Two weeks after my return from Brunei, I’m off again. June looks set to be rather busy for me. This week I’m giving a course in Warsaw, the week after I have a meeting in Paris, to which I shall travel on HOP by Air France. And then the week after that it’s another trip to Luxembourg for a course and then the week after that a trip to Amsterdam – both with KLM.
It’s quite amazing just how often something goes wrong when you’re travelling. Perhaps I should rephrase that. It’s quite amazing how often something goes wrong when I’m travelling. I think I’ve got bad Karma. Or maybe some gipsy cast an evil eye on me…
Yes, this trip didn’t get off to a good start. Last Tuesday I was scheduled to fly from Zürich via Amsterdam to Warsaw. I selected KLM because I would fly to Basel on the return, which is where I live.
I arrived at the gate a few minutes before the boarding time indicated on the boarding pass, only to find that the departure had been delayed by 40 minutes to 12h35. Initially I didn’t think anything of it. At 11h45 however, I suddenly realised that my original connecting time in Amsterdam would only have been one hour, even with an on time arrival. So the delay meant seriously bad news. I then decided to check with the gate agents to see if they had any information on my connection. At first they tried to wave the whole thing – and me – off, by saying that everything would be fine. Eventually though, after I insisted that KLM had a nasty habit of rebooking passengers without even as much as informing them about the changes, one of the agents grudgingly agreed to check.
Lo and behold, it turned out that KLM had indeed rebooked me onto the direct SWISS service from Zürich to Amsterdam. Don’t get me wrong: normally I wouldn’t mind being put on the direct flight. But there was just one slight problem: the SWISS flight to Warsaw was scheduled to leave in less than 10 minutes and KLM had not bothered to inform me about the change and hadn’t checked me in for the new flight either. So there was nothing for it. I bid the gate agent at B08 farewell and made a dash for gate A86 at the opposite end of the terminal facility.
When eventually I arrived there at high noon, with a whole string of indignant passengers in my wake who I’d ran over in my sprint, the flight had already been closed, with the screens showing the next flight from that gate. Fortunately one of my students, who works part-time for Swissport, spotted me and came over to say hello. When I explained the problem he quickly had a word with the gate agent for my flight and eventually managed to charm her into opening the flight again to check me in and accept me for the flight. And so it came that I was able to give the course in Warsaw after all.
This report covers the return trip from Warsaw to Amsterdam on the Boeing B 737-700 in KLM Business Class.
Date: 07 June 2013
Airline: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing B 737-700
Cabin: Business Class
Seat: 1A, window on the left side
Getting to the Airport
There are two trains that connect Warsaw airport to the city. The green line runs to the central station. The train certainly looks very funky, sleek and futuristic. But don’t let appearances fool you. The journey to the airport will take you roughly 20 minutes, not so much because of the distance but because for most of the journey the train is literally crawling at a very leisurely pace. I’m not sure if this is normal. Perhaps they’re working on the tracks. Apart from that, the train is very clean, just like the stations. The fare for a oneway ticket is 7 Zloty.
For some reason I no longer seem to be able to do mobile check-in on the KLM website. Or rather, I can check in but I can’t select delivery of the boarding passes to my mobile. My first stop therefore, is the check-in counter for SkyPriority passengers, where my luggage is tagged all the way to Basel and I am issued the boarding passes for both segments of the journey.
The guy at check-in is friendly. He explains that he’s tagged my suitcase all the way to Basel and marked it with a priority label. He then gives me directions for the priority lane at security and wishes me a pleasant journey.
The Ballada Lounge
KLM uses the Ballada lounge in Warsaw. Just a piece of advice for anybody passing through Warsaw: don’t bother! The lounge is very small and cramped and with no windows. Being the only lounge available for all the non-Star Alliance carriers, it’s also permanently crowded with passengers.
So instead I take a walk around the terminal and eventually settle down in one of the numerous bars for a drink.
Boarding for the flight starts slightly ahead of schedule. There is a dedicated SkyPriority lane and the staff pay attention to ensure that all passengers use the right lane. The gate agent is very friendly and polite. He scans my boarding pass and wishes me a pleasant journey. He smiles and even pronounces my name properly!
I am greeted at the door of the aircraft by two chirpy flight attendants. I take my seat on 1A. Just a word of caution to all those of you who like to look out the window when they’re flying. There are three windows to row 1. But for some reason, on the left side of the aircraft the middle one, which would be the most convenient to look out of, is covered up. As a result, you either have to lean forward to look out, and give your abdominals a great work out during take off, or you crank your neck as far as you can to look out through the window closest to you. Five cycles with 20 repetitions over a period of five weeks should suffice to give you a six-pack that will make you the envy of your local fitness centre.
Service begins on the ground with a welcome drink. There is a selection of water and orange juice and I go with the latter. Next magazines and newspapers are distributed.
We push back from the gate some 10 minutes early. The captain comes on the blower to explain that they’re currently resurfacing one of the runways at the airport. Subsequently, there is a queue of six aircraft heading out for departure ahead of us that will take its time to shift as there are also arriving aircraft using the same runway. The flight time is one hour and 45 minutes.
While we queue I watch them watching us.
Once the seatbelt sign is turned off, the meal service begins with a drinks round. I have a Ginger Ale, which is served with a small packet of incredibly tasty roasted almonds. They have a nice smoky taste.
Next hot towels are distributed ahead of the meal tray being served.
The First Course
Pea mousse with shrimps and diced pickled vegetables.
Green salad with sun dried tomatoes and lemon-infused olive oil.
The Main Course
The meal is tasty enough and hits the spot nicely, even though the main dish isn’t really much to look at. The tray is removed and the flight attendant asks me if there’s anything I’d like. So I ask for a coffee, which she brings me shortly after with one of those tasty caramel biscuits.
I love those biscuits. I think I scoff it down just a bit too enthusiastically because text thing I know, the flight attendant returns with a whole handful of them and simply says with a smile ‘you seem to like them…’. I thank her for the attention and demolish the rest of the biscuits. But I make a point of leaving one packet untouched so as not to have a detrimental effect on my row 1 abdominal workout regime.
The rest of the flight is uneventful and we arrive in Amsterdam bang on time. It’s a quick taxi to the gate and from there I head for the lounge to wait for my connection to Basel.
I decided to write this report because I think the level of service KLM offers on this route is really quite amazing. To provide a hot meal and a full tray service in Business Class on a flight of less than two hours is quite impressive. As ever, the crew were really friendly, chatty and pleasant.
Of course, the issues with the delay on the outbound journey were a bit irritating and I really do wish KLM would stop doing things like that. I did write to KLM to let them know that although they had the best intentions, the way the whole thing was handled was not ideal, shall we say. And to give them credit, I received an answer the next day with an apology and a travel voucher for CHF250, which I thought was very considerate of them.