I’m on my way to Haugesund in Norway. In the old days, I would have taken a SWISS or SAS flight from Zürich to Olso and connected there to a domestic service to Haugesund. But then COVID happend.
In the summer of 2021 the connection via Oslo no longer exists. There aren’t that many flights between Zürich and Oslo anymore, making an overnight stay in Oslo unavoidable. So I figure I might as well do something completely different and make an outing of it. My first leg takes me from Basel to Amsterdam, a route I have now travelled more often than I can count. In as much, this post is not really so much about the cabin design or the food served on board. It is more of a time piece about European short-haul travel during COVID.
As per 18 July 2021, you can still check in on the KLM app or online. You will need to complete a health declaration form, which has been integrated into the check-in process. Also, even if you have checked in online, you will still need to go to the check-in desk at the airport for the airline to verify your travel documents and issue the boarding pass.
So when I arrive at the airport the next day, I’m not really surprised to find a considerable queue at the Air France/KLM counters. Even so, the Platinum status means I can join the SkyTeam queue only have to wait about 10 minutes before it’s my turn. The check-in agent scans my passport and the COVID certificate issued by Switzerland and then issues the boarding pass.
Security is surprsingly painless and a fairly civilised affair. You get the impression that passengers are aware of the fact that we’re really all in the same boat in this, which is nice.
The Swissport lounge has now been closed for over a year, and it doesn’t look like it will be opening any time soon, which is hardly surprising. It’s mainly a low-cost operation at Basel right now. British Airways, Air France and Lufthansa only fly sporadically, leaving only Austrian Airlines, KLM and Turkish Airlines.
So instead, I find myself a place by the window to admire the view. The nice thing at Basel airport is that the aircraft come up really close at some stands.
Boarding is the usual scrum. Some things obviously never change. As I’m seated on row two anyway, I figure I might as well wait for everybody else to board. I would say the flight is three quarters full today.
The crew have obviously been trained, or at least briefed about, how to deal with difficult passengers and the COVID deniers. The passenger on 1C hasn’t got her face mask on, and the flight attenendant makes quick work of reminding her, and making sure she has, and keeps, her mask on.
An important point to note is that on the Embraer, KLM sells both seats on a row of two in Business Class, unlike the Lufthansa group, where the seat next to you always stays empty. I think I may have complained about this before… I’d say that KLM clearly has a disadvantage here, because I’m quite sure there would be quite a few passengers willing to pay a bit more for a Business Class seat in the current situation, simply to avoid having to sit next to a stranger who may or may not be contagious.
I think we might as well go straight to the meal section of the report. And I’m happy to find that nothing much has changed in this department. The only differences I can tell are that there is only one bun, which is sealed in plastic, and that the salt and pepper shakers have been removed. Other than that though, the meal is just fine for a flight time of one hour. To drink with that I have glass of apple juice.
After a flight time of just over one hour, we land in Amsterdam. It’s certainly busier than when I was here a year ago, but I think we’re still very, very far off from calling the place busy in the usual sense of the term. The airport has certainly made a huge effort to adapt to the new realities: there are hand sanitising stations everyhere and all counters with direct customer contact have now been decked out with glass or plexiglass partitions.
Getting into town
I’ll be spending the one night in Amsterdam at Amsterdam South, which is only seven minutes by train from Schiphol airport but still very close to the city centre in walking distance.
It’s a lovely day. So once I get to the hotel and finish off my work, I head out for a long walk. Okay, I head for scones and creamy cakes at De Bakkerswinkel. But at least I have the decency to walk back to work off the calories when I’m done. No judgement, okay?
The day after I return from Malta I am on my way to Aalborg in Denmark. For me the most convenient way to get there is, as usual, with KLM. As I have already covered KLM extensively in my blog, our story today starts just as yours truly steps off the escalators to the ground level of the B concourse at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.
The first boarding call is for Business Class and SkyPriority passengers. Although in this particular case that only means that you are first to board the bus to take you to the aircraft.
The gate agent scans my mobile boarding pass, only to discover – lo and behold – that the upgrade fairy has done her magic yet again and I have been shifted from 6A to 1A, the window seat on the bulkhead row.
The first thing that strikes me is that there is no cabin divider to separate the Business Class cabin from the Economy Class one. Furthermore, on the Embraers KLM does not keep the seat next to you empty in Business Class. So in other words, essentially you have exactly the same level of comfort, or lack thereof, as all the other passengers at the back of the bus.
There are two cabin crew on the flight today. A young man as the purser, and a young lady working the rear of the aircraft. Interaction is somewhat limited, given that the flight is full and the flight time is only one hour. Even so, the crew are friendly in the way I am used to from KLM. Before departure, passengers on the first row are asked if they would like a newspaper, so I figure this means there is just the one row of Business Class on the flight today.
Delivery: On KLM Cityhopper flights the Business Class meal is always served in a cardboard box. Type of meal: Light dinner
Greek salad with honeyed goats cheese, tomato, onion, cucumber and olives.
Tropical mousse with lime topping.
Tea or coffee.
The meal is tasty enough and hits the spot nicely. One thing I have noticed with KLM though, is that they do not really seem to vary or change their menus that often. So if you fly with them a lot, you are going to end up having the same meal over and over again.
Very soon after the meal is removed, the descent into Aalborg begins. It is a really nice evening for flying and the setting sun looks brilliant on the horizon.
By the time we land it is already 22h30. So I shall be spending the night at the Aalborg airport hotel before heading into town in the morning.
There is this really excellent app that was recommended to me by my friend, the intrepid M., who is a seriously bad ass runner. The app is called MapMyRun. I think it is excellent because it allows you to log your runs and track your progress; you can map your route, see what distance and elevation you have covered, what your average pace is etc.
Are you wondering why I am telling you all this? Well, quite simply because I regret that sometimes I lack the presence of mind. Maybe I can blame it on Hong Kong this time or the jet lag. Otherwise, I think it would have been brilliant to log a MapMyRun workout of my run through Amsterdam Airport carrying a suit in one hand and my rucksack in the other.
Transfer in Amsterdam
Amsterdam Airport really is the best! If you are transferring from a non-Schengen to a Schengen flight and you are, like me, running out of time, there is a dedicated short connection track through immigration and security.
I arrive at gate B04, from where my flight to Basel will be leaving. One of the gate attendants looks at me and asks me if I have just come off the Hong Kong flight. I nod ascent, still trying to catch my breath, to which he comments that he is surprised by how quickly I managed to get to B04. Oh yes, I think if I had had MapMyRun activated, we would be looking at a new sprint best time. Life is full of missed opportunities.
I board the bus, assuming I am the last passenger holding up the proceedings. But then we wait, and then some more. Eventually, after another ten minutes or so an elderly couple slowly ambles over to the counter and hand the gate agent their boarding passes. The lady passenger is carrying a Shanghai Tang shopping bag, so I can only presume that she and the hubby must have been on my flight. Well take you time dear, when you are ready…!
Type of meal: Snack
Starter – Creamy potato and leeks soup with diced tomatoes.
Main – Mixed salad with pesto pasta and Mozzarella cheese.
Dessert – Dutch Speculaas spiced dessert.
TO CUT A LONG STORY SHORT… The flight is pretty uneventful until we reach Basel. We are already established on a very bumpy and unstable approach when suddenly we accelerate and start climbing again. Apparently the wind keeps changing so we are going to have to make an approach from the opposite direction. A lot of screaming passengers and fifteen minutes later and we are finally safely on the ground. It has been a long time since I last heard passengers clapping with relief as we hit the ground.
Oh, and in case you are wondering: no, my suitcase did not make the short connection in Amsterdam. Still, a home delivery is better than having to cart the damn thing home myself.
It’s 07h30 in the morning on Maundy Thursday. I’ve just arrived in Amsterdam on a KLM MD-11 from Montreal. I’ve decided to make the most of the long Easter weekend and visit Toledo in Spain. Of course the easiest thing to do would have been to catch a direct flight from Amsterdam to Madrid either by Iberia, Air Europa or KLM. But I’ve decided to go for something a bit more substantial, shall we say.
My first stop will be London’s Heathrow airport. The flight to Heathrow will not be leaving until later on in the afternoon. So I make my way to the luggage deposit area in the basement of Schiphol airport. Access to the area is via a lift or stairs located between arrivals halls 2 and 3. For one day of storage the charge is EUR 7.- for a mid-sized locker and EUR 9.- for a large sized locker.
With my luggage safely stored I head into town for breakfast at De Bakerswinkel. It’s a lovely bakery on the fringe of the seedier part of town, but don’t let that put you off. After breakfast I head for the botanical gardens. I need to walk and move a bit after spending 7 hours on the plane from Montreal.
It’s a nice day here in Amsterdam. But it’s much colder than it was in Montreal.
Airline: KLM City Hopper Aircraft: Embraer E-190 From: Amsterdam To: London Heathrow T4 Cabin Class: Business Seat: 2F, window on the right side of the aircraft Date: 28 March 2013
Getting to the Airport
Just after 13h00 I decide to head back to the airport – I’m feeling cold. My next connection is by Fyra train. The Fyra is the fastest way to get to the airport because these trains don’t stop anywhere on the way between Amsterdam Central station and Schiphol. Subsequently the Fyra trains is subject to a fare supplement.
The airport has calmed down since the morning. As the United Kingdom is outside the Schengen area, I’ll have to go through passport control. In Amsterdam security for the non-Schengen flights is not centralised and instead there is a checkpoint at every gate.
From passport control I head for the KLM Crown Lounge. On my way there I pass Audrey Hepburn, the MD-11 that gently carried me away from Montreal and safely brought me across the Atlantic to Amsterdam. She’s standing where I left her this morning at gate E2.
I presume she’ll be heading back across the Atlantic later on in the afternoon. As I stand there admiring her classic good looks, it suddenly hits me with a stab of regret that in all likelihood I will not get another chance to fly the MD-11 again. I know I’ve said so before, but this time I think it may actually be true. And so I bid my farewell. I think back for a moment on the fond memories I have of flying on the MD-11. And then I move on.
The KLM Crown Lounge
The lounge is still quite busy when I arrive, so I resist the urge to take any pictures for the benefit of my fellow trip reporters. I manage to find myself a nice quiet corner, settle down and give my mum a call to let her know I’m back in Europe.
A cappuccino and some tasty spicy biscuits later and it’s time for me to make my way to the lounge for boarding. My flight will be leaving from gate D6. To reach D6 you have to take the stairs down from the main concourse level to ground level, which is also where the security check takes place. Behind that there is a whole series of gates that together make up D6 and which are designated with the letters of the alphabet. My flight will be boarding from gate D6-D. The designation evidently is a bit confusing and while the boarding process is going on, a whole bunch of people rush up to the counter for our gate, only to be informed by the gate agent that they still have loads of time and their flight will not be boarding from here anyway.
Here’s the view from D6:
Eventually the packed bus whisks us away to our awaiting chariot. From the D gates it takes about 5 minutes by bus to reach the Fokker farm where our bird is parked. We pull up next to a lone Embraer E-190. I take my time getting off the bus as I want to take some pictures and I’m sitting in the front section of the plane anyway.
There are three rows of Business Class. Initially I’m on 3D, an aisle seat. The window seat is occupied. I’m a bit surprised. I’m not quite sure whether KLM has recently made some changes to its seating policy in European Business Class or if perhaps I’ve just been very lucky so far. As far as I know, KLM normally keeps the neighbouring seat in Business Class free to give you more space. This no longer seems to be the case. As it turns out though, by the time the door is closed row two remains empty and so I quickly change seats and move to 2F.
The cabin of the Embraer is certainly more modern and attractive than that of the Fokker 70, which really is getting a bit long in the tooth. In particular, I like the very elegant and simple shapes and lines in the cabin. I’m not really much of a fan of the seats on the Embraer though. As far as that’s concerned, the Fokker 70 definitely takes the biscuit. The pitch is fine, but it always feels like the seats are a bit too low above the ground to make for a comfortable ride. But today’s flight will only be 45 minutes, plus the fifteen minutes trek to the threshold of the departing runway 36L. I’ll survive.
The crew is an interesting mix. The two ladies in the cabin are both Dutch and very friendly. Actually I think I recognise one of them from a previous flight. The cockpit crew is one Englishman and a Scotsman with rather a pronounced accent. I’m not so sure how comprehensible his accent is to the international aviation community, but it certainly sounds cool.
Once all the passengers are seated, the crew come round offering newspaper. Their English selection is a choice of either the Herald Tribune or the Financial Times, both of which I’m not really keen on. Besides, the view outside is far more interesting I think. You know that song by the Talking Head? ‘We’re on a road to nowhere…’ always comes to mind when I’m sitting on a plane making the long trek to the Polderbahn.
Once we get airborne the meal service begins quickly.
An amuse bouche of potato and shrimp salad with creamy Reypenaar cheese.
A mixed salad with honeyed Goat’s cheese, beetroot and pumpkin seed, served with organic balsamic dressing.
Assorted hot rolls.
A vanilla mousse with green apple compote.
With that I have a still water to drink. In contrast to Economy Class, in Business Class you get the whole bottle to drink.
As usual with KLM, the meal is very tasty and sufficient for such a short hop. It certainly beats Lufthansa’s ‘special moments’ offerings in terms of quantity, quality and presentation.
Coffee and tea are also offered – but I forget to take a picture.
By the time the meal is cleared away, we’ve already started out descent. We’re early today and fortunately traffic is not too busy. So we only have to make one holding circuit before we are vectored for the approach.
We land on runway 09R. T4 is deserted at this time of day, with only a handful of aircraft parked at the gates. As we round the corner, KLM’s previous flight from Amsterdam comes in to view.
Transfer in London Heathrow
We deplane and I follow the signs for flight connections and T5.
I’m rather surprised to find that I appear to be the only passenger on the flight who does not have London as their final destination. I walk straight ahead, turn left, down another corridor, turn right, then left again, then right again, then down the escalators until finally I am standing – all by myself – at the bus stop for the shuttle from T4 to T5. I wait for about 10 minutes for the bus to arrive. I am the only passenger making the journey, the bus driver seems surprised even to see just one person!
The transfer takes 13 minutes to complete and offers some interesting views of the ramp and the extensive tunnel system under Heathrow. The whole ride has a bit of a ‘behind the scenes’ feel to it. It’s really quite fascinating.
I like KLM. I have yet to have a bad experience with a KLM crew! My impression of the Dutch has always been that they are very pragmatic people, particularly when it comes to business. And I think a lot of that shows in the KLM product. Of course there are more polished offerings out there. Just to use the Amsterdam to London route as an example, BA will offer you a meal on a tray with metal cutlery and a proper plate – rather than presenting you with a meal in a box like KLM do. Nonetheless, the KLM approach somehow seems more sensible – to me at least – and I like that.
Hello, and welcome to my latest trip report. On Sunday, 2 December 2012 I returned home to Basel from a business trip to Bangkok on Cathay Pacific. Two days later, on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 and I’m off again. First with KLM from Basel via Amsterdam to Montreal for one night, and then from there again with KLM via Amsterdam to Southampton for another meeting. From Southampton I will catch a train up to London, where I will spend the weekend soaking up the atmosphere in the madness of the run up to Christmas before returning home to Basel. This report covers the first two legs from Basel via Amsterdam to Montreal.
Date: 4 December 2012 From: Basel To: Amsterdam Aircraft: Embraer 190 Airline: KLM Cityhopper Cabin: Business Class Seat: 1A
This report begins at the Air France check-in counters on the French side of the terminal. Although the KLM flight is normally parked at the Swiss side of the facility, the fact that Air France does all the handling means that passengers have to check-in for the flight on the French side and then cross over into the Swiss part of the terminal once they are airside.
The good news is that Business Class passengers now receive a voucher for a free drink at the bar to compensate for the lack of a lounge facility. This is, however, not entirely true. There is of course the former Swiss lounge, which is now the Swissport Skyview lounge, but apparently Air France KLM chose not to contract this lounge.
In any case, I make the mistake of ordering what is alleged to be a cappuccino and it is an abomination. So I sit by the gate reading my Kindle, waiting for the flight to be called.
Boarding for the flight starts on time. As I am seated on 1A, I wait for all the other passengers to board first so as not to get in the way.
When eventually I make my way to the aircraft, I am given a warm welcome by a friendly young Dutch female flight attendant. By the looks of it the flight is only about 70 per cent full and in Business Class there is only one other passenger seated right behind me on 2A.
I like the Embraer, although I must also say that the seats are a tad too low and as a result, tend to give me a back ache after a while. They’re okay for a short one hour hop to Amsterdam, but I wouldn’t be so sure about longer segments.
We depart towards the southeast from runway 15. With the light load we don’t even need to taxi all the way to the end of the runway. So we line up on the runway about halfway down.
Service begins once the seatbelt sign comes off. There are two young females working the cabin on this flight. Both of them are friendly enough and very relaxed, which makes for a pleasant atmosphere on board.
The meal consists of a salad with olives and a Thousand Islands dressing.
There is a choice of two different sandwiches available: multi-grain roll with Mozzarella and tomato or maize and pumpkin seed roll with sliced chicken breast. I go with the Mozzarella sandwich.
For dessert there is an orange praline thing, and it is very good too.
To drink with the meal I have a Diet Coke.
After the meal I have a mug of coffee with those tasty KLM biscuits filled with caramel.
Our Arrival in Amsterdam is quite unusual, for me at least. We land on runway 36C, which is a first for me, even though I travel through Amsterdam quite often. The weather in Amsterdam is even worse than what I left behind in Basel!
Transfer in Amsterdam
Once I enter the terminal I head straight for immigrations to reach the E gates from where my flight will be leaving. The guy at the counter has obviously never seen a Maltese passport before in his life, so the whole process eventually takes about 30 minutes to complete while he checks and rechecks. But never mind, I prefer my officials to be conscientious and not slack. Besides, Amsterdam is looking all festive and I have a chance to look around while they check my passport.
Once I’m through I can’t be bothered to head for the lounge, there isn’t that much time left anyway. So instead I get myself a pancake from the self-service restaurant at the beginning of the Holland Boulevard and wait until the security screening for my flight opens.
Date: 4 December 2012 From: Amsterdam To: Montreal Aircraft: MD-11 Airline: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Cabin: Business Class Seat: 1A
My flight is scheduled to leave at 15h00. So at around 14h20 I make my way to the gate to see if security is already open. As I reach the gate and spot the bird taking me across the pond today, I am overcome by her stunning beauty and embark on a photo shooting frenzy. The queue for security will take a while to clear anyway!
Eventually I join the line for security as the flight is called for boarding. There is even a separate lane for Skypriority passengers. Boarding for the flight is called just as I go through the scanner. So I collect all my belongings, take a few more picture of my elegant ride across the pond and head on board.
The load is very light on this flight. There are only nine passengers in Business Class with only four in the forward Business Class cabin, giving the flight a very cosy atmosphere.
The cabin on this bird is well maintained and looks nice, all decked out in KLM blue. As on my previous flights with the MD-11, I am absolutely smitten by the amount of leg space there is on row one. You actually have to stand up from your seat to reach the pocket mounted on the bulkhead!
The crew on this flight are friendly and obviously in a very good mood. Perhaps it has something to do with the light load today. As soon as I am seated, one of the flight attendants takes my coat and jacket, while her colleagues bring me the vanity kit, earphones and a glass of still water.
Take-off is from the notorious Polderbahn, which means a very long taxi from our gate. The MD-11 is obviously out to impress today and we are treated to an amazing take-off, such as you usually don’t get on a bird of this size.
As soon as we get airborne and the fasten seatsbelt sign comes off, the service begins. Incidentally, there are now refreshing towels on this service, which is quite a contrast to my flights with Cathay Pacific the previous week.
We begin with a large bowl of mixed nuts and a glass of Ginger Ale on ice. One of the flight attendants comes by and asks me what I’ll be having for the main course. I’m having the chicken.
After that the table is set with crisp white linen, and the meal tray arrives.
The First Course
It contains a small salad and the first course: smoked salmon with Hollandaise mousse, capers and shallots, served with cucumber soup and sour dough bread. The first course is excellent and quite unusual. The final preparation of the dish is actually done at your seat, which is a nice touch. To drink with that I have still water.
There is also a basket with warm bread.
And here are a few details of the cutlery and condiments that come with the tray.
The Main Course
For the main course I have the winter casserole with Volwaard chicken, accompanied by new potatoes, pearl onions, cabbage, chestnuts, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms.
The Cheese & Fruit
And for dessert I have the cheese plate with Beemster Lite and St. Aubin cheese, together with a fruit kebab.
To conclude the meal, the crew pass through the cabin with a box of chocolate pralines with the coffee. I’m undecided about which one to choose, so flight attendant encourages me to take more than one and eventually chooses three for me.
I spend the rest of the flight reading, dozing and watching the beautiful colours outside until it’s time for the next service.
The Second Service
About an hour out of Montreal the second service begins. The meal consists of a dish of Vitello Tonnato with asparagus, pine nuts and roasted bell peppers.
With that there is a croquette roll of deep-friend beef ragout in a bread roll. I try this but decide not to finish it…
And for dessert there is a Dutch waffle mousse with caramel sauce, which is very tasty.
After that we are given the landing cards for Canada to complete. The flight concludes with the distribution of the famous Bols houses.
Our approach into Montreal at dusk is quite beautiful. We cross the mighty St. Lawrence and are treated to a lovely view of the city of Montreal. We fly past the old Olympic park, which is clearly visible.
Immigration does not take long to complete and just a few minutes after I reach the luggage belt, my suitcase arrives. I grab a taxi and make my way into town.
On these two flights KLM gave yet another solid performance. The quality of the food on both flights was very good and the crew displayed a lot of enthusiasm for their job and were very friendly in the way the dealt with their passengers. Because I only spent one night in Montreal I ended up flying back with the same crew. Not only was I very surprised that they all recognised me again, they evidently went out of their way on the return leg to make me feel at home. I was really treated like an old friend, and I thought that was rather nice.
The service on KLM may not exactly be as elegant as that on other airlines, but it is certainly very personable and welcoming and I like that.
As for the hardware, I’m happy I managed to get another two flights on the MD-11. The last time I flew to Montreal with KLM I suspected it might be my last opportunity to catch this attractive looking bird. But it seems as though I got a second chance. My next trip to Montreal will be in the spring. By the looks of it, with a bit of luck, that trip might also feature the MD-11. I certainly hope so! Having said that, it really is high time KLM rolled out that new Business Class seat.