KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Amsterdam to Bergen

Transfer in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Schiphol overtook Frankfurt a while back as Europe’s third busiest airport. And I think it’s beginning to show. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. Where previously one of the airport’s strongest points was the abundance of space within the terminal building for passengers to move about, it’s now starting to get very crowded. But it’s still one of my favourite airports.

Airside

I decide not to take any photos of the lounge, because it’s crawling with people. And you don’t want to piss people off when they’re probably already tired from a long working day or just from the labours of travel, right?

It’s interesting to watch though, how quickly the lounge empties at some point, as KLM’s evening outbound wave of flights gets underway, including mine.

Boarding

The flight will be departing from C18, which is at the very end of the C pier. The flight is operated by a Boeing B 737-800 and according to the gate agent, it’s going to be a full flight. They’re making announcements offering to check Economy Class passengers’ luggage free of charge.

The Cabin

There are two rows of Business Class on this flight, and a total of five passengers. I’m sitting on 1A and I have the whole row of seats to myself.

The Crew

There are two cabin crew working the Business Class cabin and they really are fabulous. One is a gentleman who probably looks older than he is, because his hair and beard are completely white. The other is a younger gentleman of South Asian descent. And he’s just so camp. Which is totally okay, it’s just that his effeminate mannerisms are completely at odds with the fact that he’s built like a brick shit house, as my granddad used to say.

In any case, the two of them keep the whole of the Business Class well entertained throughout the flight and take excellent care of the passengers. 1D is an elderly lady. She’s alert but looks very frail. The care and gentleness with which the cabin crew treat her is just outstanding. They take all the time in the world with her, making sure she’s comfortable but without ever being patronising in that way many people tend to be around elderly people.

The older one of the two is the maître de. As soon as the doors close, he welcomes every passenger aboard by name and shakes each passenger’s hand. From then on, whenever he or the younger crew member address the passengers, it’s always by name. More on that later…

The Meal

The meal is comparable to the one I had on the Zürich to Amsterdam leg. Only on this flight it’s not shrimps but a very nice chunk of hot smoked salmon. And it’s very tasty! I don’t know if this is a seasonal thing or just a new feature, but on this flight KLM also has fresh apple juice on offer, and it really is very tasty. It’s quite addictive actually!

After the meal I ask for a cup of mint tea, which is served with one of those Punselies biscuits.

Arrival

We land in Bergen just before 23h. It’s been a long day! Since my last visit the terminal building in Bergen has been significantly expanded. And with the expansion they’ve also extended the city’s tram line to the airport. As a result, there are now a number of options to get into town: a taxi will take about twenty minutes and costs a staggering NOK700. Then there’s the airport bus, which takes about the same amount of time as the taxi but only costs NOK110. And finally, the journey by tram will take about 45 minutes, but only costs NOK36.

I take the bus, mainly because I know from a previous visit that it stops right in front of my hotel.

Epilogue

So about the KLM crew on this flight: I return home from Bergen the following day, on Wednesday. As I step aboard the plane, I recognise the crew from the previous day. They’ve obviously night stopped in Bergen. The maître de takes a look at me and says ‘Mr. A., you’re back again. You know, I think you travel too much! Where are you sitting?’ I mean, I’m already surprised they recognise my face. But the fact that they both still remember my name is quite surprising.

Later on, as I disembark the plane in Amsterdam, the maître de wishes me a safe onward journey, while the younger one says good bye and asks me ‘I guess we’ll probably be seeing you again tomorrow or so?’

I must say, I’m quite exhausted from all my travels at this stage. And I’m so happy that I won’t be getting on a plane again until week after next. But I also have to say that it’s people like the crew on this flight that make such a difference. Of course they can’t replace your friends and family back home, but at least they can relieve some of the hassle of travel, by making you feel just a little bit less anonymous as the passenger.

KLM, gents: you were just brilliant. Thank you!

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Zürich to Amsterdam

Introduction

On Tuesday afternoon I leave the office just before 16h. I’m catching the 16h01 train to the airport for a 17h30 departure with KLM to Amsterdam. It’s a lovely day here in Winterthur, with nice sunny weather and balmy temperatures. And apparently it’s been like this since last week. Which is more than I can say about my recent trip to Malta.

Check-in

I’ve checked in using the KLM app, which has been working a bit more reliably recently. If you’re using the KLM app, the boarding pass of your next flight with them will show up on your locked screen, so you can just swipe it at the gate. In Zürich, KLM checks in at row 2 of check-in 2.

Airside

Today I am certainly not going to visit the contractor lounge, because… yes! It’s so nice out that the terrace of the sports bar is open. There’s no service out there yet. Or rather, if you want something you have to order it at the bar and then take it outside yourself. But hey, I’m here for the view.

And it really is a lovely view. The aircraft come up really close to the terrace and as they apply thrust to move off stand, you get a glorious whiff of kerosene fumes. And as my luck will have it, the KLM flight arrives just a short while later and comes to a stop on the stand closes to the terrace!

Boarding

Boarding starts on time, at 17h00. There is a first boarding call for Business Class passengers, before everybody else is invited to get aboard.

The Cabin

There are six rows of Business Class, for a total of 24 seats. The cabin is not quite full though, and as a result I have a whole row of three all to myself.

I’m not sure if this applies to all seats, but on row 3, where I’m seated, there are two electricity plugs on either side of the middle seat.

The seat pitch is good. The one thing I don’t like though, is that the recline of the seat back, even in the upright position, is just a bit too slanted. I always feel like I’m half lying down and about to slide off the seat.

The Crew

There are two middle aged ladies working the Business Class cabin. As usual on KLM, they’re chirpy and chatty. One of them is a big fan of Switzerland, and has even picked up a few bits and pieces of Swiss German, much to the entertainment of the passengers as she tries out her language skills with the m as the board. It’s really quite funny, but in a very charming way.

Like Lufthansa, KLM does not provide any service on the ground. No welcome drinks or anything of the sort. The flight time is announced as 1 hour and 15 minutes, which means we should be arriving in Amsterdam at 18h55, 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

The Meal

As soon as the crew is released, the service begins. Every passenger is served individually from the galley. The meal consists of:

A small plate of salad with chilli shrimps, served with olive oil.

A small ramekin of marinated vegetables and feta cheese with couscous – served with rolls from the breadbasket.

To be honest, my opinion of the meal is… meh. The shrimps have an off-putting fishy smell, the salad is limp and the dessert is what it is. KLM has been serving this type of dessert for years, and I don’t know why they bother trying to explain what it is on the menu, because whether it’s passionfruit mousse or raspberry coulis, it always tastes the same.

At least that’s my excuse for asking for some of those fabulous smoked almonds KLM caters. I love those, they’re seriously addictive. A bit like the Twistees I had on Air Malta on Sunday… I ask the flight attendant if perhaps I could have a packet. She saunters off and returns a short while later with five packets of the delectable almonds. Hurrah! I think it would be a shame to waste them… and rude to turn them down.

And so I spend the rest of the flight reading my Kindle, snacking on almonds and enjoying the spectacular sunset we’re being treated to.

Arrival

Eventually, we land in Amsterdam at 18h55, just as the pilot had announced in Zürich. But we’ve landed on 18R, so that by the time we reach our stand at gate C4, we’re running five minutes late! I now have two hours to make my connection.

KLM, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Madrid to Amsterdam

Introduction

I spend three days giving a course to a group of Spanish and Portuguese participants. It has been a fun three days and our Spanish host were very welcoming and hospitable. Of course it also helped that the weather in Madrid was simply gorgeous, with clear blue skies and temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius, while back home in Switzerland they had already started to take out their winters coats.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Shuttle bus from the Airport Hilton
Departs from: Right outside the lobby
Frequency: Every 25 minutes
Journey time: About 10 minutes to Terminal 2
Fare: The shuttle is complimentary

At 15h05 I catch the complimentary shuttle bus back to Barajas airport. By the looks of it, I am the only hotel guest making the journey to the airport. On its way to Terminal 2, the shuttle makes a brief stop at Terminal 1, which is the non-Schengen terminal, before continuing to Terminal 2.

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Check-in

Location: On the first floor. If you arrive by car, there are signs indicating which carrier is located at which entrance.
Facilities: Online check-in, self-service check-in and baggage drop counters.

KLM and Air France have their own set of dedicated check-in counters at Barajas, including a large number of self-service kiosks. I have already checked in using the Air France app. However, I briefly check at one of the counters to inquire about the location of the Air France lounge. The check-in agent is a friendly young lady. She points out to me that at the far end of the concourse, behind the Alitalia check-in counters, there is a fast track for security for Business Class passengers and status card holders.

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The Lounge

Location: One floor up from the main transit area on the E concourse. The stairs to the lounge are located near gate E69. The E concourse is one of the newer facilities in the original terminal complex at Barajas. As such, it has a very spacious and airy feel.
Type of Lounge:
Puerta de Sol contractor lounge, operated, I think, by the airport authority.
Facilities:
A large bar with hot and cold drinks. There are also cold and warm snacks. For the latter there is a microwave for you to heat the prepacked food in. It does not look particularly sophisticated or elegant, but I guess it gets the job done. There is also a set of workstations. Toilets are available in the lounge, but there are no showers.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi connectivity. The code can be found at the bottom of the information screens which are located by the entrance to the lounge.

The lounge is nothing special really. Its one redeeming feature however, is the commanding view of the apron and the runway used for arrivals. So I take up a seat by the window. I actually take out my Kindle to do some reading. But somehow I keep getting distracted by the constant stream of aircraft filing past my window. Brilliant!

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Boarding

Boarding takes for ever, due to the fact that it is a full flight today. I am sitting on 2F, which is a window seat on the right-hand side of the aircraft. One of my windows is right above the forward cargo hatch. As the suitcases are loaded onto the aircraft, I get a chance to look at the labels on the conveyor belt, before the bags disappear into the hold. Most of the checked luggage, from what I can tell, belongs to connecting passengers. There are only few bags with Amsterdam as their final destination. The majority of the bags are labelled for Incheon and Pudong.

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Apart from all that, I am just happy as a pig in shit for finally bagging the retro-liveried B 737-800.

The Cabin

I have already covered the cabin of the KLM Boeing 737-800 in my previous posts, so I guess there is no need for an introduction. One thing that strikes me on this particular trip though, is that apart from a greater pitch, the seats in the forward cabin also seem to be slightly more inclined when the seatback is in the upright position. And quite frankly, it is not particularly comfortable. I keep sliding down the seat.

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The Crew

I have yet to experience a bad crew on KLM. I think that is one of the carrier’s most impressive features. No matter what, the crews are always friendly and welcoming. Service in Business Class is conducted by a middle-aged gentleman.

The Meal

Choice: There are two choices for the main course, including one vegetarian option. Although on this particular flight the vegetarian option is different to the one printed on the menus which were distributed before departure.
Delivery:
Tray service
Type of meal:
Early dinner, although is you are Spanish it probably qualified more as a latish lunch…

  1. An amuse bouche of asparagus salad with grilled tomato and sauce Hollondaise.
  2. A seasonal salad with lemon flavoured olive oil.
  3. Vegetarian Risotto with grilled vegetables and pickled onions.
  4. Orange Bavaroise with blueberry sauce and white chocolate shavings.
  5. Selection from the bread basket with butter (two servings).

Despite the flight time of over two hours, KLM does not have a pre-meal drinks service. However, even after the meal service is over, the crew come through the cabin repeatedly, asking passengers if they want anything else to drink.

Other than that, the meal is rather tasty and hits the spot nicely. The Hollondaise sauce is nice and creamy and always goes well with the asparagus. The Risotto with the pickled onions in surprisingly good! The dessert is the only thing about the meal I do not really like. It is awfully sweet and the orange tastes slightly artificial.

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Arrival

By the time we reach the top of descent, the sun is already very low on the horizon, providing a spectacular display of colours in the sky. And by the time we finally land in Schiphol, it is already dark. In Amsterdam I only have about 40 minutes before my connecting flight to Basel departs. So I decide to forfeit the comfort of the Crown Lounge in favour of walking up and down the C and B concourses to meet the daily step target on my Garmin Fenix 3. Life is good…!

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KLM, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Amsterdam to Zürich

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Introduction

On Friday evening I arrived in Amsterdam on a flight from Warsaw. I spend a lovely weekend in Amsterdam enjoying the fine weather and today I shall continue my journey from Amsterdam to Zürich and from there on to Izmir, where I shall be giving a course.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Tram and train
Departs from: Amsterdam Museumplain
Arrives at: Amsterdam Schiphol airport
Journey time: Roughly 40 minutes
Frequency: From Central station to the airport there are trains roughly every 5 to 10 minutes.

It is still early on Sunday morning. I leave the Sir Albert Hotel just after seven and make my way to the tram stop for the line 16 or 24 tram. Eventually, after waiting for about 10 minutes without even as much as hearing a tram, I consult the timetable, only to find that the first tram will not be arriving until 07:48. So I grab my suitcase and walk to the Museum square which is five minutes away. From there I take the tramline 5 to Central station. The journey to the railway station takes about ten minutes. From there I catch an intercity train to Schiphol, which makes the journey to the airport in about 15 minutes.

Check-in

Location: Departure Hall 1, one floor up from the Central Plaza.
Facilities: Economy Class passengers check-in use the self-service facilities, which includes labelling and putting the suitcases on the conveyor belt yourself. For Business Class passengers and status holders, there are also staffed counters for check-in available.
Security: There is a dedicated line for status card holders and Business Class passengers for security.

I already checked in for my flight the evening before. I do not know if perhaps KLM have made changes to their IT infrastructure recently, but for some reason the KLM app seems to be working surprisingly well these last few weeks. Even adding the boarding pass to Passbook works without a hitch.

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I arrive at the airport at about 08:15 and make my way to security. Personally I think Schiphol has one of the best organised security checks around. First of all, there always seem to be enough counters open to cope with all the passengers. So you never have to queue for very long. Secondly, the people who work here are always really friendly, unlike the frumpy, grumpy ex-KGB agents they tend to employ at many other airports these days.

The KLM Crown Lounge

Location: One floor up from the public airside centre, at the beginning of the D dock.
Type of lounge: KLM lounge for Business Class passengers and status holder.
Facilities: Working stations, separate television watching room, toilets and showers available in the lounge. The lounge is divided in two parts. There is a smaller section at the back, which is only open at specific times or when demand makes it necessary.
Catering: There is a selection of hot and cold dishes available throughout the day. The selection varies on the time of day. There is a second bar in the smaller section of the lounge. Hot food however, is only available in the larger, front section of the lounge.
Internet: Free internet is available, password required.

The Crown Lounge is already quite full, but not near as bad as on a Friday evening, when it can be difficult to find a place to sit. Fortunately, they have opened the back part of the lounge, which tends to be quieter that the main area due to the fact that the bar area at the back is only rarely open.

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The breakfast selection is quite good, with a selection of bread, cheese and ham, yoghurt, fresh fruit salad and thick pancakes with maple syrup.

Boarding

Business Class passengers and status card holders are invited to board the aircraft first. There is also a dedicated line for these passengers to queue.

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My flight will be leaving from C15, which is a 6 minutes walk from the lounge area. Originally, boarding should have started at 09h15. However, at 09h20 an announcement is made that due to some communication mishap, catering has yet to load the meals and therefore the flight will be running slightly late. Eventually we push back from the gate with a delay of 20 minutes. Even so, our arrival in Zürich is expected on time, thanks to a strong tail wind. Our flight time to Zürich is announced as 55 minutes.

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The flight this morning is completely full. I really do not think I have every seen anything like this. I am sitting on row two and the queue of people boarding the plane is seemingly endless. The purser tells me that indeed the flight is completely sold out, with not a single seat available.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2
Seat number: 2C
Seat: This is a bog standard European Business Class configuration with a row of three Economy Class seats on either side of the aisle. The middle seat is left empty and marked accordingly with a headrest. The seat is fairly comfy, even though it is quite thin and thus quite hard.
Pitch: 33 inches
Width: 17 inches

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The Crew

In typical Dutch style, the crew on this flight are all friendly and chatty. They are very relaxed. Some guy sitting at the back of the bus has forgotten or loss his iPhone at the gate. The crew even allow him off the plane twice to go look for it, before eventually it is time to leave and the doors close. Throughout the flight, the crew take good care of passengers and make sure everyone is well-hydrated and nourished.

The Meal

Type of meal: Breakfast

  1. Plate of cold ham and a selection of cheese, served with butter.
  2. Fruit salad.
  3. Fruit yoghurt.
  4. Jam (no choice).
  5. Selection form the bread basket – they came through the cabin three times.
  6. Coffee and orange juice.
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The meal hits the spot nicely. Okay, admittedly I had already eaten in the lounge but I am still starting to feel hungry again by the time we get airborne.

Arrival

With a flight time of only 55 minutes, obviously the service does not take too long, and as soon I have finished my meal and the purser has checked that I will not be having a fifth croissant (I know…), he removes my tray and the crew start preparing for landing.

We arrive at the gate at 11:05. There is a slight delay in getting the aircraft connected to an external power unit. Even so, we are still slightly ahead of schedule by the time we are allowed off the plane.

But my journey is not finished here in Zürich. I now have one hour to buy a few things and exchange some money before I meet the valiant M. and we head off to give another course.

Stay tuned…

KLM, Business Class – B737-800: Amsterdam to Lisbon

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Introduction

It’s Sunday morning. Exactly 72 hours after I arrived in Amsterdam from Montreal on the mighty MD-11 I find myself, again, taxiing off the runway towards the apron. It’s even the same runway we used three days ago! It’s just gone 07h50. This time round though, I am travelling on something a little less substantial, shall we say. I’m on a Fokker F 70 of KLM Cityhopper and I’ve just arrived from Basel.

In the meantime my mood has improved significantly: I arrived at Basel airport at about 05h45, presumably with ample time for my 06h45 departure to Amsterdam. Or so I thought. But the queue for security is a complete mess. With now eight Airbuses stationed in Basel, Easyjet runs quite an operation at the airport. And by the look of the queue, their flights will be going out full this morning. Eventually I stand in the queue for no less than 40 minutes. By the time I reach my departure gate I am the last passenger to get on board.

Perhaps you’re wondering why on earth I didn’t use the priority lane for security. Well, it’s complicated. The priority lane uses an automatic scanner. But unfortunately the scanner doesn’t read the bar code you get from KLM when you do online check-in. So I would have had to go an Air France counter on the French side of the airport to obtain a paper boarding pass first. Of course I did contemplate the idea – that is, until I reached the French sector and found a queue for check-in not much shorter than the queue for security.

Boarding

Well, eventually I made it. Obviously. So let’s put an end to the rant and move on. It’s now 12h14 and I decide to leave the comfort of the Crown Lounge and head for the gate.

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While I wait for the queue to clear I take a few pictures of my chariot for this flight.

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The Cabin

My aircraft for today is a Boeing B 737-800. There are three rows of Business Class, with a total of twelve seats. It’s the standard European row of three, with the middle seat left empty in the Business Class configuration. Although up front the seat pitch is greater than in the back. Apart from that I’m sitting on 1A, which always helps. Ten seats are occupied today.

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There are power sockets in every seat row, but they’re a bit hard to find seeing as they are located in the leg of the seat.

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There is a bit of a delay for pushback. Apparently traffic is quite heavy in the north of France. Eventually we are moved onto the taxiway, then at 13h05 we are released and make our way to the active runway, just a short distance away.

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The Crew

The crew on this flight are excellent. KLM crews are normally very friendly anyway, but this lot is very professional and very polished. I am addressed by my family name throughout the flight and even after the service is over, the crew make sure to regularly ask passengers if there’s anything they can do to make them comfortable.

Service begins on the ground with the distribution of the newspapers.

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The Meal

The flight time to Lisbon is announced by the captain as two hours and thirty-five minutes, which makes for a very pleasant and unhurried service (take note Austrian Airlines!).

We start with a drinks round. I have a Ginger Ale which is served with two packets of salty almonds.

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This is followed by a hot towel ahead of the meal.

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The First Course

Smoked salmon, with a fish terrine, served with green asparagus, boiled egg and a Hollondaise sauce.

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The Salad

Mixed salad of greens and potato, served with a vinaigrette.

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The Main Course

Chicken in a green curry and coconut sauce.

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The Cheese

A plate with two different types of cheese, with a slice of candied ginger and a walnut.

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The size and quality of the meal is really quite excellent and very flavourful. By the time I finish, we’re just leaving the French coastline behind us and heading out across the bay of Biscay towards Spain, where we should make landfall close to Asturias.

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To completed the meal I have a cup of coffee, which is served with one of those excellent Punselie’s biscuits. I’m rather full.

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Arrival

We continue in a more or less straight line and eventually coming in right above a rather densely populated area of the city.

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I’m staying on Avenida Liberdade. There is the direct Aerobus Line 1 which takes about 20 minutes to complete the journey. The fare is EUR3.50. There is also a metro station on Avenida Liberdade, which also runs to the airport. Perhaps I shall give that a try on the way back.