Woohoo! Longtime readers of this blog will know that I have a thing for KLM... I'm not even really sure why. Maybe it's the fact that I love their logo and brand identity, maybe it's the fact that I'm a sucker for all things Dutch (except fascist Geert Wilders and his comic book villain hair), or maybe it's just unrequited love from my last trip (when I was all set to transfer miles to FlyingBlue before realizing I had fallen victim to Fantom Blue award space).
Love makes you do crazy things, by the way. But let's back up for a sec. I wrote yesterday about how I'm in the initial stages of planning our next trip overseas, which means I'm obsessively checking award availability calendars to see when new flights get loaded in. I was going to set up alerts on ExpertFlyer for KLM 606 (SFO-AMS) every week in March, but since the schedule hadn't yet been loaded at that point, ExpertFlyer couldn't find the flights to query and came back with an error. I really didn't plan to book anything until next month, since mid-March is the target timeframe for the trip, and no airlines are selling seats that far in advance yet. And, as I wrote yesterday, British Airways first class is almost definitely going to be choice to come home, so I had to find a way to limit fuel surcharges on the flight over.
But then... I pulled up the FlyingBlue award calendar tonight "just to see," and I saw a few days with two seats on KL 606. For those that haven't been reading the blog for very long, this is the flight I had planned to fly on our trip this past summer, only to find out that the availability on the calendar wasn't real. We settled for Delta One from Seattle to Amsterdam instead, but there's been this pang of what could have been ever since. Yes I know I'm probably building it up too much in my head. I don't care. Here are some examples of how I express my fandom for KLM:
- Following them on every possible social media platform
- Collecting KLM books and other memorabilia
- Dragging Justine with me to San Francisco one weekend to see the KLM pop-up at Union Square
- Asking Justine to take a photo of me sitting in the business class seat mockup at the KLM pop-up (which she refused to do out of embarrassment)
- Standing on the Boeing factory's runway viewing platform for an hour because there was a KLM 787-9 sitting there, and I wanted to see if it would take off (it didn't)
- Browsing auction websites for vintage KLM posters
- Buying Delft houses on eBay
You get it... So imagine how excited I was to see some award space - especially space which didn't evaporate when I clicked onward from the 5-week calendar. As a bonus, the flight is on KLM's 787-9 (f0r now), which features their newest business cabin. I said to Justine, "I'm about 30 seconds away from booking us a flight to Amsterdam in late February next year," to which she responded, "Why don't you?" Why don't I indeed.
Like I said, love makes you do crazy things. Chief among them was transferring 125,000 points to FlyingBlue to book a ticket when you're never sure if they'll actually ticket your reservation. Even worse, since I didn't want to deplete any one of my flexible point balances too much, I spread the 125k across three different accounts, basically playing chicken with FB's overzealous fraud department and daring them to shut down my account. Happily, all three transfers went through instantly, and it was go time. I booked the tickets, paid the ~$425 in fees, and then started working on this blog post.
Here are some hedges that I'll consider in the coming few weeks. First, FlyingBlue has a pretty good cancellation policy - 45 euros per ticket. So if something goes sideways and this turns out to have been dumb, I won't be out that much money, although I will then have a bunch of miles tied up in FlyingBlue. Also, British Airways hasn't opened up the award calendar to partners yet, so I'll still need to wait a month before I can book the return leg. Every day in January and February has first class availability for two people, and I'm banking on that continuing into March, which is certainly not a given. If the space doesn't come through, I may have to move the entire trip and give up my precious KLM flight - that's why I don't want to celebrate too much just yet. I also want to keep an eye on Delta, since I would definitely cancel and use my stash of Delta miles to get the same flights without the fees. I have found KLM space to be pretty tight through Delta, though (as if it's not tight enough through FlyingBlue), so I'm not counting on seeing a bunch of space pop up when Delta's award calendar loads past 2/15/18. As it is, there are currently days in January and February where space is available on KLM through FlyingBlue and not through Delta. (Also, I think it's interesting that the "Delta Head Start," which I wrote about previously, is now flipped on its head. FlyingBlue just changed to an 11-month booking window in the last couple months, and good for me that they did, since it's how I was able to get this flight.)
A couple final thoughts:
- If the plane changes to a 777 or 747, I won't be super bummed, since the other business class is still really nice (and it would be pretty nice to sit next to Justine instead of behind her). However, I'm just praying it doesn't revert to an A330, which still has recliner seats.
- I did see a bunch of availability on Air France's SFO-CDG flight via Delta, which has been the norm as of late. However, we're talking about flights in goddamn 2018, and Air France STILL has their shitty angled seats on the 777s that operate this route. FINISH YOUR RETROFIT ALREADY! KLM's 787 business class is basically the same seat with better design, so it's not like I'm super missing out or anything, but this continues to annoy me.
- A nice new hotel option in Amsterdam is opening in May - the Hyatt Regency Amsterdam. It's not far from the Intercontinental, which is where we stayed last time. It's not right on the canals or anything, but the location is still reasonably walkable to the city center, and the immediate vicinity is pretty fun. Even better, it's a category 4, so it's way cheaper on points than the Andaz, and you can redeem a free night certificate there as well. (Plus, the basic rooms in the Andaz don't even have windows to the outside, and while I appreciate interesting design, I think Hyatt let Marcel Wanders go a little too crazy with that one. The lobby looks great, but the giant fish on the walls? Gross.) Right now, only points & cash rooms are available, but I'd imagine that normal award nights will show up once the hotel is open.