Finally, I really thought the moment would never come. But it has – at long last, it is finally time for my summer vacation. I normally tend to head East for my longer excursions. And of course it is always interesting and exciting to experience new cultures and exotic locations. But it is also very tiring. That is why this year, I did not really fancy straying too far afield. And so I find myself heading West instead for a change. Obviously, taking the most direct route to my destination would have been the most sensible thing to do. But where is the fun in that, I ask you?
And so my journey begins with a set of positioning flights from Zürich to Amsterdam and then from there on to Frankfurt, both on KLM. I already have quite a few posts about ‘my friends in blue’ – as my colleague the Flying Dutchman refers to KLM – so I think we can skip introductions and keep things short and simple.
There are three rows of Business Class on this flight, with a total of twelve seats. The middle seat is kept empty. Only seven seat are occupied this evening. I am on 1C, which is the aisle seat on the port side of the aircraft. Just a piece of advice: 1C sticks out quite far into the aisle, because the bulkhead is not quite as wide as the row of seats. While this certainly allows you to stretch you legs, it can also be slightly irritating after a while. Every time somebody walks past, you end up with the curtain brushing against your legs or in your face.
There are two cabin crew working the Business Class cabin and they really are excellent. They are very attentive and address every passenger by name, which I always find rather a nice touch.
Carrot gazpacho with parsley and shaved almonds.
Spanish chickpea salad with beef bresoala, Kalamata olives and fresh herbs, served with a chilli and lime dressing.
Orange mousse and chocolate ganache.
Selection from the breadbasket, the crew make two rounds.
I am not really all that partial to smoked meats. To be honest I find them rather off putting most of the time. But apart from that, the meal is nice enough. Especially the gazpacho is well seasoned. Throughout the meal, the crew are very attentive and make sure to keep drinks replenished at all times.
Transfer in Amsterdam
We approach the airport from the North, to make an approach for runway 18R. Amsterdam has three parallel runways with a North-South orientation and very often, like today, 18R and 18C are in use for simultaneous approaches, which always look really cool, I think.
I exit the aircraft into the C concourse. I do not think I have ever seen Amsterdam airport so deserted. Obviously, it is the holiday season and most people have already left on vacation. Even the Crown Lounge is pleasantly empty.
The flight to Frankfurt departs at 20h45 and is operated by an Embraer 190 of KLM Cityhopper. There are still quite a few empty seats on the flight, despite a fairly large group of passengers who are obviously returning from a cruise in Scandinavia.
The flight time is announced as 40 minutes. Even so, every passenger is given a small box with a container of still water and some BBQ flavoured crackers.
In Frankfurt KLM uses Terminal 2, which is basically used for all the non-Star Alliance traffic. I will be staying at the Hilton Garden Inn, which is located above the railway station for the mainline trains adjacent to Terminal 1. Access to the railway station and hotel is via a footbridge from Terminal 1.
Transfer in Frankfurt
There is a shuttle bus that takes passengers from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1. The first thing the smokers do upon exiting the terminal building is light up. As a result, the waiting area for the shuttle bus is constantly shrouded in a veil of heavy smoke. So instead of milling about with the chain smokers, I decide to walk across to Terminal 1. It is not really that far to walk, but the path is not clearly marked. Even so, walking at a leisurely pace it should not take more than 10 minutes to reach Terminal 1.
Date: 15 June 2016 From: Zürich To: Amsterdam Departure: 17:35 Arrival: 19:00 Flight time: 1 hour and 25 minutes Seat: 1A, window on the post side
Today I am on my way to Amsterdam for a meeting on Thursday and Friday. This time, I am travelling with my colleague, the wiry R., who quite apparently does not at all share my passion for aeroplanes.
We have both checked in using the KLM app. When the new app was launched, there were a few teething problem, especially when it came to ‘printing’ the boarding pass for Passbook. But those seem to have been overcome and the app is very reliable these days.
Generally speaking, advanced seat selection is possible on all KLM flights, even in Economy Class, and the website works very well, providing a good and detailed seatmap. Some seats on the seatmap are marked in orange or yellow. Orange marks the Economy Comfort seats with greater pitch, while yellow marks the extra legroom seats such as the emergency exit row. Flying Blue Platinum members can select any seat they like free of charge. Gold members pay a reduced rate to obtain an orange or yellow seat. All other passengers must pay the full price, which may vary, for one of these seats.
Once that is done and we are airside, we decide to forfeit the questionable luxury of the Aspire lounge for a visit to the Sprüngli airside café. In case you have not heard the name before, Sprüngli is a Swiss chocolatier. The stuff they produce is really excellent but very rich. Just one of their pralines is enough to make you put on 5 kilos just from looking at it and will probably send some people into a sugar coma – but what a way to go!
The Sprüngli café is located on the upper level of the Airside Centre, just after security and the obligatory duty free shop. If you want to try out what Sprüngli has on offer without breaking the bank, I can highly recommend a café au lait and a Truffe du jour.
Oh happy day, the mighty airline geek Gods look upon me with favouring eyes today! Yes, we are boarding from gate B08. Okay, admittedly B08 is definitely in the remotest possible corner to the terminal complex, but it is a bus gate. I find it so much more exciting to board the aircraft via stairs because it brings you face to face with the beast you will be flying in. Sorry, I think I’m dribbling…
Configuration: 2 + 2 – with an empty middle seat Seat: Obviously, the bulkhead row offers the greatest leg space. If you prefer an aisle seat, you should definitely go with 1D on the starboard side instead of 1C on the port side. The latter partially protrudes into the aisle, which means you are more likely to have people brushing against you on their way to the loo or galley. Pitch: 33 inches in Business Class and Economy Comfort (rows 1 to 6), 30 inches in Economy Class (from row 7 on) Width: 17 inches Facilities: 110 AC power outlet at every seat
Honeyed goat cheese balls with a greek salad
Pina Colada cream with crumble and lime
Selection form the bread basket
Either there have been cost cuts at KLM or the cabin attendant working the Business Class cabin really could not give a shit – if you’ll pardon my French. He is definitely friendly and chatty, so I kind of suspect the former is the case.
If I am not mistaken, previously you used to get a hot towel before the meal, which was always nice and helped get rid of the grime on your hands from travelling. This is no longer the case. Furthermore, I ask for sparkling water with the meal. Where previously KLM used to give you a whole can of Perrier, this time I am only given a glass just the one glass and I have no idea what brand of water it is. And finally, after the meal I ask for a coffee which quickly arrives – but without those really tasty Punselies caramel biscuits.
The flight passes surprisingly quickly. Our approach into Amsterdam is rather bumpy, but I am just glad they have brought us in on runway 18C, which is the central one of the three parallel runways and within a reasonable taxiing distance to the terminal.
Goodness, talk about a déjà-vu experience! This morning when I boarded the plane from Basel to Amsterdam I was greeted at the door like a long lost friend. Turns out the layover of last night’s crew was exactly as long as mine! Later on when I arrived in Amsterdam, we touched down on runway 18C, as we did when I arrived from Lisbon fifteen hours previously.
So here I am. This evening I’m off to Warsaw to give a course with my colleague, the valiant M. In fact, we’ve been more or less each other’s shadows ever since I arrived in Montreal two week ago.
If it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll spare you the details of how I got to the airport and what the Crown Lounge looks like. Instead, let’s begin this narrative just as I board the aircraft.
From: Amsterdam Schiphol To: Warsaw Okecie Date: 06 April 2014 Airline: KLM Royal Dutch Airline Aircraft: Boeing B 737-700 Cabin: Business Class Seat: 1F, window
I arrive at the gate just as they finish calling out our names. It’s the last call. Strangely, that happens to me quite a bit when I’m travelling with M. and somehow always in Amsterdam. I’m not really quite sure what the hurry is. As we reach the end of the airbridge, there are still people queuing outside. I enter the cabin, only to find that Business Class is completely empty. At least I won’t have to worry about finding place for my luggage.
There are two rows of Business Class, with a total of twelve seats for me to choose from. Twelve seats. All mine. Mine alone. I can even take the ‘Reserved for your comfort’ seat if I like! Originally I’m seated on 1A. But there’s a window missing on the left side, so instead I take 1F on the opposite side of the plane.
The crew on this flight are excellent. Of course it helps that up front we have a ratio of one flight attendant for one passenger. The purser is a friendly, chatty chap and we have a nice little natter throughout the flight, whenever he comes to check on my.
Service beings on the ground with the distribution of the newspapers and a welcome drink. I have a glass of fresh orange juice.
Our departure is from 18L, if I’m not mistaken, and we’re treated to a truly poetic sunset on climb out.
As soon as the seatbelt sign is turned off, the meal service begins.
We start with a packet of salted almonds and another orange juice. Next the purser brings me the menu for tonight’s flight. I’m quite impressed to find that there are two options for the hot meal. One is beef and the other is fish. I go with the latter. Before the meal tray is brought to me though, I am handed a hot towel.
The First Course
Cucumber gazapcho with diced tomato.
A seasonal salad with mozzarella cheese and bell peppers.
The Main Course
Pan-fried salmon and tilapia with lemon butter sauce, vegetable medley and herbed potatoes.
Pineapple crumble with coconut jelly and strawberry.
Coffee with Puneslie’s biscuits.
Blimey KLM, that was really excellent. The hot meal is in fact piping hot when it arrives and the flavour of all the dishes is great. The dessert is perhaps a tad too sweet, but I just suffer in silence, all alone in the big empty Business Class…
The flight is only 95 minutes long, and before long we’re already descending into Warsaw. Obviously it’s dark by the time we land.
We decide to take a taxi to the hotel. Beware of the many drivers offering you a taxi as you exit the terminal. These are not authorised providers. It’s best if you queue at the normal taxi stand. We’re staying at the Warsaw Hilton in the centre. The fare from the airport will cost you about 40 Zloty by authorised taxi.
And with that ends another memorable journey with KLM. I think this will be the last report in this series. The return home is with KLM anyway. But if you’ll just give me a week, I’ll have something new and quite unusual lined up.
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 From: Warsaw To: Amsterdam 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.