INTRODUCTION This post is not so much about the flight experience – after all, KLM has received its fair share of coverage here over the years. No, today marks the end of revenue service for the Fokker 70 with KLM Cityhopper.
I managed to take no less than 90 flights on this little aeroplane. I experienced one burst tyre and three rejected take-offs on the Fokker 70. And so I figured it might be nice to send this sturdy and reliable workhorse a last salute before the curtain call.
Today will be my 91st flight on the F70. It will probably also be my last.
LOUNGE Fortunately, the Swissport lounge in Basel has an open air terrace from which you have some good views of the runway and the approaching traffic. It’s quite breezy this afternoon. But hey, it’s not every day you have to say farewell to an old friend…
My flight arrives in Basel with a slight delay. As the aircraft turns off the runway it comes into earshot and I am greeted with the familiar whining sound of the Rolls Royce Tay engines. This is where it starts to dawn on me that I’m probably going to miss this noisy little bugger.
BOARDING Most stands at Basel are open, which is of course good news for me. There is a buzz of excitement at the gate and most of the Dutch passengers on the flight today are aware of the fact that they are becoming a part of history by taking this flight. And so, rather than having to feel self-conscious about taking pictures, I actually find myself having to elbow my way in between the Dutch grannies to get a good spot.
SERVICE & CREW The crew are obviously in a good mood and this last flight is a special event for them too. During the turnaround they can be seen walking around the aircraft taking pictures and selfies as a souvenir.
Once we’re on board, the captain comes on the speaker to welcome us to ‘the last Fokker 70 flight out of Basel with KLM. Ever.’ Apparently, our particular flight will do another short hop to Hannover later on, and that will then be it. It’s quite sad actually.
THE CABIN The one thing I think I will always remember about the F70 is the noise of the ventilation system, which sounds as though it were directly linked to the engines. When ever the engine thrust is increased, the volume of air being pushed through the ventilation system increases too, producing roughly the same effect you might achieve by turning on your hair dryer to full volume and pointing it directly at your ear from a distance of about 1 cm…
Other than that though, the cabin is in good condition. KLM has taken good care of these aircraft and the facelift the cabin received just a few years back certainly gave the Fokker 70 a new lease on life.
ARRIVAL We land in Amsterdam with a slight delay and are then treated to the grand tour of Amsterdam, otherwise known as a Polderbaan arrival. As we turn the corner, the Fokker Farm comes into view, which is apparently the colloquial term for the ramp on which the KLM Cityhoppers are usually parked. The other seven remaining F70s are already here too. The crew of one of the aircraft is just disembarking, all of them taking pictures. And as we pass them, they all send us a cheery wave.
CONCLUSION And so comes to an end my farewell trip on the Fokker 70. The aircraft is being replaced in the fleet of KLM Cityhopper with the Embraer 175, which is definitely newer, quieter and probably more fuel-efficient than the old Fokkers. From a passenger’s point of view though, I think the Embraer 175 can hardly match the Fokker for comfort.
Later on the same day operations will come to an end with the arrival of the last Fokker 70 flight from London Heathrow. The British capital was deliberately chosen for the last flight because the very first international revenue service of a Fokker aircraft on behalf of KLM had also been to London, back in 1920. And then the Fokker 70 will be relegated to history.
Good bye Fokker 70. And thanks for all the memories!
Date: 17. July 2016. Departure: 14:40. Arrival: 15:40. Flight time: 1 hour. Seat: 5F, window on the starboard side.
INTRODUCTION The city of Billund is best known as the location of Legoland. Apart from that though, Billund is definitely one of the stranger places I have ever visited. I am staying at the Refborg hotel, which is a nice hotel close to the bus stop for the bus to the airport – but otherwise stuck in the middle of nowhere. It is not until I make further investigations that what I thought originally was the middle of nowhere turns out to be the centre of downtown Billund…
And now it is Sunday morning. It really is peaceful here. Lying in bed I can hear the birds singing and the soft, gentle hush of drizzle against the windowpane.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport: Walk. Journey time: 45 minutes. From: Refborg Hotel, central Billund. Arrives: Entrance to Departures. Cost: 240 calories.
The distance from the Refborg Hotel to the airport terminal is only 3.84 kilometres, so I figure I might as well walk. The walk is pretty straightforward and takes you along country roads with very little traffic. I think this is the first time I have ever walked to the airport. The journey takes approximately 45 minutes for airplane geeks, walking at an average pace of 11:53 minutes per kilometre. Obviously this will be about five minutes or so shorter if you are not an airplane geek and hence do not stop to watch every time an aircraft takes off right above your head.
The walk from the city centre takes you around the grounds of Legoland and then in a straight line to the airport. On your way you will pass right under the threshold.
Location: Departures and arrivals are on the ground level. There is only one terminal. Facilities: KLM web check-in, KLM app check-in, self-service check-in machines, dedicated counters. Counters: Billund has common purpose self-service check-in machines and counters. Economy Class passengers check-in on the C row, while SkyPriority passengers may use counter D41.
There is a LEGO store once you are airside of the terminal. They have a special set of Billund airport made out of LEGO, which was produced as a limited special edition of 10’000 and can only be purchased at this shop. Because it is a limited edition, customers are advised that the price per set will go up if they purchase more than three boxes. What’s more, the guy who actually designed the set still works at the shop and if you ask nicely, he will even sign the box for you!
Location: One floor up from the public transit area.
Type of Lounge: Contractor lounge operated by Billund airport.
Facilities: Toilets are available in the lounge but there are no shower, workstations. Catering: The lounge has a decent selection of cold dishes and various breads. There is also a coffee available. Meals may be ordered for purchase in the lounge.
Internet: There is complimentary wifi in the entire terminal. However, the lounge has its own network.
The stairs leading up to the lounge are guarded by a man-sized king in medieval costume – made entirely of LEGO of course.
Priority Boarding: No.
Is there like some secret sign I missed or what? One moment I am just standing in the holding pen for my flight to Amsterdam minding my own business, the next moment all the passengers stand up and start walking towards the exit for the plane.
CABIN The flight is only moderately full. Originally I am on seat 3C, which is the aisle seat on the port side of the aircraft. But once boarding is completed, I realise there is an entire row of three on the starboard side on row five, so I move to 5F before the fasten seatbelt sign comes on.
SERVICE There are two female cabin crew on the flight. They are friendly enough, but they seem a bit stressed, probably because the inbound flight was late and the turnaround had to be very quick.
Type of meal: Afternoon snack.
Wrap with hummus, mint and lemon.
Any other hot or cold drinks from the trolley.
Much to my surprise, the food service on this short hop to Amsterdam is not the usual biscuits or crisps. Instead, we are each served a box containing a small wrap and a container with still water. Even so, the crew still pass through the cabin offering drinks from the trolley.
ARRIVAL The weather in Amsterdam is certainly much better than it was in Billund, with only scattered clouds and a temperature of 22 degrees Celsius. We land on runway 18C, which means that we only have about 5 minutes to taxi from the runway to the infamous Fokker farm, where all the Cityhopper aircraft normally park.
There is a bus to bring us to the terminal. I arrive in the terminal building at 15h50. I now have ten minutes before boarding starts for my flight to Basel. As my friend the valiant M. would say, it’s as easy as cutting Swiss cheese.
This way the world ends.
Not with a bang but a whimper.
– T. S. Eliot
Don’t worry. I’m not feeling suicidal. It’s just that this shall be my last trip for this year and after that I will not have a single PNR open. No future reservations. For the time being at least. Of course, I am aware of the fact that this series of trip reports on my last trip of 2015 should be something spectacular, something flashy and fancy. But it’s not quite like that.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT Transport: Train. Departs from: Winterthur Station. Arrives: Zürich Flughafen. Journey time: 13 minutes. Frequency: Every 20 minutes, the nonstop trains run at 25, 28, 55 and 58 past the hour.
My flight will be leaving at 17h30, with boarding scheduled for 17h00. So I leave the office at 15h40 to catch the direct train 15h55. I like this time of year, when the sun remains low above the horizon all day and casts melancholy shadows.
Surprisingly, when I arrive at Zürich airport, the place if fairly quiet. I have already checked in online, using the KLM App. But before I go through security, I have an errand to run. I want to get some pralines for my business partners in Luxembourg.
Personally, I think Läderach make the best chocolate out there. Forget about Cailler, Lindt or Belgian chocolate. Läderach makes them all look like amateurs. At Zürich airport their shop is in Terminal A, opposite the entrance to the centralised security check facility.
BOARDING Priority boarding: Available.
By the time I get the chocolate and I am past security, it is already gone 16h30. My flight will start boarding in less than half an hour from gate A 83, which is at the far end of the A concourse. Also, in my old age I find that I am increasingly bored by airlines lounge. It is much more fun to sit in the public area, watching the world go by. So from security I head straight for A 83 and park myself in a good place for some serious people watching.
Boarding for the flights starts five minutes ahead of schedule. The flight is not full and the captain is eager for us to get away as quickly as possible to avoid a bank of fog that is rolling in from the north.
CABIN Configuration: 3 + 3 in Economy Class. There are 132 seats in total. Seat: 6A, window. The first four rows of the cabin are Business Class, although on today’s flight there are only three passengers sitting in the forward cabin. Pitch: 33 inches. Width: 17 inches. Inflight entertainment: There is a console in the armrests to select channels and regulate the volume. However, I am not even sure the aircraft has video screens.
The flight this evening is not full, so the maître de comes on to make an announcement that for weight and balance reasons, all passengers are required to take the seat they were assigned at check-in, despite the many empty seats. Quite frankly I think this is a load of bull. I can imagine that the distribution of passengers may make a difference on a small aircraft like the ATR-42 or the Saab 2000, but I hardly think it matters on an aircraft the size of the B 737-700.
Fortunately, the Platinum fairy has worked her magic again at check-in and the seat beside me stays empty. If you are interested in airplanes like me – you may have guessed – 6A is a good seat. You have an aligned window which provides some good views of the engine and wing.
In any case, we push back on time and then make the short taxi to runway 28. We are number five for departure and the mist is coming in pretty thick by this time.
THE MEAL & SERVICE Type of meal: Dinner snack
As this is an evening flight, KLM has the decency to serve a small cheese sandwich as a snack. What I like in particular, is that it is always a Dutch cheese they use for the sandwich and there is usually a brief explanation about what kind of cheese it is in the box in which the sandwich is served. Today’s cheese is a Beemster.
To drink with that I have a coffee and a glass of still water. Note that KLM will only provide sparkling water in Business Class, but not in Economy.
The meal hits the spot nicely and just a short while after I finish, it is already time for us to start our descent into Amsterdam.
TRANSFER IN AMSTERDAM
We land on the famous Polderbaan that is runway 18R. It is the runway that is farthest away from the terminal area and the apron. After landing on the Polderbann it is another fifteen minutes of taxiing before eventually we arrive on our parking position at the C gates.
By the time I disembark I have a bit more than one hour before boarding for the flight to Luxembourg begins. I am also hungry. So once more I decide to ignore the lounge and instead head up one floor from the central airside plaza to the food court.
Just in case you are interested, there is a central check-out area for the entire food court, where you pay for your purchase. I could really murder a hamburger right now, so I make my way over to Burger King. The queue is long but at least it moves quickly. There is also a Sbarro’s serving Italian food as well as a restaurant serving Asian and Dutch specialties.
THE FLIGHT TO LUXEMBOURG There is not really anything much to say about the flight to Amsterdam, except that it is very short, with a block time of only forty minutes. Boarding is from a remote stand and the flight is not overly full.
As a Platinum member I can select the emergency exit at no additional cost, so I am seated on 11A, which is the window seat on the emergency exit on the row of two seats. The seat next to me stays empty.
Despite the very short flying time, KLM provide a snack on this service, which consists of a small packet of English crisps and pre-packed Turkish still water.
We arrive on time. I only have hand luggage with me on this trip. So as soon as the bus drops us off at the terminal, I head upstairs, through arrivals and then head one floor up to take a taxi to the Doubletree in Domeldange.
Just so you know, in case you are contemplating taking public transport. First of all, the airport bus runs to the centre of town. So if you are staying at the Doubletree, you would first need to grab a bus to Hamilus and then from there catch the bus line 5 to take you to the Doubletree, which will take for ever. Secondly, you can purchase tickets on board most public transport in Luxembourg, except the airport bus, and there is no machine for you to purchase tickets at the airport either. Which is just all sorts of awkward.
INTRODUCTION You may, perhaps, be wondering where on earth Haugesund is. It is a small town located more or less halfway between Stavanger and Bergen in Norway. I am in Haugesund with the tall and blond M. to visit a business partner who lives and works just outside town.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport: Car rental. Journey time: About two hours.
Haugesund lies due north of Stavanger. The journey by car is very scenic and takes you along the coast. To get from Haugesund to Stavanger you need to take through three road tunnels that go under wanter. The tunnels are between four and six kilometres long, the deepest one we passed through was 228 metres below sea level! Possibly the freakiest thing I have ever seen is that one tunnel even has a roundabout in it where two independent tunnels merge…!
You will also need to take a ferry. The journey takes approximately thirty minutes to complete. I am not sure if there is actually a schedule or if the boats just run on an ad hoc basis. The price for one car and two adults is NOK206. The ferries have excellent facilities, clean toilets, a self-service restaurant offering hot and cold dishes, and plenty of space to sit.
Location: Departure area on the ground floor. Arrivals and departures are on the same level landside. Airside departures are one floor up. Facilities: Check-in machines, Web Check-in, dedicated Air France / KLM counters. Counters: One counter for SkyPriority passengers and two counters for all other travellers.
LOUNGE KLM does not provide a lounge in Stavanger. And as far as I know, there is no other lounge in the terminal either. However, two floors up from the check-in area there is a semi self-service restaurant serving typically Norwegian fare and which also offers excellent views of the apron.
So we order ourselves two plates of meatballs in some brown sauce with boiled potatoes and mashed peas, park ourselves in front of the window and settle in to watch the world go by.
Stavanger plays an important role in Norway’s booming oil industry. The airport serves as a hub for the many operators that fly personnel out to the oilrigs in the Atlantic. Bristow’s Helicopters is obviously the most important operator out of Stavanger and it is rather interesting to watch the mix of commercial fixed wing and rotary wing movements at the airport. They even have a dedicated helicopter terminal.
Priority Boarding: Available for SkyPriority passengers.
We wait to watch our aircraft land safely and taxi to the gate, before eventually we decided it is time to head one floor down for security. The place is fairly quiet, despite the fact that there are quite a few flights leaving, including an Icelandair B 757 parked next to us.
Apparently the flight is severely overbooked, and so I end up being upgraded again. Instead of 8C I shall now be sitting on 5A, which is a window seat on the last row of Business Class. To be honest, they should not really have bothered. I mean, it is not as though I am going to eat again, having just had a full meal on the ground. Still, being in Business Class means I have the seat next to me empty and have a lot more space to spread out and sprawl.
CABIN If it is all the same to you, I shall spare you yet another description of the new KLM Cityhopper seat. As I already mentioned above, in Business Class the seat next to you is always kept empty. Which means that on the row of two you can sit on either the aisle or the window seat. On the row of three seats, the middle seat is kept empty to provide some extra space between you and your neighbour.
SERVICE The service is provided by two smart Dutch young ladies. With most of the passengers being male oilrig workers fresh off a platform stuck out in the Atlantic, the two flight attendants can hardly complain of not getting enough attention. In fact they look slightly uncomfortable.
Mixed salad and sun-dried tomatoes with pepper jack dressing.
A choice of vegetarian (falafel wrap with curried hummus, cucumber and bell pepper) or non-vegetarian (club sandwich with chicken, served with potato crisps) sandwich wrap.
Quark mousse with strawberry topping.
ARRIVAL We arrive in Amsterdam on time. I know have 40 minutes to make my connection to Basel. Only two more days at work and then finally, I shall be off on holiday.
TRANSFER IN VIENNA I have one hour before my flight to Basel departs. Fortunately there are not that many people at the airport and so I manage to quickly clear immigration and security. Since my last visit to Vienna last summer, they appear to have improved the signage. Or maybe it is just me and I am getting used to the place. Even so, I really cannot help but wonder who on earth designed this facility? It does not even feel like an airport. Instead, the narrow aisles and long corridors give the impression of walking aimlessly in the Ministry of Truth. You turn the corner and expect to find yourself standing by the door to room 101. The worst thing in the world.
Location: Uhm, good question. Just follow the signs for the G gates and then you should find the lounge. There is a common entrance to the lounge. The Business Class area is to the left and the Star Gold section is to the right.
Type of Lounge: Austrian Airlines Business Class lounge.
Facilities: Business centre, toilets in the lounge, no showers, a small selection of hot and cold dishes and drinks, newspapers and magazine.
Internet: Wifi is available throughout the terminal building. No password required.
What with it being Easter Sunday, the lounge is fairly quiet. There are only a few people here and there. The food options are somewhat limited, not that I am hungry after all the food we were served on the plane.
Priority Boarding: Boarding is from Gate F 13, which is the same gate at which my flight from Narita arrived. In fact the aircraft is still standing there. In any case, our aircraft for the short hop to Basel is parked at a remote stand, so we are having to take a bus to the aircraft.
When eventually the bus pulls up on a remote stand, I am surprised to find there has been an aircraft change and instead of the scheduled Dash-8-400, the flight will now be operated by the larger Fokker 70. I take my time to get on board the aircraft – I am sitting at the very front anyway – which gives me the chance to take a few pictures of my aircraft and watch the other action on the ramp.
Configuration: 1 + 2 Seat: European style Economy Class seating, with the adjacent seat being kept empty in Business Class. Pitch: 30’. Width: 17’. Facilities: Reading lamp, air vents.
There are two rows of Business Class on today’s flight and there are only two passengers. Seating on the Fokker 70 is 2 + 3, although on Austrian Airlines the adjacent seat is kept empty to provide more space. Thus, on the left hand side, the two-seater, the aisle seat is blocked, while on the right hand side, the middle seat in the row of three is blocked.
Just a word of warning: on Austrian Airlines’ Fokker 70 you should try to avoid sitting on row 1 because while the pitch is the same as in the rest of the aircraft, not being able to stick your legs under the seat in front seriously limits leg space.
SERVICE There are two cabin crew on the flight. They seem friendly enough, but they are not exactly gushing. But I do not think it is a question of them just doing the job and nothing else, they just both seem very reserved.
Welcome drink on the ground: None. Hot towel before the meal: None.
Pre-meal drink: None.
Delivery: Tray service.
Type of meal: Snack.
Fish in a batter, on potato salad, corn salad and tomato.
Selection from the breadbasket.
Chocolate mousse with cherries.
Milka Easter Bunny.
The contrast in service between Austrian Airlines’ long- and short-haul operations never quite seizes to amaze me. While the meals on the flight from Tokyo to Vienna were opulent, on this short-haul flight to Basel service is kept to the absolute minimum.
One way or another, the meal is quite tasty. Especially the chocolate mousse is delicious and rich.
ARRIVAL Our routing takes us past lake Constance and north of Zürich airport to approach Basel airport from the east. You can see the airport below on the right hand side of the aircraft. Approaches are from the south this afternoon, which means we continue for a short distance past the airport heading west, before eventually doing a left turn and heading south, away from the airport. Two more left turns later and we are lined up for the approach pointing north. I like this approach because it means we will be coming in over the city of Basel. Fortunately the weather has cleared and it is a beautiful afternoon.
CONCLUSION That was fun. Admittedly, it was rather a short trip but I certainly enjoyed every minute of it. This was now my sixteenth visit to Japan and I still have not had enough yet. What I did notice about myself on this trip is that the idiosyncrasies of the Japanese and their culture no longer have the power to intimidate or confuse me. What I do not know, is whether this is due to the fact that the Japanese are becoming more relaxed in their dealings with foreigners or if perhaps I have simply become accustomed to their ways.
Christmas is barely over. No more office parties, no more presents to pack and others unpack and the tree is already starting to look worse for wear. After spending the 24th and 25th in the company of dear family and friends it’s now high time for me to head for the airport and get on a plane again. Yes, it’s time for my Christmas vacation!
Initially I wasn’t even planning on writing a report about this flight, but then there were so many new things worth reporting – news about lounge access for KLM passengers in Basel and a new cabin – that I simply couldn’t resist.
Aircraft: Fokker F 70 Airline: KLM City Hopper Cabin: Economy Class Seat: 11A, window on the emergency exit Date: 26. December 2013 Departure: 11:50 Arrival: 13:30 From: Basel-Mulhouse To: Amsterdam
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
My first stop this morning, once I finish packing, is the gym, five minutes down the road from where I live, to try and burn off some of yesterday’s Christmas dinner before I go away on holiday. I return home at around 10:00 in the morning, exchange my gym bag for my suitcase and then I leave again and head for the airport. The bus line 50 is surprisingly empty this morning.
I checked in online for my flight the previous evening using the fabulous KLM app, which immediately and very reliably drops my boarding pass in the Passbook app. So upon arrival at the airport I can bypass check-in and head straight for security.
Recently they introduced an automatic barrier at Basel airport for passengers wishing to use the fast track through security. The fast track is marked as the lane for ‘Business Class and Status holders’, the latter of which applies to me today. So I give the fast track a try, only for it to reject my advances and my boarding pass. Now why was I expecting this to happen?
Eventually I do manage to get through security, the queue moves swiftly. Just as I am about to settle down by the gate for my flight, I decide I need to heed the call of nature first. On the way to the gents I pass the Swissport lounge where I notice, much to my surprise, that KLM is now also on the list of airlines that use this facility. Oh happy day!
I enter cautiously, and indeed the receptionist welcomes me to the lounge, scans my boarding pass and wishes me a pleasant stay. Thank you very much!
Boarding for the flight starts on time, and by the time I reach the gate from the lounge most of the passengers have already boarded. The gate agent scans my boarding pass, tags my suitcase for collection at the aircraft on arrival and wishes me a pleasant journey.
Upon entering the aircraft I am pleasantly surprised to find that it has already undergone the refurbishment KLM had announced for the F 70 fleet a while back. And I must say, it’s a vast improvement! To be fair, I have always thought that KLM takes really excellent care of its aircraft, but these new seats have knocked years off the old lady.
The seats are much thinner than the previous ones, and the fabric covers have now been replaced with leather, which immediately gives the seat and cabin a much more modern feel and look. I comment about this to the flight attendant standing on the other side of the aisle and tell her how much nicer the new cabin looks – ‘and about time too’ she replies and smiles. Indeed, about time too!
The doors close on time and the captain comes on the blower to welcome us aboard. He sounds like a cheery, friendly chap. Our flight time today is announced as 65 minutes, taxi to the departing runway will be short, which is a good thing because the aircraft picked up some ice on the inbound leg and will need to be de-iced before we depart for Amsterdam.
Once that’s all taken care we take-off in a north westerly direction, with thick globules of orange de-icing fluid oozing past my window as we go thundering down the runway to accelerate.
The cabin crew on today’s flight are two blonde Dutch females who are so similar to each other in looks that I’m having trouble keeping them apart. They’re also both equally friendly and both seem rather happy to be working this flight, which makes a change from the grumpy lot of crew you sometimes get on these short European flights.
I always call this chapter ‘The Meal’ in al my trip reports, and I see no reasons to deviate from that now. Although in fact, strictly speaking I’m not entirely sure KLM’s provisions in this department technically count as a meal. But please don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining or anything after all the food a drink these last few days.
In any case, it consists of some savoury snack with a strong flavour of artificial onions and a cup of still water. Simply to beef up the trip report, I have taken the liberty of taking a few pictures of the motifs on the plastic cups KLM distribute on their flights. I think they’re rather nice.
Shortly after the rubbish has been removed, we begin our descent into Amsterdam.
Arrival today is on 18C, which means our taxi to the Fokker farm not quite as epic and long as when we’re assigned the Polderbaan for arrivals.
Shortly after the door opens, the cabin luggage is lined up in front of the aircraft for passengers to pick up as we board the bus to bring us to the terminal.
In Amsterdam I shall be staying at the Hotel Conservatorium for one night. It’s a very nice hotel in a historic building that’s conveniently located right next door to the Van Gough museum and in close proximity to the Rijksmuseum a bit further up the road. I leave you with a few pictures from the hotel.
I’m heading for Montreal, Canada to present a paper at ICAO HQ. I like visiting ICAO. If you’re an aviation nerd like me, ICAO HQ is like some sacred place. It’s also a fascinating building to visit, quite like a museum. There are many artifacts sponsored by the various contracting states, including a beautifully Garuda carved of wood.
The last couple of times I visited ICAO in Montreal, I flew with Air Canada from Geneva and then returned to Zurich with Swiss International Air Lines. Essentially I guess there would have been nothing wrong with doing that again. But I felt compelled to check my other options, to see if there might be any cool routings, airlines or types to get me to Montreal which might convince me to forfeit the comfort of a nonstop, direct flight.
Before long my search brought me to the KLM website. In fact, initially I was wondering if perhaps there might be an opportunity to fly the Air France A380 to Montreal. But by the looks of it, the type no longer serves that route. In any case, my search with KLM yielded that the connection from Basel via Amsterdam to Montreal was not ideal: a layover of seven hours on the outbound and another one of five hours on the inbound. Even so, there was one very convincing argument for me to choose the KLM option just the same: most probably my last chance ever to secure one last flight on the MD-11 before she is withdrawn from service with the Dutch airline.
Date: 17. July 2012 From: Basel To: Amsterdam Aircraft: Fokker F70 Airline: KLM Cityhopper Cabin: Business Seat: 1A
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Rather an early start today. My flight to Amsterdam will leave at 07h15 and although there is a fast track for security at Basel airport, I’m not really quite sure what the situation will be. After all, the summer holidays have only just started.
I leave my place at 05h30 to make my way by bus to the airport. Contrary to what I had been expecting, the airport bus is not at all full and security is calm as well.
AT THE AIRPORT
I arrive at the airport just before 06h00. I still have loads of time to kill but alas no lounge of which to avail myself. So I settle for a cappuccino at the bar at the end of the terminal. The young lady there is quite apparently having a bad hair day and evidently trying hard to pretend as though she hasn’t actually seen me.
I pass my time at the bar sipping my drink and watching the mindless music clips of equally mindless pieces of music they’re showing on MTV.
Shortly before boarding for my flight is expected to begin, I’ve had enough of the mindless music, so I collect my belongings and go for a walk about. I’ve been doing quite a bit of travelling lately, and like some trip down memory lane, I spot some of the types and airlines I recently had the pleasure of using.
Judging by the queue to board the flight, I’d say KLM is doing a roaring trade between Basel and Amsterdam. I’m on 1A, so I decide to board the plane last. As I approach the aircraft, one of the gate attendants approaches me to take my carry-on suitcase off me and label it as hold baggage. I don’t mind actually if she does. But then she spots my Platinum tag and explains that I’m free to take everything on board with me.
The seat next to me is kept empty and the legroom is good.
As with my last KLM experience, the cabin on this bird is in excellent condition. She may be old, but time and some TLC by KLM maintenance have been kind to her. Even so, I can’t wait for the Embraer to come on this route with the beginning of the winter schedule.
I am greeted at the door by a friendly young man in a sharp uniform – the purser of the flight. I place my briefcase in the overhead bin and take off my suit jacket. Before I even have the time to wonder where to place it, the purser stretches out his hand and takes it from me. ‘Shall I hang that up for you, Mr A.?’
I must confess I am a bit impressed. This guy has obviously done his homework and checked the passenger list. I’m also a bit surprised he got my name right. Most people don’t, even after repeated attempts.
This sets the tone for the service of the entire crew on this flight. They are outstanding, very professional and friendly.
Next the purser brings me one of the Swiss daily newspapers. He has others he says, just in case I’d prefer one of those.
The doors close, we push back and subsequently begin our taxi to the runway for a departure in a southerly direction from runway 15.
At least we have some good views of the city of Basel before doing a sharp right turn to point the aircraft in a northerly direction towards Amsterdam.
‘Mr. A. will you be joining us for breakfast this morning?’ This is the female flight attendant. I answer with an emphatic and enthusiastic ‘yes’. It was rather early this morning when I left home. The flight attendant opens the meal box for me and places it before me. She explains she will also open the other table for me to put the drinks and my other stuff on it.
The meal consists of an excellent fruit salad of apple, pineapple, grapes and melon; yoghurt of maracuja and orange; a selection of cheese with smoked meats and a small pot of marmalade; and two warm buns with that. There is even a menu!
Overall, it is a very pleasant and filling meal and really hits the spot on such an early flight. As soon as I finish, the meal is removed and I continue to read the paper until we begin the descent.
The weather in Amsterdam is not too hot. It’s drizzling, with low cloud and bad visibility.
We land on the infamous ‘Polderbahn’, which is a 15 minutes taxi away from the apron. In fact it’s so far away from anything that the runway that has its own tower.
We park at the Fokker farm and are subsequently bussed to the terminal.
I have seven hours before my next flight. The plan is to check in for the onward flight to Montreal and then deposit my luggage in the Schengen Transit area before heading into the city. Like that, when I return, I will not have to go through security again with all my stuff.
If only the check-in devices would let me. This is certainly not one of KLM’s finest moments! The first machine won’t read my passport, or the barcode on my boarding pass from the previous flight. So I have no other choice but to manually type in the number of my e-ticket. I finally manage to complete all the necessary information for immigration, the machine confirms that it is printing my boarding pass but in fact nothing actually really happens. No boarding pass. No KLM staff to assist in case of a problem either. Of course not, that’s why they put these machines there, because apparently some financial controller figured the machine could do the job of a human being just as well and hey, who needs human interaction or a personal touch anyway? So eventually I have no choice but to move to the next machine and try my luck again there. This time it works!
I dump my carry-on and my briefcase in a locker, go through customs and head for the city.
Date: 17. July 2012 From: Amsterdam To: Montreal Airline: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Aircraft: MD-11 Cabin: BusinessClass Seat: 1J
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
In the early afternoon I head back for the ‘Centraal’ railway station and get on a train for Schiphol. The journey is not even 20 minutes.
AT THE AIRPORT
I pass through security, collect my luggage from the locker and then from there head up to the KLM Crown Lounge. I figured it would probably be calmer than the lounge in the non-Schengen area as there seem to be quite a few long-haul flights leaving around the same time as us.
I like the Crown Lounge and when I arrive it is not too full either. The midday rush seems to have calmed down already.
About 45 minutes before departure I leave the lounge and make my way to the gate. I still have to go through immigration and I’m assuming I will have to go through a further security check.
Immigration is a quick affair. When I arrive at the gate though, there is already a long queue at the entrance. Fortunately there is a separate lane for SkyPriority passengers. Otherwise I would have been right at the very back of the queue of a very full MD-11 load of passengers. First my passport is checked, then my boarding pass is scanned and then eventually comes the security check before being released into the gate. It’s also my first experience with a naked scanner.
And then finally I am in the gate and I have an intimate moment with the hot bird taking me to Canada this afternoon. The MD-11 really is a quite a babe!
I barely have enough time to take a few pictures when already boarding begins. I’m quite excited!
I am greeted at the door by one male and one female flight attendant. I am instructed to take the second left to me window seat on 1J.
THE CABIN & SEAT
When I arrive, I am left well and truly speechless. The legroom available on row 1 is simply ridiculous! What’s more, there are no overhead bins over the middle row of seats, which only enhances the overall impression of space in the cabin.
The seat itself is everything but state of the art. To be honest I find myself wondering how I’ll possibly be able to sleep on the return leg, which is a night flight. But we’ll get to that in due time. All the same, just like the rest of the cabin, the seat gives the impression of being very well maintained and is really quite comfortable.
The IFE system could do with a revamp as well. But it serves its purpose and works sufficiently well. But it’s no KrisWorld!
One thing I find very interesting is that where other airlines have a curtain to divide the cabin from the space by the front door and the cockpit, KLM has a sliding door. Strangely enough though, only on one aisle, the other side has a curtain.
As on the previous leg, as soon as I take of my jacket a flight attendant appears and offers to put it in the wardrobe for me. This is then followed by the distribution of the vanity kits and a welcome drink service. I just have a glass of still water.
The crew are all very friendly and chatty, but without being nosy.
We push back more or less on time and make our way to the runway. We taxi out behind a company A330. On our way we pass an Aeroflot B767-300 standing at the gate. I had no idea they operated those to Amsterdam as well.
Other than the A330 there is no queue for departure and shortly after the Airbus takes to the skies, it’s our turn. And this is where I am reminded what I like so much about the MD-11: the acceleration, the power and – above all – the noise! Beautiful!
Quite evidently, my suspicion from the previous flight – namely that catering must be one of KLM’s strong points – is confirmed. The meal is not only very tasty but also plentiful.
We start with a drinks and warm nuts. I have a Ginger Ale.
Then come the hot towels.
First course: grilled shrimps with cherry tomatoes on potato salad with avocado mousse.
This comes with a side order tomato salad. As the attendant places the tray before me, she offers me some cheese and croutons for topping on the salad.
Main course: chicken breast in a rich gravy with onions, served with mashed potato and mushrooms.
There is a selection of three different main courses, but I can’t remember what they were anymore. My apologies!
Dessert: lemon tart on a digestive biscuit base, served with strawberries.
What strikes me about this meal is the nice presentation. First the black tray makes a change from what you usually find on a plane these days. And then there is this rather intricate pattern, a recurring theme that you find on the tablecloth, the cutlery as well as the chinaware. It’s quite elegant I find and a nice detail.
After this tasty meal I settle down to watch ‘The best exotic Marigold Hotel’. I’m in two minds about the film. First of all it has an interesting line up of some of the finest actors Britain currently has to offer, such as the sublime Judy Dench and the amazing Maggie Smith. At the same time however, the story line seems a bit thin.
And then after that, yes, it’s time for the pre-arrival meal.
Chicken breast strips on a pasta salad with a tomato sugo. This is accompanied by a warm focaccia with mozzarella and tomato sauce. And for dessert a fruit Tiramisu.
And then, as we begin our descent, the cabin come through the cabin with a small farewell gift. It’s quite well-known by now across the world: a little delft house filled with BOLS.
We arrival in Montreal just after a heavy thunderstorm has passed over the airfield. We reach our parking position. I gather up my belongings, thank the crew for their great service and head for the exit. As I disembark it feels like walking into a brick wall. It’s so oppressive. The temperature is around 30 degrees Celsius, and with the recent storm the humidity in the air is unbearable.
This was a great experience with KLM, not just because of the MD-11. First of all the crew were all just so nice and attentive. It’s little things: throughout the meal they made sure drinks were replenished and repeatedly asked all the passengers if everything was alright and to their liking. They made sure to address every passenger by name, which made them more personable. As for the food, KLM certainly exceed my expectation here. The meals were plentiful and tasty.