KLM Cityhopper, Embraer 190 – Economy Class: Amsterdam to Basel

Introduction

I spend two whole days in the Netherlands. And I must say, the change of scenery did me good. Back home the monotony of working from home seems to make my days just fly by. Which isn’t bad either, but it leaves you with a sense of everything being rushed, even when it’s not.

In Amsterdam I stayed at the CitizenM South, which I think is in a great location. It’s close to the the railway and metro station at Amsterdam Zuid and the tram line number 5, which takes you all the way into the city centre, stops just outside the hotel.

The staff at the hotel were really great, and did a brilliant job of trying to put visitors at ease and make them feel comfortable. Occupancy was only at 10%.

Amsterdam was very quiet and subdued. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it looking so calm and deserted. Of course, it probably didn’t help that the weather was atrocious during my visit…

Getting to the Airport

Trains between Amsterdam Zuid and Schiphol airport run frequently. The journey takes six minutes. The use of face masks is mandatory on public transport in the Netherlands right now.

The central plaza at Schiphol airport is very quiet. The place is usually crawling with clueless tourists trying to figure out how to purchase a ticket and which train to take. But not any more.

Only very few shops are open. It’s difficult to say though, if the closed ones are just opening later because of the reduced number of visitors to the airport, or if they are closed indefinitely.

Check-in

Check-in is surprisingly busy. The queue for security is quite long, and there is no longer a dedicated lane for SkyPriority passengers. Although I’m not sure if this may be due to the obvious construction that is going on.

I think the security check experience at Amsterdam really highlights the catch 22 the airlines and airports are facing right now: I would say most people in the queue were wearing face masks, but otherwise ignored the round markings on the floor indicating a distance of 1.5 metres. And in a way, I don’t blame them. Most of them looked like holiday makers that were probably relieved to finally get out and about and excited to travel again.

But that’s not the point and not so important. Ultimately, everyone must choose for themself if they want to play their part in bringing the situation under control or not. But Amsterdam, like many other hubs in Frankfurt, London or Paris, was built soley for the one purpose of operating a high performance hub, with many flights feeding a lot of passenger into their long haul networks. But right now, that seems rather difficult to reconcile with social distancing measures. First, because the airlines are all operating on a reduced schedule. This means that layovers at the transfer airports tend to be quite a bit longer than usual – which is precicely what the authorities are trying to prevent: a lot of people in a confined space for any length of time. And second, because Amsterdam Schiphol is probably already too small if the authorities were serious about properly implementing all the recommended social distanting measures – despite the diminshed network and the lower passenger volumes. As long as passenger numbers are down, the issue is manageable. But at airports arond the globe, the moment will come where the crowds will be too big to be kept under control.

The KLM Crown Lounge

The Crown lounge is open. It’s changed a lot since my last visit. The back part, which used to overlook the check-in area, is gone. Instead, the lounge has expanded sideways and now also covers an area which, I believe, was previously occupied by the Swissport lounge.

There is no longer a buffet in the lounge, and instead passengers have to queue at the bar to place their orders with one of the lounge attendants. Within the lounge, most people keep their masks on, perhaps only removing them to have a drink. As far as I can tell, there is hardly and food on offer.

Boarding

Boarding for the flight is from B02, which is a bus gate. Passengers are more or less evenly distributed across the two busses. The load is roughly 70 passengers.

The gate agents are very meticulous and stop anybody who tries to pass the gate without a mask. There’s a school class of mainly hormonal teenage boys. So as you can imagine, the gate agents have their work cut out before the last bus is finally allowed to leave for the aircraft…

The Cabin

There are two rows of Business Class, but only two seats on row 1 are occupied. I am on 3F, the first Economy Plus row. The whole row behind me is empty and there’s only one other passenger on 3A. So we’re good.

There’s a bit of a delay because of a technical issue that needs looking into, and for a moment I dread that next the pilot will have to inform us that we’ve missed out slots But then I chuckle to myself as it dawns on me that, very likely, it’ll be a few years before Amsterdam is restricted for slots again…

Eventually, we taxi out with a delay of about 15 minutes. As we turn on to the runway, I catch a glimpe of the new A pier, which is gradually nearing completion. Although I think it will still be a while before it is in it’s final configuration. Right now, there is still a categing facility between the A and the B pier, which will have to go sooner or later.

The Meal

The service is more or less the same as on the outbound: a small box with a cheese sandwich, a cookie and a tub of water. In addition, the crew distribute an information sheet by the Swiss federal government as well as a contact form for every passenger to complete in case anybody on the flight develops symptoms later on. The forms are collected by the ground agent upon disembarking.

Arrival

The flight time is one hour, most of which I Spend looking out the window. I’ve missed the view from the wing so, so much…

The weather in Basel is much better than in Amsterdam. We make our approach from the south, which means we come in right over the swimming pool where I usually do my laps. Which is convenient, because the place looks deserted from above. So I guess that answers what I’ll be doing this afternoon…

We land, and literally ten minutes later I’m already sitting in the bus on my way home.

Conclusion

So, this brings to a close my report on the new normal of air travel. I think it is likely that it will be at least another five to six years before the airline industry fully makes a recovery. Until then, I fear a lot of jobs will be lost and many airlines will pass on into history as yet another casualty of the pandemic. Especially the coming winter will not be easy.

For the airlines that survive though, I think it is important right now that they work on their reputation management. For the time being, people may not be travelling because of the uncertainties of travelling abroad. But sooner or later, the restrictions will ease. When that happens, it would serve the airlines well to have regained the trust and confidence of their customers, many of which have been rather badly treated by the airlines in recent months.

I appreciate that refunding all the unsued tickets all at once would probably have more or less grounded all airlines within days. Fair enough. But this voucher business the airlines are currently offering instead of a proper refund is, for the most part, a scam. Treating your customers badly has never been a good idea. Treating them like idiots only adds insult to injury.

KLM Cityhopper, Embraer 190 – Economy Class: Basel to Amsterdam

Introduction

125 days ago, I returned to Basel from giving a course in Luxembourg. The week after, I was scheduled to make one last trip to Luxembourg before heading off to Australia on sabbatical for six months. While in Australia, I should have made a side trip to Bangkok, and then another to Ulan Baatar via Singapore and Hong Kong. But then the world shut down – slowly, gradually and irrevocably.

And my world slowed to a pleasant, leisurely pace. I was fully expecting to miss the flying. I was also fully expecting to well and truly get on everybody’s nerves once the withdrawal symptoms kicked in. If the effort it took to get me off the pacifier when I was four years old was anything to go by, I was convinced this was not going to be pretty…

But 125 days later, my watch has left a pale mark on my bronzed wrist from all the cycling and swimming I’ve managed to do. My PhD is on track and in the peaceful tranquility of my own home I have been so much more productive than I ever could have been in an office full of people.

And now today, I am taking my first flight. I’m curious to see how much aviation has changed in just 125 days.

Getting to the airport

I leave my flat at 10:25 to catch the bus line 50 to the airport. The 10:33 service runs nonstop to the airport, although I’m not quite sure what the point is, because it’s not really any faster than the regular service.

Since Monday, 06 July 2020 it is a mandatory requirement to wear face masks on all public transport in Switzerland. So today is the first time I’m using public transport and therefore, also the first time I’ve had to use a face mask. I don’t want to argue about the merits or disadvantages of wearing one of these things. But… first, I think my face is too big for a standard issue face mask. If I pull it up to properly cover my nose, then my chin keeps slipping out the bottom and the mask rides up to uncover my mouth. If I pull it down, my nose is uncovered… And second, the mask is a bit of a nuisance if, like me, you have varifocals, because it pushes the glasses higher up on your nose. And as a result, you end up looking into the distance through that part of the lens which is actually intended for short distances. And my breath is making the glasses fog up too. So basically, in the sum of all things I kind of feel like something out of Gorillas in the Mist… but cross-eyed.

Sixteen minutes later we arrive at the departures level of the airport, and the other four passengers and I disembark.

There’s a sign at the entrance to the terminal, advising passengers that wearing a face mask is mandatory inside.

Check-in

I’ve checked in online. As a Platinum member with Air France KLM I can select any seat on the aircraft free of charge. Originally I was seated on row 7, which was the first row in the Economy Class cabin. A few days before departure though, KLM does the inventory for its flights, which means that they usually open up seats further up front once the final position of the cabin divider is decided. And so I move forward to row 2 at check-in.

Check-in is eerily quiet. It looks as though everyone just left abruptly and forgot to switch off the lights.

Airside

I don’t think I’ve ever been through security at Basel airport this quickly. There are hardly any passengers, and even with just the one line open, the staff still have plenty of time to check every passengers very carefully and still manage to have a enough time to chatter and gossip.

I think I always understood that magnitude of recent events and their impact on the aviation industry. But today is the first time I have the opportunity to witness the devastation up close. It’s really quite upsetting.

The beautiful Swissport lounge is closed.

Boarding

The only place with signs of life is gate 1, from where the flight to Amsterdam will be departing. I count a total of 77 passengers, which isn’t a bad seat load factor for an Embraer 190 with a capacity of about 90 seats. Although having said that, KLM is currently operating just the one flight to Basel, where previously they had four.

Boarding is by seat rows from the back of the plane and takes a lot longer to ensure there are no queues in the air bridge or in the cabin. KLM strictly enforces the use of face masks on its flights, and it is stated at the time of booking and in the confirmation e-mail that passengers without a mask will not be admitted to the flight.

The Crew

There are two cabin crew, one female and one male. I think it’s quite obvious they’re making an effort to appear as though this flight is business as usual, and I think they deserve a lot of credit for trying to do a good job in seriously adverse conditions. But I’m not sure it’s working. Because the atmosphere on board is subdued. Passengers are wary and tense, as though they’d much rather be somewhere else.

The Cabin

There is one row of Business Class on today’s flight, and the forward toilet is reserved for the crew only. All passengers are required to use the toilet in the rear of the aircraft.

The Meal

The flight time is one hour. As this is a lunchtime service, every passenger in Economy is given a small box with a packaged half of a cheese sandwich, a biscuit and some water. In addition to that, there is a separate drinks service from the trolley.

While I applaud KLM for their effort to maintain a standard level of service in these strange times, I think on such a short flight they might as well do away with the service for the time being. Either that, or they should provide disinfectant wipes to passengers. From what I can tell, not that many passengers actually touch the food.

I stash mine away to eat when I get to the hotel.

Arrival

We land in Amsterdam on time. There’s definitely a lot more traffic here than there was in Basel, but it’s still a far cry from what it used to be like not so long ago. What’s more, there are aircraft parked everywhere. And obviously they’re there for long term storage. It’s really quite sad to see.

At least since my last visit the construction of the new A pier at Amsterdam has progressed quite a lot, although I still don’t quite get what the final layout of the building will be.

Our flight pulls up to a stand at the B pier. The weather in Amsterdam is atrocious. It’s raining and much cooler than Basel.

There aren’t many passengers in the terminal, and most of the shops appear to be closed. Half the luggage belts in the arrivals hall are turned off permanently.

Conclusion

I must say, this flight today has been quite an eye opener. As I previously mentioned, I was already aware of the disastrous consequences the events of the last few months have had on the airline industry. But seeing the devastation up close from the passenger’s perspective is sobering and really quite depressing.

It is difficult to assess the current situation without coming across as being overly pessimistic. But right now, things are really not looking very good for the airline industry – despite the significant rescue packages some of them have received from their governments and the slow resumption of flights. It is common wisdom in the industry that the airlines earn most of their money during the peak summer months. What they don’t manage to earn during that period, they will not be able to recover in the slower winter season.

KLM Cityhopper, Business Class – Embraer 190: Basel to Amsterdam

Introduction

This year, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is celebrating its centenery – one hundred years of continuous service under the same name and brand, making it the oldest airline in the world. This year, British Airways also decided it was time for a celebration, although somehow, that seems a bit like cheating, seeing as today’s British Airways wasn’t set up until 1974.

To be honest, I would have liked my KLM jubliee post to be something a bit more grand than just a short hop from Basel to Amsterdam. Perhaps a long-haul trip with the Queen of the skies, or so. Alas, the powers that be decided it was not meant to be. Even so, I didn’t want to ignore the Dutch jubliee entirely. And so, here you go: this one’s for KLM, happy birthday! You’re looking good at 100!

Getting to the Airport

My day begins very, very early. The flight to Amsterdam departs at 06:20, which has me taking the 04:55 departure of the bus line 50 from the main railway station to the airport.

The bus arrives at the airport at 05:09. The check-in area and security are already very busy processing the first bank of departures.

Luckily, my Air France Platinum status gives me access to the fast track for security, which is not quite so busy as the line for Economy Class.

The KLM flights usually depart from gate 18, which is in the Schengen area of the airport. And that‘s a good thing, because the queue for the non-Schengen gates is endless!

By 05:18 I‘m through security and on my way to the lounge. The place is still fairly calm. I get myself a coffee, find a quiet corner and slowly start to wake up…

Boarding

Boarding for the flight starts at 05:55 and is a somewhat chaotic affair. I don‘t think anybody quite knows what‘s going on. Initially there is just one queue. But then at some point a second one opens to speed up boarding. And then a while later, more or less as an after thought, one of the gate agents opens up a third queue for SkyPriority passengers, which is a bit pointless at this stage.

The Cabin

I‘m sitting on 1F, which is the bulkhead row, so seat pitch is very good. On the Embraer 190 stowage space is never an issue because there are two large cupboards up front.

The flight is busy but not completely full. By the time boarding finishes, the seat next to me is still empty. I think that‘s the one thing I really don‘t like with KLM. Even on the Cityhopper flights I think they should keep the adjacent seat empty in Business Class By default. That‘s something Lufthans does better, for a change.

Outside it‘s still dark. Overnight the rain has set in again.

The flight time is announced as one hour and five minutes. We take off in a northerly direction. The first stages of the flight is quite bumpy, as we ascend higher through layer after layer of thick cloud.

The Meal

As soon as the crew is released, the breakfast service begins. Okay, so the delivery in a cardboard box may not be an expression of the highest sophistiction, but then again you don‘t eat the cardboard, do you?

Breakfast is a nicely balanced meal consisting of a bowl of fruit, yoghurt and Müsli, egg salad, bread and butter, and a selection of Dutch cheese and cold meat.

To drink I have a coffee and orange juice.

Arrival

Sooner than expected we‘re already descending towards Amsterdam. The many greenhouses below produce a strange effect and illuminate the sky in a bright and unnatural looking yellow light.

Eventually we land 20 minutes ahead of schedule. The weather in Amaterdam is even more atrocious than it was in Basel. It‘s cold, windy and wet.

By the time the bus ejects me at the terminal, it‘s 07:30. I have one hour to go before my connecting flight. I can‘t be bothered with the lounge, which is in the opposite direction to pier B, from where my flight will be leaving. So instead I browse through the shops without the intention of buying anything.

KLM Cityhopper, Economy Class – Fokker 70: curtain call

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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.

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The Skyview 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…

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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.

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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.

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The 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. 

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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.

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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!

http://news.klm.com/the-fokker-70s-final-commercial-flights/

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KLM, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-800: Copenhagen to Amsterdam

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Introduction

Time to head back home to the sweltering heat and humidity that is summer in Switzerland. Still, it was nice to escape the heat for a few days and the forecast is that the weather will start to cool down again over central Europe anyway in a few days.

Getting to the Airport

The journey by train from Malmö to Copenhagen airport takes thirty minutes to complete and will set you back SEK150 for a second class, one way ticket. The trains run frequently and are quite reliable.

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I arrive at Copenhagen airport and the escalators taking me up from the platform spit me out right in the middle of Terminal 3. You know those moments we’ve probably all had, when you look at something and just think ‘what on earth were they thinking…’? That is very likely to happen to you at Copenhagen airport. Terminal 3 is the railway and metro station, Star Alliance check-in and arrivals all in one. As a result, the place is always crawling with people and it’s hard to get through, even if you’re not dragging a suitcase behind you.

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But at least the airport authorities have identified the problem and both Terminals 2 and 3 are currently in the process of expansion, making the airport look more like a building site than an aviation hub.

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Check-in

KLM operates out of Terminal 2 in Copenhagen. I’ve already checked in using the KLM app for the flight, so upon entering the terminal I can go straight through to security.

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KLM status cardholders are entitled to use the Fast Track at Copenhagen airport, which really is convenient as the lines for standard security are very busy.

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The Lounge

KLM uses the CPH Aviator Lounge, which is a contractor lounge. The lounge is divided into two areas. The larger area is to the left and looks very crowded. To the right there is separate lounge, which is slightly smaller and much quieter. It also has good views of the apron.

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The lounge is nice and the interior decorators were definitely tapping into that whole Scandinavian design vibe when designing it. There’s even a fake fireplace and mantle piece.

The food options are good too, with a wide selection of breakfast options – things like cold cuts, cheese, different types of bread and pastries.

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Boarding

Boarding starts slightly behind schedule. Apparently the aircraft was already late coming in and with the full load on the in- and outbound, turning around is taking longer than anticipated.

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The Crew

I think this is the first time I have a crew that isn’t up to the usual KLM standards. It was bound to happen one day… One of the things that always strikes me about KLM is the professionalism of their crew and the level of standardisation they achieve in their on board product. But today’s crew just seem a bit out of it. The purser is more or less improvising with the delivery of the safety on board instructions and it shows. Which rather unfortunate of course, because if even the crew can’t be bothered enough to deliver the instructions properly and conscientiously, they can hardly expect the passengers to take them seriously…

Later on, once the service begins, the lady on the first row of Economy Class asks for a Coke with ice, to which the flight attendant initially replies that he has Coke but no ice. Later on though he does bring her to Coke with ice from the Business Class trolley, which gives the impression that he couldn’t be bothered initially but then changed his mind.

But at least the views outside are nice.

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The Meal

With a flight time of only one hour, the service consists of a small box containing a piece of buttery cake and a cup of still water. In addition, the crew make a separate drinks round.

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Arrival

Eventually we land at 13:20, with a few minutes delay. A while back Amsterdam overtook Frankfurt in terms of passenger numbers and to be honest, I think it’s starting to show. The terminal is seriously overcrowded and the C dock is definitely not wide enough to accommodate all the passengers passing through it. We shall see what happens.

Conclusion

Perhaps I am being persnickety (to use one of the favourite words of the valiant M.) in my criticism of the KLM crew on this flight, and I’m aware of the fact that none of the things they did and that I mentioned in this post are overly bad. I’ve certainly experienced much worse on other airlines. I think it’s just that, having gotten used to their reliable service over the years, it comes as a bit of a surprise to be confronted with a crew that is not up to the usual standard I’ve grown accustomed to from KLM.

KLM Cityhopper, Economy Class – Fokker 70: Billund to Amsterdam

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Date: 17 July 2016
Departure: 14:40
Arrival: 15:40
Flight time: 1 hour
Seat: 5F, window on the starboard side

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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.

Walking to the Airport

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.

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Check-in

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.

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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!

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The King Amlet Lounge

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.

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Boarding

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.

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The 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.

The Crew

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.

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The Meal

Type of meal: Afternoon snack

  1. Wrap with hummus, mint and lemon
  2. Still water
  3. Any other hot or cold drinks from the trolley
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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.

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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.

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KLM City Hopper, Economy Class – Embraer ERJ-190: Mont de Marsan to Basel via Amsterdam

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Introduction

It’s Friday and I’ve just completed another course with my two colleagues in Mont de Marsan. Just in case you’re wondering, Mont de Marsan is a nice, sleepy little town roughly 80 minutes by car due south of Bordeaux. There is an airbase of the French Air Force in Mont de Marsan, but the facility is not open to civilian traffic, so Bordeaux is the closest airport for me to use.

Let’s start with a few pictures of Mont de Marsan, shall we?

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: rented car
Departure: Contis-Plage
Journey time: 90 minutes

The flight will not be departing for Amsterdam until 14:00, so we figure we might as well do a slight detour on our way to the airport and try to visit one of the many beautiful beaches along the French Atlantic coast. It’s a magnificent day and there isn’t a single cloud in the sky. We head for a place called Contis – Plage.

The holiday season has yet to begin in Contis, so the place is more or less deserted. The beach is simply amazing and stretches on endlessly. There are a few surfers around, but that’s just about it really.

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We spend about an hour in Contis before eventually heading back to Bordeaux. We arrive at the airport just after 12:00.

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Check-in

Location: On the second floor, above Arrivals. Check-in for the KLM flight to Amsterdam takes place in Hall B, presumably because this is the dedicated Air France area of the terminal. The boarding gate however, is located in Hall A.
Facilities: I’ve checked in using the KLM app. My boarding passes are uploaded to passbook directly as soon as I check in using the KLM app.
Counters: Obviously, with this being Air France country, there are plenty of self-service kiosks, baggage drop counters and a SkyPriority counter available in Hall B.

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The security check is quickly done, there aren’t many people queuing. Immediately behind security there is a café with some good views of the apron and the active runway. Not that there’s really that much traffic to see here.

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I decide to have a cheese sandwich and a canelé – after all I haven’t had lunch yet! A canelé is a sweet from this region. It’s a small cake type thing with cinnamon and some sort of alcohol. And it’s really quite tasty.

The Lounge

Location: The appropriately named ‘Airport Lounge’ is located right behind security, next to the gate area for the A gates. Access to the lounge is via an access code for the door, which can only be obtained at check-in.
Type facility: This is a contract lounge, which is operated by the same company which runs the café outside. There is one toilet in the lounge. And it is likely to be one of the busiest bogs in all of France.
Internet: Apparently there is wifi. However, the corresponding sign looks as though it was printed many moons ago and indeed, when I try to access the internet, none of my devices are actually capable of locating or identifying a network.

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The lounge is not very well stocked either. As you enter the lounge, there is a table on the left with the food options, if you want to call them that. Essentially it’s just a basket with some prepacked, processed and very unhealthy food and a lone croissant, which looks as though it’s been waiting there to be devoured since the morning of the day before. On the right hand side there is a coffee machine and a fridge with soft drinks.

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Boarding

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2
Pitch: 31 inches
Width: 17 inches

I rather like the cabin of the Embraer ERJ-190. Compared to the Fokker F 70 it has much cleaner and simpler lines. The aircraft just looks newer. Even so, there’s one area in which the Embraer simply can’t touch the Fokker 70: the seat on the Embraer is very uncomfortable. The main problem is that the seats seem to be lower above the ground. As a result, your legs are never really comfortable, and neither is your back. By the time we arrive in Amsterdam my coccyx feels all sore.

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I’m sitting in the last row of the bus today, on 26F. As far as I’m concerned this seat is as good as any other. The pitch is sufficient and they have even left room behind the seat to allow you to recline the seatback.

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The Crew

There are two female flight attendants on this flight. I’ve already had the pleasure before with the one standing by the entrance to the aircraft. The young lady in the back is friendly as well. What strikes me about her is that she has immaculate make up, with a lipstick that not only complements her features very well but also goes rather nicely with the colours of the uniform and the smidges of orange on the scarf.

The Meal

I’m still struggling to figure out KLM’s catering concept here. Whatever it may be though, I just want to make it clear that I’m certainly not complaining. What I’m trying to figure out, is when they serve you something proper to eat and when they just give you a choice of a sweet or savoury snack in a packet. Also, on the outbound leg we were offered a sandwich and a packet of Punselies biscuits for dessert. On the inbound however, there was just the sandwich but no Punselies.

  1. Sandwich of Gouda cheese with a mustard mayonnaise
  2. Coffee
  3. Still water
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The meal is very simple, but it serves its purpose well. I don’t really think there is anything much else to say about it.

Arrival

For the rest of the flight I spend my time gazing out the window. It really has turned into a beautiful day for flying. Our routing even takes us due west of Paris, and I can even make out Orly and Roissy airports.

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We land in a north-easterly direction on the runway adjacent to the Fokker farm. As a result, the taxi from touch down to our stand at gate B36 is very short.

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And with that another good flight with KLM comes to an end. I now have a layover of four hours before my onward connection to Basel, which I shall spend working in the lounge.

Epilogue

In Mont de Marsan I stayed at the Renaissance Hotel. It’s a three star facility but it’s probably the best location in the entire town. I enjoyed staying here. The rooms are comfortable and clean and the bed is tremendously comfortable. What’s more, the hotel has a huge garden right next to a large pond.

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KLM, Economy Class – B 737-900: Lisbon to Amsterdam

Folie1
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Introduction

I arrived back in Lisbon on Friday evening from Ponta Delgada. Although technically speaking it was already early Saturday morning by the time we landed in Lisbon. And so now what? Well, to be honest I’d love to say I’m finally on my way home again. But I’m afraid that isn’t entirely true. I am in fact about to fly from Lisbon via Amsterdam back to Basel, where I live. But I’ll only be there for about thirteen hours. On Sunday morning I’m heading back for Amsterdam and then on to give another a course. Perhaps you’re wondering what important business calls me back to Basel so urgently that I decided not to fly straight form Lisbon to Warsaw?

Well, it’s quite simple really: I need to wash some clothes!

Check-in

Hey guess what, KLM actually reads my blog! I know because they twittered me to let me know. While they were at it, they also reminded me to get in touch if ever I needed their help. As luck will have it, looks like that ever has arrived: I’m travelling with a colleague from work. We’re booked on different PNRs. At the time we booked the flights we were able to sit together. But since then there’s been an aircraft change and the flight is now being operated by a Boeing B 737-900. While I still have my original seat, my colleague does not. And I can’t change my seat any more.

But all of this is nothing to despair about. So I tweet KLM to ask them for help. And indeed, next thing I know I receive an email from them informing me that my colleague and I have been assigned seats together.

The down side is that we’re now sitting on row 32, which is I believe the penultimate row from the back. But that’s alright. After all it’s not every day you get to travel on a Boeing B 737-900.

Fortunately, I’m only travelling with hand luggage. The queue for the Air France/KLM check-in looks endless when we arrive at the airport. Having said that, the TAP Air Portugal queue is even worse. Much worse.

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So I decide to head straight for security and the lounge. The queue is quite long here too, but at least it’s moving quite fast. In my previous post I mentioned just how nice the guys at security in Lisbon are. Well, today while I’m standing behind security putting my stuff in my back in my bag, suddenly one of the security guys comes up to me and says ‘Hello, you again’! Seriously? I ask him how on earth he recognised me and he simply points to the ICAO sticker on my suitcase. He then wishes me a safe journey and goes back to his station.

I think I should perhaps take this as some divine sign. You’re probably already flying just a bit too much when the cabin crew start recognising you from previous flights. But when the guys at security even start to remember you’re face, you’re definitely pushing it.

The Lisbon Lounge

In Lisbon KLM uses the Lisbon lounge, which is operated by Lisbon airport, if I’m not mistaken. I rather like the lounge. It may not be quite as flashy and stylish as the TAP Portugal lounge, but it’s certainly quieter and a lot more spacious. Moreover, it’s the first airport lounge I’ve ever been to that has painted underpants hanging on the walls in the guise of what presumably should be art… Oh yes, and there’s free wifi as well.

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Boarding

About half an hour before departure I leave the lounge and walk the short distance to gate 15, from there my flight will be leaving. And indeed, a little while after I arrive, boarding begins.

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The Cabin

According to the Holland Herald, the KLM inflight magazine, maximum seating on the Boeing B 737-900 is only eight more than on the -800. Even so, this seems like an awfully long plane.

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Eventually the cabin fills up nearly completely, with only a few seats here and there left empty. Even this far back the seat pitch is perfectly adequate and even though I’m sitting in between two big guys, there’s still enough space for me.

Take-off is to the south-west. And I rather like it. It’s a powerful and noise affair.

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The Crew

To be honest, I think I’ve been travelling a little too much lately. I say this because I don’t really notice anything much about the service on this particular flight. Except perhaps that there’s a young couple with a baby in the seat row in front of me and the cabin crew take very good care of them.

The Meal

I can’t really comment on the taste of the meal either because I didn’t have much. The meal consists of a rectangular piece of pizza. It looks very greasy, and from what I can tell from the passengers sitting around me, the cardboard box the pizza is served in has a nasty habit of going all soggy from the grease and merging with the food into one huge globule of goo. But my colleague confirms that apparently the taste is okay. It must be, because eventually he even ends up eating my slice as well.

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The cabin crew come to collect the rubbish before doing a second drinks round with coffee and dessert. The latter consists of a piece of square chocolate cake with a bit of crumble on it. It’s not a bad dessert actually.

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Shortly before landing the crew does another drinks run, and also offers a selection of sweets snacks to choose from.

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Arrival

All in all the flight passes quickly and before long we’re already descending into Amsterdam.

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We land on runway 18C, which means rather a short taxi to our stand on the D gates. It’s now 19:30. In exactly 24 hours I shall be back in Amsterdam, boarding another flight. To be honest, right now this has stopped being fun…

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KLM City Hopper, Economy Class – Fokker F 70: Basel to Amsterdam

Introduction

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.

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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.

Check-in

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?

The Skyview Lounge

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!

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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!

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Boarding

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.

The Cabin

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.

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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.

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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.

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The Crew

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.

The Meal

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.

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Arrival

Shortly after the rubbish has been removed, we begin our descent into Amsterdam.

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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.

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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.

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Epilogue

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.

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KLM, Economy Class – B 737-700: Zürich to Amsterdam

Introduction

I’ve decided to make the best of the long weekend ahead of the 1. May, which is a public holiday in Switzerland. But where to go? For quite a while I’ve been entertaining the thought of taking the Korean Air flight from Madrid to Amsterdam. While still deliberating where to go for the long weekend it emerges that Korean Air will be ending its Madrid to Amsterdam service in favour of serving both destinations with separate direct flights from Seoul. Perhaps this is something they usually do for the summer season. In any case, the decision is taken from me it seems and I book myself to fly on 1 May 2012 with Korean Air, the last day of operation of the service.

And how do I get to Madrid? Feeling an urgent compulsion to try out a further new airline, I do a bit of exploring and experimenting on the net and eventually settle for a flight with KLM from Zürich to Amsterdam – nothing new there – and from there with Air Europa to Madrid. This trip review is about the first part of the trip and covers the journey from Zürich to Amsterdam.

Date: Friday, 27 April 2012
From: Zürich
To: Amsterdam
Airline: KLM
Aircraft: Boeing B 737-700
Class: Economy Class
Seat: 10B, middle seat – later move to 11A, window

Getting to the Airport

Things are quiet today in the office. It looks like others have the same idea and have already left for the long week-end. At 15:30 I call it a day, pack my things and leave the office for the airport. I catch the train at 15:55 and by 16:10 my train pulls into the station at Zürich Airport. My flight is not until 19:30 so I head for the observation deck, which I still have not visited since the new dock opened in December 2011. The entrance fee is ChF5.- and there are lockers to but your bags in.

It has turned warm and sunny again here, after three weeks solid of the most god awful weather. As soon as I step outside on to the terrace, I feel like I’ve just gone through a time warp and I realise just how much I have missed being out here. I think of the many hours I spent here as a kid, watching planes from around the world coming and going!

The new dock is very nice, I must say. There are these screens in front of every airbridge, providing information on the aircraft parked at that particular gate. There is also a huge playground, which is well frequented and evidently very popular with the kids. And there are the aircraft themselves of course, which you can get quite close to on the deck.

The Lounge

I spend quite some time outside. Then at around 18:00 I head inside to collect my things and pass through security. From there I head to the Skyteam lounge for a drink before my flight.

Boarding

There really is not very much to say about the KLM flight. It’s another solid performance. Yes, I know I’m biased. I just really like KLM. Boarding starts right on time but the Swissport agent handling the flight makes a complete dog’s breakfast of the whole process.
but eventually we manage and I am on board.

The Cabin

I have the middle seat on the emergency exit. Once boarding is completed though, I notice that the row behind me only has a female subject sitting on the aisle reading a book, and evidently, and it is quite unimaginable for me, she is completely uninterested in looking out the window. So I collect my things and move one row back to claim the window seat. The middle seat stays empty, so I have just as much space as on the exit row.

For sure the Embraer I normally travel on with KLM is a nifty little plane, and the 2 + 2 configuration is quite convenient for the passenger in terms of comfort. But somehow, sitting here and glancing out at the wing of the B737 I must confess that I find the larger size of the Boeing far more appealing. The whole thing just seems more solid and, well…big.

As usual take-off is from runway 28.

The Meal

The meal is the standard drink run you get on KLM with a choice of a sweet or savory snack. Coffee and tea are served at the same time due to the short duration of the flight.

Arrival

All in all it really is a pleasantly uneventful flight and before long we’re already flying through the clouds again on our descent into Amsterdam.

We arrive in Amsterdam a few minutes ahead of schedule. I pass through customs and make a beeline for the CitizenM at the airport, where I will spend the night before my onward journey to Madrid on Air Europa the next day.