Hello, and welcome to my latest trip report. On Sunday, 2 December 2012 I returned home to Basel from a business trip to Bangkok on Cathay Pacific. Two days later, on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 and I’m off again. First with KLM from Basel via Amsterdam to Montreal for one night, and then from there again with KLM via Amsterdam to Southampton for another meeting. From Southampton I will catch a train up to London, where I will spend the weekend soaking up the atmosphere in the madness of the run up to Christmas before returning home to Basel. This report covers the first two legs from Basel via Amsterdam to Montreal.
Date: 4 December 2012
Aircraft: Embraer 190
Airline: KLM Cityhopper
Cabin: Business Class
This report begins at the Air France check-in counters on the French side of the terminal. Although the KLM flight is normally parked at the Swiss side of the facility, the fact that Air France does all the handling means that passengers have to check-in for the flight on the French side and then cross over into the Swiss part of the terminal once they are airside.
The good news is that Business Class passengers now receive a voucher for a free drink at the bar to compensate for the lack of a lounge facility. This is, however, not entirely true. There is of course the former Swiss lounge, which is now the Swissport Skyview lounge, but apparently Air France KLM chose not to contract this lounge.
In any case, I make the mistake of ordering what is alleged to be a cappuccino and it is an abomination. So I sit by the gate reading my Kindle, waiting for the flight to be called.
Boarding for the flight starts on time. As I am seated on 1A, I wait for all the other passengers to board first so as not to get in the way.
When eventually I make my way to the aircraft, I am given a warm welcome by a friendly young Dutch female flight attendant. By the looks of it the flight is only about 70 per cent full and in Business Class there is only one other passenger seated right behind me on 2A.
I like the Embraer, although I must also say that the seats are a tad too low and as a result, tend to give me a back ache after a while. They’re okay for a short one hour hop to Amsterdam, but I wouldn’t be so sure about longer segments.
We depart towards the southeast from runway 15. With the light load we don’t even need to taxi all the way to the end of the runway. So we line up on the runway about halfway down.
Service begins once the seatbelt sign comes off. There are two young females working the cabin on this flight. Both of them are friendly enough and very relaxed, which makes for a pleasant atmosphere on board.
The meal consists of a salad with olives and a Thousand Islands dressing.
There is a choice of two different sandwiches available: multi-grain roll with Mozzarella and tomato or maize and pumpkin seed roll with sliced chicken breast. I go with the Mozzarella sandwich.
For dessert there is an orange praline thing, and it is very good too.
To drink with the meal I have a Diet Coke.
After the meal I have a mug of coffee with those tasty KLM biscuits filled with caramel.
Our Arrival in Amsterdam is quite unusual, for me at least. We land on runway 36C, which is a first for me, even though I travel through Amsterdam quite often. The weather in Amsterdam is even worse than what I left behind in Basel!
Transfer in Amsterdam
Once I enter the terminal I head straight for immigrations to reach the E gates from where my flight will be leaving. The guy at the counter has obviously never seen a Maltese passport before in his life, so the whole process eventually takes about 30 minutes to complete while he checks and rechecks. But never mind, I prefer my officials to be conscientious and not slack. Besides, Amsterdam is looking all festive and I have a chance to look around while they check my passport.
Once I’m through I can’t be bothered to head for the lounge, there isn’t that much time left anyway. So instead I get myself a pancake from the self-service restaurant at the beginning of the Holland Boulevard and wait until the security screening for my flight opens.
Date: 4 December 2012
Airline: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Cabin: Business Class
My flight is scheduled to leave at 15h00. So at around 14h20 I make my way to the gate to see if security is already open. As I reach the gate and spot the bird taking me across the pond today, I am overcome by her stunning beauty and embark on a photo shooting frenzy. The queue for security will take a while to clear anyway!
Eventually I join the line for security as the flight is called for boarding. There is even a separate lane for Skypriority passengers. Boarding for the flight is called just as I go through the scanner. So I collect all my belongings, take a few more picture of my elegant ride across the pond and head on board.
The load is very light on this flight. There are only nine passengers in Business Class with only four in the forward Business Class cabin, giving the flight a very cosy atmosphere.
The cabin on this bird is well maintained and looks nice, all decked out in KLM blue. As on my previous flights with the MD-11, I am absolutely smitten by the amount of leg space there is on row one. You actually have to stand up from your seat to reach the pocket mounted on the bulkhead!
The crew on this flight are friendly and obviously in a very good mood. Perhaps it has something to do with the light load today. As soon as I am seated, one of the flight attendants takes my coat and jacket, while her colleagues bring me the vanity kit, earphones and a glass of still water.
Take-off is from the notorious Polderbahn, which means a very long taxi from our gate. The MD-11 is obviously out to impress today and we are treated to an amazing take-off, such as you usually don’t get on a bird of this size.
As soon as we get airborne and the fasten seatsbelt sign comes off, the service begins. Incidentally, there are now refreshing towels on this service, which is quite a contrast to my flights with Cathay Pacific the previous week.
We begin with a large bowl of mixed nuts and a glass of Ginger Ale on ice. One of the flight attendants comes by and asks me what I’ll be having for the main course. I’m having the chicken.
After that the table is set with crisp white linen, and the meal tray arrives.
The First Course
It contains a small salad and the first course: smoked salmon with Hollandaise mousse, capers and shallots, served with cucumber soup and sour dough bread. The first course is excellent and quite unusual. The final preparation of the dish is actually done at your seat, which is a nice touch. To drink with that I have still water.
There is also a basket with warm bread.
And here are a few details of the cutlery and condiments that come with the tray.
The Main Course
For the main course I have the winter casserole with Volwaard chicken, accompanied by new potatoes, pearl onions, cabbage, chestnuts, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms.
The Cheese & Fruit
And for dessert I have the cheese plate with Beemster Lite and St. Aubin cheese, together with a fruit kebab.
To conclude the meal, the crew pass through the cabin with a box of chocolate pralines with the coffee. I’m undecided about which one to choose, so flight attendant encourages me to take more than one and eventually chooses three for me.
I spend the rest of the flight reading, dozing and watching the beautiful colours outside until it’s time for the next service.
The Second Service
About an hour out of Montreal the second service begins. The meal consists of a dish of Vitello Tonnato with asparagus, pine nuts and roasted bell peppers.
With that there is a croquette roll of deep-friend beef ragout in a bread roll. I try this but decide not to finish it…
And for dessert there is a Dutch waffle mousse with caramel sauce, which is very tasty.
After that we are given the landing cards for Canada to complete. The flight concludes with the distribution of the famous Bols houses.
Our approach into Montreal at dusk is quite beautiful. We cross the mighty St. Lawrence and are treated to a lovely view of the city of Montreal. We fly past the old Olympic park, which is clearly visible.
Immigration does not take long to complete and just a few minutes after I reach the luggage belt, my suitcase arrives. I grab a taxi and make my way into town.
On these two flights KLM gave yet another solid performance. The quality of the food on both flights was very good and the crew displayed a lot of enthusiasm for their job and were very friendly in the way the dealt with their passengers. Because I only spent one night in Montreal I ended up flying back with the same crew. Not only was I very surprised that they all recognised me again, they evidently went out of their way on the return leg to make me feel at home. I was really treated like an old friend, and I thought that was rather nice.
The service on KLM may not exactly be as elegant as that on other airlines, but it is certainly very personable and welcoming and I like that.
As for the hardware, I’m happy I managed to get another two flights on the MD-11. The last time I flew to Montreal with KLM I suspected it might be my last opportunity to catch this attractive looking bird. But it seems as though I got a second chance. My next trip to Montreal will be in the spring. By the looks of it, with a bit of luck, that trip might also feature the MD-11. I certainly hope so! Having said that, it really is high time KLM rolled out that new Business Class seat.