KLM Makes Up, and Other Airline Experiences

I wrote 18 months ago about my disappointment with KLM’s poor handling of a bereavement situation (KLM Tries Harder… But Fails). I’m flying a lot again these days (three trips to the US this year, plus several to the UK, and now India). I still receive promotional emails from Flying Blue, the alliance which KLM and Air France have now become, to remind me that they’re waiting to serve me, but it was hard to get over that incident. (NB: I receive nothing from British Airways, with whom I was also a top-level frequent flyer until 2001; perhaps they’ve lost track of me.)

But… I still had all this mileage sitting around with KLM (58,000+), and some flexibility (for once) in planning my upcoming trip to India. So I hopped on the KLM site to see what could be done.

The awards booking process (which gets good marks on usability) informed me that I needed 70,000 miles to go to India – but they would advance me the missing mileage. This was automatic in the system, though it was a little weird – at first it looked as if that offer was only valid if I flew on Tuesday, but when I tried again a few days later, it was offered for Wednesday (my ideal departure date) as well. So I got exactly the flight I wanted for "free" (still had to pay over €200 in "taxes and fees").

In the meantime, researching other airlines, I had learned, to my horror, that the baggage limit of 20 kg from Europe to India now seems to apply to all airlines. I know that on all my previous trips I have carried two heavy suitcases in and out of Delhi, and only one of those trips was business class. I guess this is some new trick of the airlines to squeeze more money out of their hapless passengers. The standard rate for excess baggage is €30 per kilo (!!!) – no less than Air India’s rate that I was screaming about earlier this year.

However… I’m a Platinum member on Flying Blue. Turns out that that entitles me to 20 kg extra baggage – just what I need to bring Ross her winter clothing and the food goodies she craves in boarding school.

The flight I’m booked on is actually Air France, which is a bit disappointing – I much prefer KLM’s home base of Schipol airport to Charles de Gaulle – and we will have to drive to Malpensa at an ungodly hour Wednesday. I reserve judgement on comfort and service til I get there, but remember Air France as being okay (last time I flew they still allowed smoking on board, which tells you how long ago it was).

In short, treating me well as a once and maybe future frequent flyer has won big points for Flying Blue. Let’s see how well they maintain this relationship.

Share your airline experiences – who do you like (or not), and why (or why not)?

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