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Old Jan 15, 12, 2:06 pm   #1
 
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Short comparison of KL and LH on short-haul and AF CDG 2F lounge

As I am currently based out of CDG I find myself on AF most often given the direct flights but given I was travelling on the weekend on my own buck I thought I'd try KL again and route myself via AMS in Y.


OLCI:


As FB Plat I wanted to chose an exit row, unfortunately the system wasn't happy and blocked the entire forward cabin off, though it had assigned me the first row in Y. I reported this to KL via Twitter and after a few hours manual assignment had been carried out. While I appreciated their efforts I wish OLCI would just work first time. I've always had problems with KL OLCI.

With Lufthansa as a SEN I can pre-assign my seats anywhere I wish from when the booking is made. I've never had a problem with check-in at all. It always works, on the phone and on the web. Like KL/AF LH have the "quiet cabin" at the front accessible to elite's and full fare Y.

Also, LH aren't charging non-status pax for the exit row. Lufthansa and the SEN benefit is the definite winner here.


Lounges:


CDG is Air France's home, the lounges should be the best they have and the same goes for KL at AMS.

At CDG 8:00AM breakfast is on offer. There are croissants, pain au chocolat, farmhouse loaf, jam, musli and cornflakes with syrup (milk is only available in a drinking carton with straw ), pre-pack yoghurt's and a few pieces of fruit. Usual drinks selection available. Ice is from a dispenser.

With Lufthansa in MUC/FRA and even TXL/DUS (haven't had the pleasure of HAM, DRS and STR) there are hot items available, the 'Senator' buffet, salads, cold meats and cheeses, eggs, various freshly made yoghurt's on ice, chopped fruits etc.

Now I have been in the AF lounge at all times of the day and it never has anything remotely comparable to what's on offer at the LH lounges I mention. This is *the home* of AF. Even the LH SEN lounge at CDG has a fair spread *and* it has champagne.

At FRA and MUC there are even fully serviced bars offering freshly made cocktails and at MUC proper coffee's.

At AMS I arrived at the end of the breakfast setup. On offer there was bread & butter pudding, boiled eggs, some fruit in yoghurt (find the fruit), biscuits, fruit. That's pretty much it. Their using soft-drink dispensers like in a fast food restaurant, of course this saves a lot of money for KL over bottles but they are so messy I hate them. LH use bottles except for the draft beer and real ice, not the snow type.

The lunch changeover comes and on offer is two types of salad, the usual beef consomme, tomato soup, chili con carne and a veg version. Plastic ham and cheese are available too. There are also some donuts. Now I have to say, things have improved since my memory of 2 years ago.

The victory here is LH, much better lounges for SEN/*G compared to what's on offer for FBG and FB Plat. LH lounges are often packed but so was AMS and CDG AF lounge.

Seat

KL is a clear winner with seat comfort, the seats are far more comfortable than LH's new dreadful NEK. LH do offer middle-seat blocking for SEN's and *G where possible, KL/AF do not. Even though this is a great benefit, the new seats are very uncomfortable and give me a fair bit of back pain. KL is the winner.

Catering

I received a very nice egg sandwich and a kind of chausson aux pommes. LH new catering is on the whole pretty poor and on routes from CDG I've mostly received a horrible dry soft & soggy croissant. The musli is not too bad. On many other KL flights there's only the cookies and crisps on offer. It's a draw with KL-LH. By the way, I won't mention AF catering ...I miss the tray.

Crew
If you get a young crew on LH they tend to be fairly friendly but in general LH crews are fairly cold but efficient. KL crews are normally very friendly and very obliging. KL is the winner here.

Baggage delivery

Bags off first which is the normal with LH too. A draw here.

Conclusion

It all depends what you expect from your flights. For me a good lounge is important indeed I am happy to ignore poor food onboard if I can have something in the lounge. The AF and KL lounges offerings are too meagre and while I appreciate KL and AF don't differentiate their tier levels for lounge access that is their choice. LH do and as a near top tier with M&M and top tier with FB, LH is better. Not to mention it is very easy to obtain *G and access the better lounges for less than the requirements of M&M FTL with other carriers FFP's. This will also give you the seat-block.

I very much like KL crews, in fact after trying the wine in economy and leaving it I was surprised to be offered the business class wine. To be fair to LH I've been offered a G&T from the business cabin a few times. The seats are more comfortable on KL and they've thankfully scrapped ES in favour of "proper" European business.

For the mean-time I'll stick with LH where I have the personal choice. I'd consider putting more business KL/AF's way if the lounges, check-in, advanced assignment & seat-blocking were to improve oh and er Flying Blue . AF won't have to worry given I'm taking they're the "preferred carrier" anyway.

LH are certainly not perfect and this is a strict European travel comparison because if you start and talk about LH l/h flights things get more complicated. I am no LH apologist, far far from it but LH have won me over a little with their freshly made mojito's!
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Old Jan 15, 12, 3:14 pm   #2
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I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder as different people have different assessments here. Example...

Quote:
Originally Posted by hugolover View Post
OLCI:[/b]

As FB Plat I wanted to chose an exit row, unfortunately the system wasn't happy and blocked the entire forward cabin off, though it had assigned me the first row in Y. I reported this to KL via Twitter and after a few hours manual assignment had been carried out. While I appreciated their efforts I wish OLCI would just work first time. I've always had problems with KL OLCI.

With Lufthansa as a SEN I can pre-assign my seats anywhere I wish from when the booking is made. I've never had a problem with check-in at all. It always works, on the phone and on the web. Like KL/AF LH have the "quiet cabin" at the front accessible to elite's and full fare Y.

Also, LH aren't charging non-status pax for the exit row. Lufthansa and the SEN benefit is the definite winner here.
KL and AF OLCIs are the exact same apart from AF auto-check in (otherwise, the AF OLCI is in fact handled by KL and you will see www.klm.com on top of your AF OLCI page). Re-LH, I am not LH Sen but * Gold with another programme so probably not the same experience but I have had many a dreadful experience with LH OLCI: as Star Gold, regularly, LH assigns me a middle seat towards the back (we can't pre-assign unlike the actual LH sen) and very often the seats can't be changed especially when you have a Swiss ticket ex-Germany or an LH ticket ex-Switzerland etc. Had this today again. LX flight TXL-ZRH-NCE, OLCI took me to LH website, had a 'B' seat preassigned for both segments, could change former but not latter until I arrived in Zurich by which time I could only move far back to avoid a middle. So here, I'd choose - well I wouldn't choose any, I don't like the AF-KL OLCI nor the LH OLCI and the seats I get on BA OLCI often get changed, so I think they are all bad.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hugolover View Post
Lounges:[/b]

CDG is Air France's home, the lounges should be the best they have and the same goes for KL at AMS.

At CDG 8:00AM breakfast is on offer. There are croissants, pain au chocolat, farmhouse loaf, jam, musli and cornflakes with syrup (milk is only available in a drinking carton with straw ), pre-pack yoghurt's and a few pieces of fruit. Usual drinks selection available. Ice is from a dispenser.

With Lufthansa in MUC/FRA and even TXL/DUS (haven't had the pleasure of HAM, DRS and STR) there are hot items available, the 'Senator' buffet, salads, cold meats and cheeses, eggs, various freshly made yoghurt's on ice, chopped fruits etc.

Now I have been in the AF lounge at all times of the day and it never has anything remotely comparable to what's on offer at the LH lounges I mention. This is *the home* of AF. Even the LH SEN lounge at CDG has a fair spread *and* it has champagne.

At FRA and MUC there are even fully serviced bars offering freshly made cocktails and at MUC proper coffee's.

At AMS I arrived at the end of the breakfast setup. On offer there was bread & butter pudding, boiled eggs, some fruit in yoghurt (find the fruit), biscuits, fruit. That's pretty much it. Their using soft-drink dispensers like in a fast food restaurant, of course this saves a lot of money for KL over bottles but they are so messy I hate them. LH use bottles except for the draft beer and real ice, not the snow type.

The lunch changeover comes and on offer is two types of salad, the usual beef consomme, tomato soup, chili con carne and a veg version. Plastic ham and cheese are available too. There are also some donuts. Now I have to say, things have improved since my memory of 2 years ago.

The victory here is LH, much better lounges for SEN/*G compared to what's on offer for FBG and FB Plat. LH lounges are often packed but so was AMS and CDG AF lounge.
Well again, all I can say is that we have radically different experiences. I find the LH lounges absolutely dreadful mostly on account of their horrible food. The new Sen lounge at FRA is apparently a bit less bad than the others but it remains all really poor. The food is always always the same. Breakfast is ok (as always in Germany) but the rest of the day I hate it, always the frozen pork meatballs with sachets of mustard, always potato salad, always some not very nice soup, always some gherkins I sort of like. At TXL there is also the worst currywurst you can probably find in the whole of Berlin. By contrast, at lunch and dinner time, AF has rather nice sandwiches, nice salads, cheese platters, cakes, etc. It is mediocre (no hot food) but I find it much less bad than my experience of the LH SEN lounges and even more of the LX and OS SEN lounges. This being said, there, the 'piece of cake' winner is BA with First Class lounges for BA Gold. Also, note that while LH's best lounges seem to be the hub ones, it is in my view not so for AF, where, for example, the JFK lounge or the LHR Skyteam lounge have much better food than CDG. I personally dislike the KLM lounge food. So here, I'd personally choose, without hesitation TK > BA > AF > SK > LH > KL > OS > LX...

Quote:
Originally Posted by hugolover View Post
Seat

KL is a clear winner with seat comfort, the seats are far more comfortable than LH's new dreadful NEK. LH do offer middle-seat blocking for SEN's and *G where possible, KL/AF do not. Even though this is a great benefit, the new seats are very uncomfortable and give me a fair bit of back pain. KL is the winner.
I agree. Here I'd put KL > BA > LX > LH > AF (new seats)

Quote:
Originally Posted by hugolover View Post
Catering

I received a very nice egg sandwich and a kind of chausson aux pommes. LH new catering is on the whole pretty poor and on routes from CDG I've mostly received a horrible dry soft & soggy croissant. The musli is not too bad. On many other KL flights there's only the cookies and crisps on offer. It's a draw with KL-LH. By the way, I won't mention AF catering ...I miss the tray.
Actually, here I find you a bit hard with LH which I tend to like better than KL in economy. I'd put TK > OS > LH > KL > LX > BA > AF > SK/IB/etc.

I don't have a general preference in terms of crews, I tend to find AF often very nice but have also often had nice crews on BA and KL. I tend to find LH crews more distant but there have been some great exceptions.

On short haul Y within Europe, I'd probably often choose TK if it was not out of the way, followed by BA for the F lounge and full bar (which LH, LX, AF, and KL do not offer), OS, and SU. I would then not get out of my way between AF, KL, LH, LX, AZ which each have their own advantages and downsides, and some of which are better on shorter or longer European routes.
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Old Jan 15, 12, 3:46 pm   #3
 
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Thanks for your reply. I deliberately compared just LH-KL and tried to leave out the other LH group airlines as then it would get very complicated indeed. Indeed if I could I'd chose to fly BD for all intra-Europe travel if they actually flew to more places or if LH offered BD style onboard service in C. Indeed I rate TK very highly along with LX (though poor SEN lounges) though I have some safety concerns with TK. A3 is also very nice.

Of course you took an LX flight from a LH station, I'm sure if you flew on LH metal you wouldn't have had a problem. I've definitely had far more problems with KL/AF IT than LH.

With regards to lounge food, are you comparing TXL SEN to CDG or SEN to the joke of a lounge in Berlin for AF pax? At least it was when I last flew AF in 2009 from TXL. I've never been to the JFK AF lounge it should be good given its an intercontinental high-yield station. SkyTeam LHR lounge is probably one of the best in the network anyway.

FRA has a nice new non-Schengen lounge with a full service bar, nice new showers etc.

While I didn't mention it in my review, again just LH-KL the OS SEN lounge at Vienna while small was using more high quality products than other lounges, I recall a nice beef salad in June this year along with mushroom soup that was real and full of mushrooms. No battery farmed chicken in sight on that visit. There was also nice cake. I thought it was good for an airline like OS. But then OS are still handing out apple slices and things like that in Y.

I want to make it clear they are all not much of a muchness and flying in Economy in Europe is no pleasure but there are some modest differences among the full service carriers left. Of course, the European full-service model is finished, and I'm not aware of any full service carrier turning a (significant or any) profit on s/h European routes.
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Old Jan 16, 12, 1:44 am   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hugolover View Post
Thanks for your reply. I deliberately compared just LH-KL and tried to leave out the other LH group airlines as then it would get very complicated indeed. Indeed if I could I'd chose to fly BD for all intra-Europe travel if they actually flew to more places or if LH offered BD style onboard service in C. Indeed I rate TK very highly along with LX (though poor SEN lounges) though I have some safety concerns with TK. A3 is also very nice.

Of course you took an LX flight from a LH station, I'm sure if you flew on LH metal you wouldn't have had a problem. I've definitely had far more problems with KL/AF IT than LH.

With regards to lounge food, are you comparing TXL SEN to CDG or SEN to the joke of a lounge in Berlin for AF pax? At least it was when I last flew AF in 2009 from TXL. I've never been to the JFK AF lounge it should be good given its an intercontinental high-yield station. SkyTeam LHR lounge is probably one of the best in the network anyway.

FRA has a nice new non-Schengen lounge with a full service bar, nice new showers etc.

While I didn't mention it in my review, again just LH-KL the OS SEN lounge at Vienna while small was using more high quality products than other lounges, I recall a nice beef salad in June this year along with mushroom soup that was real and full of mushrooms. No battery farmed chicken in sight on that visit. There was also nice cake. I thought it was good for an airline like OS. But then OS are still handing out apple slices and things like that in Y.
I agree with you on BD (makes me sad to think it will disappear) and A3 too indeed!!

Re-OLCI and lounges, I was mostly refering to when I fly LH metal and the FRA lounges that I know (ie not the new non-Schengen which is apparently quite nice but which I haven't tried yet). I was only mentioning my LX itinerary ex-TXL because I happened to fly it yesterday but I do take about 15-20 LH flights a year too, usually via FRA (for some reason only did MUC a couple of times and indeed found the lounge a bit more pleasant although still not great). You're right that on LH metal I can always change my seat, but in nearly 50% of cases they will still prevent me from accessing the front 3 or 4 Y rows despite my being officially entitled to it (and it is indeed always corrected at the airport if some seats are left). But again, I take the point that I am star gold rather than LH Sen so if we compare people on the own programme only I'm sure they don't experience the same thing. Re-TXL, the AF TXL lounge is indeed very minimal - although unlike the LH senator it actual has runway views (and their mini bags of haribo goldbaeren are better than LH's weird selection of sweeties! ) but I was more comparing LH TXL Sen to AF lounges in larger stations (TXL is a tiny operation for AF while it is a big one for LH). I think another point worth mentioning is that one of the nicest LH benefits is probably the attempt to keep the middle seat empty, but somehow, I must be flying busy routes and I get it in maybe 20% of the cases, which is in fact less than I got on AF where it is not an official benefit at all (but where, in fact, I have regularly got the three seats kept for myself) just because not everyone can choose any row. BA make no pretense and as I like seats towards the front, I virtually never have a free middle seat unless the plane is pretty empty.

Anyway, agree with your final conclusion that there are still small differences but I just sort of have slightly different readings of the actual categories. As mentioned (here and many other times) I mostly hate AF new NEO onboard service while KL have maintained theirs, which is quite good on relatively short routes (the 2 hour type, long enough to get you a sandwich and biscuit but short enough that you don't miss the nicer cold meal you'd get on AF over 2h30). BA is ok on morning flights or longer flights (zone 4) where you still get a nice-ish hot meal but pretty bad on everything else where you get nasty nibbles like crisps or biscuits. I think the NEK food is slightly less boring on LH than pre-NEK (a tiny salad feels a bit nicer than a tiny sandwich I guess ) but indeed nothing to write home about so I guess our main difference was on the lounge assessment. There, I guess linguistic abilities also play a role when it comes to reading material: I always find LH lounges very 'German' in terms of their reading material in the same way AF lounges are probably very 'French', but as I speak French and not German this has an implicit impact on my lounge experience. I'd say that BA are again a bit better at accommodating foreign press in their LHR lounges, but only there as all outstations seem to be mostly UK-exclusive with a bit of local press.
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Old Jan 16, 12, 6:10 am   #5
 
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Thanks for the comparison, hugolover! Some interesting notes indeed.

I find the KL shorthaul Y seats the best I've experienced.

The baggage delivery very much depends on where you land, and in those cases there are no differences between airlines. In an airport where they don't care about priority tags it will be the same for all airlines, since the baggage handlers are the same.

I am surprised to find pax who still have expectations in terms of food from airlines (be it in the lounge or in the air). Shorthaul EU flights are generally pretty poor (and that includes C class) and lounges rarely have real food; it's usually some sort of snack (granted, some can be very good). I never expect actual food... if you want to be safe eat before you get to the airport, bring your own snack or plan to eat after you land.
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Old Jan 16, 12, 7:21 am   #6
 
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Thanks indeed to the OP, useful review

Quote:
Originally Posted by florin View Post
The baggage delivery very much depends on where you land, and in those cases there are no differences between airlines. In an airport where they don't care about priority tags it will be the same for all airlines, since the baggage handlers are the same.
This is what bothers me the most about KL at AMS. Bags are slow (And I mean SLOW...enough time to grab a bite at the lounge and STILL arrive before the first bags come out). Also priority is almost never taken into account - often I find my bag in the middle of the bunch.
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