Flying KLM from Bali to Singapore on the B777-300ER (KL836 DPS-SIN)
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has been operating daily flights from Singapore to Denpasar - Bali, and vice versa, for many years now, as part of an extension from its flights KL835 to, and KL836 from Amsterdam.
This flight extension has always provided a full-service alternative to get to / from Southeast Asia's cosmopolitan financial hub to island paradise.
Recently, I flew on KLM to Bali for my Christmas break, though some of the perks in flying full-service have been taken away, it was still an enjoyable flight with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Read on.
One of the tragic cutbacks is now checked baggage has been omitted in the lowest fare (Light Fare). That kinda sucks.
I think one of the advantages of flying full-service is that you don't have to vex yourself over all the fashion props that you want to bring for your vacation Instagram shots but now that, you have to "pay" for this right, it takes away a bit of that joy in travelling on an full-service airline.
However, I do appreciate this really cool online feature that KLM has to get you all excited about your upcoming flight. Simply called Flight Guide, as per its name, it provides all the information that you want to know about your KLM flight, from the inflight menu to the service timeline to flight tips! How wonderful - definitely enough to unleash the #avgeek in anyone! Explore KLM's Flight Guide here.
I was able to check-in online for my flight 30 hours before departure, and managed to change from an aisle to a window seat. There was a tempting offer for an upgrade to World Business Class for just S$148 (EUR100 / USD110) (!) but if you know me, I have always been the back-of-the-bus/boeing guy.
Thankfully, I did the check-in online as at the airport, Economy Class passengers were divided into two lines: those who checked-in and those who didn't. The "I-am-probably-regretting-I-didn't-check-in-online" line was just notoriously slow, not unlike the evening traffic jam to the airport.
After breezing through the "thank-goodness-for-online-check-in" line, I received my boarding pass from a very jolly KLM representative, whom when asked, informed that Economy Class cabin today was totally full. Shucks. She also informed that the boarding gate was currently Gate 2 and advised me to check the flight status board later.
Little did I know how her advice would be so precious when the boarding gate was changed three times(!) - from Gate 2 to Gate 9A to Gate 6! Good things come in threes, don't they? Definitely the best free self-guided tour of Bali Ngurah Rai Airport International Terminal that I know of...
Boarding was super systematic, ironically, when thinking back about the haphazard aircraft parking gate arrangements earlier on. Long queues formed in their respective zones and everyone waited patiently for their designated floodgate to be opened.
We were warmly welcomed onboard. "Merry Christmas!" The beautiful KLM cabin crew greeted us. She was as blonde as they come. What a nice first impression!
We made our way to our seat - one perk of flying on 5th freedom flights is that you enjoy an intercontinental Economy Class seat product compared to those of budget airlines or the typical regional seat products of full-service airlines plying this trunk route.
KLM's intercontinental Economy Class seat was nice for sure - with a slim ergonomically designed seat "with sculptured upholstering and flexible headrest". Find out more here. On this short intra-Asia sector, no pillows or blankets were provided though.
Boarding did take a while, with 374 seats in Economy and Economy Comfort on this B777-300ER! KLM names each of its B777-300ER (B77W for short) after national parks, and this particular one, with registration PH-BVP, is named Jasper National Park after the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies.
While waiting for everyone else to board, let's explore the seat:
Coat hook (definitely handy during the winter months)
AC power port under the seat (perk of travelling on an intercontinental product)
USB port under the entertainment screen
Touchscreen entertainment featuring a massive list of latest blockbusters, popular flicks of our time, classic movies and international films
Gotta love the 360° flight map too
We were warmly welcomed onboard by our lady Captain who did a mention of this flight on this special day. That was a nice touch. Unfortunately, that, and the nice greeting upon boarding were pretty much the special touches of this flight on this Christmas Day.
Earphones (though they were labelled "headsets") were offered. I was surprised people actually skipped them! Why not take up the nice cabin crew's offer and give yourself the option to decide later on?
The safety video was KLM's Made of Delft themed video - though the artistic originality and strong association with Dutch heritage is appreciated, it wasn't quite the most exciting safety video out there. #DidYouKnow More than 1,000 tiles were hand painted and photographed using stop-motion technique to create this video? Learn more here.
You can also watch KLM's Made of Delft safety video here.
We then made our way to the runway, which was slow given the queue of take-offs and landings ahead of us. Enroute to take off, light rain drizzled down and I watched some Christmas fireworks in a distance, before starting on my Christmas movie "Ghost". Just so hauntingly serene to watch Patrick Swayze make some very bad pottery with Demi Moore while Unchained Melody plays on, just as the rain drops trickle down the window pane next to me, under the Christmas night sky.
We took off, pretty much into the darkness, and service was slightly delayed due to the initial light turbulence.
Unlike my previous sector from Singapore to Bali on KL835, there were no packets of refreshing towels distributed before the meal service. I wonder if it was due to the time constraint the momentary turbulence caused or perhaps, the refreshing towels were catered for just one sector?
Instead, cabin crew distributed cutlery packs, which was nicely packaged within a folded placemat. The idea is that you unfold your placemat and lay it out on your tray table while you wait for your meal to be served. Interesting concept for sure.
Unfortunately, with this new dining concept, there is no longer a starter nor a dessert - just a single hot main course of chicken with rice. A bottle of water that was provided previously has been cut as well. This single course meal was really tragic, and yet another blow to the purpose of flying on a full-service carrier.
Single course of Ayam Bakar Sambal dan Nasi Goreng Kunyit (Grilled Spicy Chicken with Turmeric Fried Rice)
While I appreciate that Indonesian-inspired cuisine is provided on this intra-Asian flight, the portion was tiny, for sure. I was super glad I had a proper dinner prior to the flight. The European man had some issues with the level of spice on the chicken and he requested for a second drink.
Cold drinks were provided with the meal, and I must add, only cold drinks were available. Unlike previously, no coffee or tea or additional wines/digestifs were available during the trash clearance. OH WHY, KLM!
(My Christmas drink was The Elements by Julien Schaal, Sauvignon Blanc - Chardonnay).
That said, service was generally nice, and the cabin crew seemed very happy in their duties, despite the full load, short flight and late hour. That was appreciated.
After the meals were cleared, a cabin crew walked down on each aisle to seek any duty-free shopping requests. Didn't seem that anyone was in the mood for Christmas shopping that night.
The duty-free shopping catalogue was available in the seat pocket, together with the inflight magazine and a tatty safety card.
The co-pilot came on the speaker (he had a really nice voice) to announce our start of descent, after which, was the whirlwind of announcements on landing rules and information for transit passengers to Amsterdam, and cabin preparation for landing.
We then passed over the neighbouring Indonesian islands and ships berthing off Singapore's shores, before landing after midnight at Singapore's aviation mega-hub, Changi Airport.
It was a very smooth landing on this Christmas flight, thank you Captain!
Passengers to Amsterdam had to return back to the same gate about 30 minutes later for the second segment of their journey. Perhaps good for a ciggy or two in tropical Singapore before the 12 hour trek up north?
All-in-all, it was a nice experience with KLM - definitely could see myself flying long-haul with them. However, my Christmas wish is that KLM put back some of the full-service bells and whistles on this Singapore-Bali route, just so, flying could still be glamourous in the new decade of 2020. On this leisure flight sector between two tourism hubs, even a little dessert treat as a side to the main course could sweeten up one's travel memories, and that of KLM.
Here's wishing you a very happy 2020! Thank you for reading this KL836 flight review!
For the full video review of my KL836 (Bali to Singapore) flight, including a hotel review of Novotel Bali Ngurah Rai Airport, see here:
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