KLM Cityhopper, Business Class – Embraer 175: Inverness to Amsterdam

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Date: 02 October 2016
Departure: 11:05
Arrival: 13:30
Flight time: 1 hour and 25 minutes
Seat: 2F, window on the starboard side – upgraded from 6A

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: Car rental
Journey time: 45 minutes because we got lost…

I leave The Coul House at 08h40. The air up here is just so fresh that it really is a pleasure to just stand there inhaling a few breaths of the crisp, cool air. It must have been cold last night, because the windscreen is covered in a thin layer of ice where the night’s dew froze on the car.

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The sun is just coming up over the highlands. The valleys are still thick with fog, and as the sun rises higher in the sky, the light creates strange and beautiful illusions.

Check-in

Location: On the ground floor of the terminal, on your right as you enter the building.
Counters: There are two counters for KLM, one is the drop-off counter and the other is the SkyPriority counter for Business Class passengers and Platinum/Gold card holders.
Facilities: Counter check-in, self-service check-in, Web check-in via the KLM app.

By the time the car has been dropped off and I reach check-in, it is 09h45 and my flight is scheduled to depart in about one hour. There is a bit of a hold up at the SkyPriority counter because there are two guys checking in weapons.

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The Swissport Aspire Lounge

Type of lounge: Swissport Aspire contractor lounge.
Location: Near gate 3
Facilities: Comfortable sofas to sit on as well as other seating options, toilets are available outside the lounge.
Catering: A selection of hot and cold drinks and small breakfast snacks – things like Cornflakes or scones with clotted cream.
Wifi: Complimentary wifi is available in the lounge, the password is printed on the wall.

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To be honest, I am quite surprised they have a lounge at all here in Inverness. It is a nice place with good amenities. The view in particular is brilliant because you are at ground level and have excellent views of the ramp. The lounge is managed by an elderly gentleman and he really is brilliant. He is very chatty and quite funny actually, and makes passengers feel instantly welcome with his joking. He keeps a low profile in the lounge, and most of the time you do not even notice he is there, but somehow everything is cleared up straight away.

Boarding

Priority boarding is available. A separate call is made for Business Class passengers and Platinum members only, then for Gold and Silver members and eventually for everybody else. There is also a separate queue.

The scanner issues an alert as my boarding pass is scanned and the gate agent informs me I have been upgraded to Business Class again. It is quite surprising just how often that seems to happen on KLM these days.

I take my new pass and head out across the apron, taking pictures of the shiny chariot that will be taking me to Amsterdam this morning.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2.
Pitch: 32 inches, which gradually decreases to 30 inches by row nine.
Width: 17 inches
Seat: There are two rows of Business Class on this flight. The seat next to me is kept empty. The seat on the Embraer 175 looks slightly different to that on the Embraer 190. Other than that though, it feels pretty much the same to sit in. On the first few rows the windows on the Embraer 175 are properly aligned with the passenger seats, so at least you have a good view of the outside. Towards the back though, the windows are increasingly unaligned. As a result, you end up either cranking your head back to look out through the window behind you, or sharing the window with the guy sitting in front of you, which is likely to give you tunnel vision…

The Crew

There are two crew working the cabin. The purser is a young man in his mid-twenties, I should say. The other is a young woman who seems younger. Both of them are very professional and friendly, just your typical bog standard KLM flight attendants basically, which is what I like about KLM.

Before the doors close, the young man comes by offering a selection of English, French, German and Dutch newspapers.

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The Meal

Type of meal: Lunch
Selection: Two choices for the sandwich
Service: Individual service – the meal is served in a box on the Cityhopper lights, which looks better than it sounds.

  1. Greek salad with feta cheese and pumpkin, with a mango chilli and lime dressing.
  2. Salmon and egg wrap with spinach and cream cheese.
  3. Tropical Pina Colada mousse with a lime topping.
  4. A selection of hot and cold drinks.
  5. After the meal I have a coke Zero, which is served with two packets of some really tasty almonds.
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Arrival

It is a lovely day for flying and the views outside are spectacular. After take-off from Inverness we head out onto the North Sea, and stay there pretty much until we hit the coast of the Netherlands. The weather in Amsterdam is pretty bad though and we are required to circle over the sea before eventually we are cleared to make our approach.

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In Amsterdam I have two hours to make my connection to Basel.

The Coul House, Contin near Inverness

In Inverness I am staying at The Coul House, which is roughly forty minutes away from Inverness airport by car.

The Coul House is a lovely country hotel set in a lush and beautifully landscaped park. The rooms overlook the garden and from the upper floor you have an excellent view of the rolling hills in the distance.

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The rooms are nicely appointed. The Coul House is a hotel but it has the cosy look and feel of a family run B&B. Inside everything is decorated in what I can only describe as typically British style, with thick carpets everywhere and heavy curtains draped form the high ceiling.

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The food at the Coul House is very good. They even do a great afternoon tea which is served in the lounge, with a large window overlooking the garden.

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All in all, I can highly recommend the Coul House for a weekend getaway or even if as a base if you are planning on staying in the highlands for a week or so. The owners, Stuart and Susannah, are excellent hosts and very knowledgeable about the area. If you have any questions or need suggestions on things to do and places to visit, you can be sure they will be able to help you out.

And here’s the link to The Coul House.

Logan Air on behalf of FlyBe, Economy Class – Saab 2000: Manchester to Inverness

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Date: 01 October 2016
Departure: 09h18, scheduled 08h45
Arrival: 10h20, scheduled 10h15
Flight time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Seat: 11A, single seat on the port side

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Introduction

I spend four days at the University of Lancaster attending the first module of a new degree I have just started. On Friday evening I take the Transpennine Express at 17h29 from Lancaster, which runs from Lancaster to Manchester airport in about one hour and fifteen minutes.

I am staying at the Manchester Airport Hilton, mainly because the flight to Inverness will already be departing at 08h45 on Saturday morning.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Hotel shuttle.
Journey time:
5 minutes.
Departs from:
Just outside the hotel lobby.
Arrives:
Drop-off zone between terminals 1 and 3.
Cost:
Complimentary for hotel guests.

On Saturday morning I am booked on the shuttle at 07h20. Fortunately, breakfast at the Hilton already starts at 04h30 in the morning, so there is plenty of time. The distance from the hotel to the terminal complex is not really very far, in fact it is in walking distance. But you have to take a circuitous route, which also requires you to cross a wide, busy road with no pedestrian crossing. So the shuttle is just easier and safer.

Check-in

Location: Terminal 3, first floor.
Facilities:
Self-service check-in machines and drop-off counters. No web check-in is possible.

The check-in process is a bit cumbersome, because you first have to obtain your boarding pass from one machine, before you can proceed to the drop-off area, where you need to scan your boarding pass at different machine. And only then is your baggage tag for your suitcase printed.

Goodness, Manchester Airport is an exceptionally ugly place, yet another one of the many architectural atrocities that were committed in the United Kingdom in the late seventies and early eighties. In fact, the airport is so ugly it lends the place a certain distinction. But apart form being ugly, the facility is also very inconvenient and all the check-in areas appear to be located in places where there simply is not enough space for passengers with baggage to manoeuvre.

Airside

There are machines at the airport which should, in theory, allow you to purchase a ticket for the fast track to security for GBP4 per person. But one of the machines is out of service and the other, which only accepts credit cards, is having issues with the credit card reader… Fortunately, being Saturday morning the queue for security is manageable.

Once you are airside, the apparent lack of consideration for the passenger continues. Everything feels tight and cramped and there is not enough space to sit because most of the area is covered by retail space. Gates are only announced shortly before boarding, probably based on the assumption that if passengers are bored and have no place to sit, then obviously they are going to go on a shopping marathon before they even leave Manchester…

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Boarding

The flight is not full, I would say there are about thirty passengers in total. So we all board in one go. Fortunately for me, it is a lovely day as we make our way across the apron and the rampers do not seem too bothered with me taking pictures either.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2.
Seat:
The aircraft is quite obviously an ex-Etihad Regional bird and still retains the Swiss carrier’s cabin branding with the light brown leather seats and the dark brown colour on the bulkheads. During the flight I inquire with the flight attendant and she informs me that the aircraft previously operated for Etihad and for Crossair too. She makes me laugh because she says the cabin crew all like working on the Saab 2000 because it feels more like a real plane than the Saab 340.

The Crew

There is one cabin crew working the flight today. Her name is Heidi and she is very friendly and chatty. There is an elderly couple sitting up front and Heidi obviously goes out of her way to put them at ease, reassuring them that no matter what they might need during the flight, it is not a hassle.

The Snack

Choice: A selection of different types of biscuits.
Type of meal:
Light morning snack.

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Given my recent experience with FlyBe operating for Brussels Airlines, I was not expecting anything at all in terms of service, which is why I made sure to get myself a bottle of Diet Coke before the flight. Much to my surprise though, as soon as we settle into the cruise, Heidi brings out a trolley and starts with the complimentary service. There is a selection of hot and cold beverages and a choice of different biscuits which are really quite tasty.

Stranger still, the further north we fly, the better the weather becomes. The clouds give way to some spectacular views of the Highlands below us.

Arrival

Inverness airport is a cute little affair. The terminal only has one floor with arrivals at one end of the facility and departures at the other. And the place is quite busy too. KLM recently started operating a daily flight to Amsterdam, which must have arrived shortly before us, and there is also an Easyjet A 319 on the ground, obviously waiting to board the passengers for its return flight.

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