through Schiphol Airport’s art gallery should help to give you the calmness to handle that.
Time Travel Turtle was a guest of KLM Airlines but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.