101 Travel Tips

All about KLM’s new ticket options (without check-in baggage)

For fellow Dutchies, KLM is often their go-to airline for their flights. It is the oldest and biggest Dutch airline. But KLM’s new and complicated ticket options make it quite a challenge to book a ticket. For some intercontinental flights it is now even impossible to know in advance exactly what your ticket including check-in baggage would cost. Not joking. In this blog I will tell you exactly what to watch out for when booking your tickets with KLM!

de nieuwe prijsstructuur van KLM en Air France | the new ticket options of KLM and Air France | The Orange Backpack

How we didn’t buy tickets to Central America

We opened our laptops on a Monday evening to finally buy our tickets for our next big trip. Sebastiaan’s manager had finally given her approval on our travel plans. We could finally get our tickets to Central America! We plan to travel for two months. Starting at Guatamala and ending in Yucatan in Mexico. Our goal: tickets to Guatamala City and back from Cancun.

All flight comparison platforms pointed us to KLM tickets. For about € 500 we would able to fly to at convenient departure times and with only one transfer. But that worked out differently. This ticket was part of KLM’s new ticket options. Appearently we were looking into airline tickets in the most stripped-down price range of this new system. This price range did not even include checked baggage though it was an interncontinental flight. Was it possible for us to book another ticket option of the new system? Nope.

We called the KLM help desk. After a long wait we were assisted by probably the friendliest KLM employee. He apologised for the confusion and would help us figure out what check-in baggage would cost us. Because KLM’s new tickets options are so complicated, he didn’t know how to do this himself. He had to do some math with another colleague. The result was a price of € 65 + $ 75 each for check-in baggage. So € 135 extra per person for just our backpacks And no, it was not even an option to make this extra booking straight away. That was only an option at our departure day when checking in at the airport. He could only make a note with his price calculation now. So his colleague at the airport would know that he promised us this price.

We decided to cancel the tickets. Tip: you can cancel your booking at KLM free of charge within 24 hours.

KLM’s new ticket options: light, standard and standard+

KLM’s new ticket options for economy class are now: light, standard and standard+. Beware that flight comparison sites will always show you the price of a light ticket. So that’s a stripped-down economy class ticket. The main problem with these light tickets is the check-in baggage: it is not included in the price.

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So if you want check-in baggage, you have two options: buying standard tickets or paying extra for checking in your luggage. If you’ll chose the standard ticket option, your ticket will be at least € 80 more expensive. A return trip to Cancun in Mexico would even be € 130 more expensive, we checked at the KLM site. Still, chosing this ‘upgrade’ when making your booking is cheaper than buying extra check-in luggage. At least, that’s what we were told in the Dutch news reports about KLM’s new ticket options. So okay, let’s look at some new tickets to Guatamala and Cancun, Mexico, for the standard price!

That was not an option, the employee answered apologetically. It was not possible to get the ‘standard’ tickets with check-in luggage online for a multicity trip. Those tickets are always the ‘light’ option. So during the booking process, you will not get the option of opting for a ‘standard’ ticket or adding additional check-in luggage to your booking. It is also not possible to find out during the booking process or somewhere on the KLM site what the price is for additional check-in luggage. With the new ticket options, that is different for every flight. Even an employee needs several minutes and a colleague to calculate the costs. Confusion all over the place. And help desk employees who are now mainly answering phone calls about check-in luggage.

Tips: make sure to check these things during KLM’s booking process

  • Do not book a ticket with different arrival and departure airports (a multi city ticket) online. It is not possible to find the price for additional check-in luggage online.
  • Do you want to book via KLM anyway despite this complex system? Then make sure to do this by calling the help desk. They can calculate exactly what your ticket will cost. We were told that because of the confusing information online, KLM will then ‘only’ charge € 10 and not the standard € 25 for a help desk booking.
  • Is KLM the cheapest option according to flight comparison sights? Make sure to check the price for a ‘standard’ ticket right away. Most likely the price difference with the ‘light’ option is much bigger than that with the second airline in your ticket comparison results.
  • Almost all ticket comparison platforms give the option to exclude certain airlines from your search.
  • Make sure to do that for both KLM and Air France. Uncheck both KLM and Air France in a ticket comparator. The new price system applies to both airlines.
  • Or stick to carry-on bagage and travel without check-in luggage! That was not an option for us this time though, as we are planning some hikes (heavy hiking boots) to mountains and volcanoes (warm clothing). You wanna give it a try? Make sure to read our tips to travel light!
  • Your check-in bagage will be free, if you have a high status with the Flying Blue program (read here). But with the cheaper light tickets you will not probably not be able to achieve such status with KLM though.
  • Why you should you not collect frequent flyer miles with the KLM Flying Blue program anyway? And why collecting points also pays if you don’t fly often and not always with the same airline? Read this blog!