Transavia, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-700: Amsterdam to Palma

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Date: 18. June 2016
From: Amsterdam
To: Palma
Departure: 06:30
Arrival: 08:40
Flight time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Seat: 12A, window on the port side

Pmi

Introduction

The meeting ends in the early afternoon on Friday. My friend, the wiry R. will be returning to Zürich by KLM this evening. So we still have a few hours to kill. So we spend the last few hours walking around Amsterdam. We even find the time to have an excellent afternoon tea at De Backerswinkel, an idyllic spot set among the dildo shops and gay leather bars of old Amsterdam.

Getting to the Airport

It is Saturday morning and I awake just after four o’clock. Last night I slept at the CitizenM at Amsterdam airport, which is located roughly five minutes away on foot from the terminal complex. Outside everything is still fairly quiet.

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Check-in

Location: Departure concourse 1, rows 3 to 5.
Facilities: Check-in is available online, at the self-service machines at the airport or at the counter.

According to the Transavia website, the price to check-in a suitcase of up to 15 kilos is EUR21 if you pay in advance, or EUR32 if you pay at the airport – which is why I decided to pay the EUR21 at the time of booking. However, what the website does not tell you, is that if – like me – you are travelling with a slightly oversized carry-on, it will be taken from you at the gate and transported in the hold free of charge. If I had known, I think I would not have bothered.

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The KLM Crown Lounge

Location: On the upper level of the transit area, where the D concourse branches off from the main terminal complex.
Type of Lounge:
KLM Crown Lounge.
Facilities:
Toilets and showers are available in the lounge. There are also computer work stations available.
Catering: Catering in the lounge is fair and there is a good breakfast spread laid out with cheese, cold cuts, bread, cereals and fruit.
Internet:
Wifi is available throughout the lounge. You need to provide your family name to access the network.

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Flying Blue Gold and Platinum members are entitled to use the KLM Crown Lounge on all scheduled Transavia flights that are operated as a code-share with KLM. Charter flights are not eligible.

The lounge is pretty empty when I arrive. The television is on and CNN is blaring away in the background, with Amanpour giving us another rendition of the crap that is alleged to be investigative journalism.

Boarding

Boarding is from gate D63. There is no priority boarding as such, except for families travelling with small children, of which there seem to be copious amounts on this morning’s flight.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 3 + 3 in an Economy Class only configuration. The aircraft has a seating capacity of 149.
Seat: On Transavia’s Boeing B 737-700 the emergency exit is located on row twelve. The seat is fairly comfortable and has sufficient padding to make the flight pleasant enough on the rump. There does not appear to be any inflight entertainment system on board this aircraft and there are no power outlets either.

The price for the emergency exit row is EUR10 per person and can be reserved at the time of booking or later on. Personally, I think they are EUR10 wisely invested as the pitch on row 12 is excellent. I can even stretch out my legs comfortably for a trip to Noddy land.

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The Meal

There are three female cabin crew on this flight and all three of them are really excellent. They are very friendly, joking and fooling around with the little ones on the plane to keep them entertained.

Service on Transavia is buy on board. The selection is good and includes a fairly wide range of drinks and snacks, mostly sandwiches, muffins etc. The prices are also okay. I order a medium sized Nescafe Cappuccino and a Dutch biscuit with a tasty almond filling, which sets me back EUR4. I think that is quite good actually. The crew pass through the cabin with the food trolley once the seatbelt sign goes off, but you can purchase food and drinks throughout the flight.

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Arrival

The flight time to Palma is two hours and ten minutes according to the cabin crew. But the time passes quickly, mainly due to the fact that I manage to get a solid hour’s sleep.

The weather en route is pretty bad and only clears up just before we reach the island. By the time we land, the temperature is already a balmy 19 degrees Celsius.

And once again, I am in luck and we deplane via the stairs and not an airbridge. What’s more, they have also attached stairs to the rear door, giving me loads of opportunities to take pictures of the Boeing 737’s rather sexy looking stabilizer.

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The terminal is crawling with people and the aircraft just keep landing one after the other. My suitcase arrives pretty quickly though. But then I reach the Europcar counter and things start going south. They use a numbering system to queue. I have a ticket with the number 70, but they are still only just serving customer number 24. I figure to myself that surely it cannot possibly take that long to process the forty-six customers before me… So I wait. I go for a stroll around the arrivals and departure area. I read in my Kindle. I go to the loo – repeatedly – but no matter what happens, the Europcar queue is really moving so slowly it hurts. Eventually, it takes me three hours for my number finally to be called.

Conclusion

All in all, I rather liked Transavia. First of all, the crew was excellent. Secondly, they somehow lack the look and feel of a low cost carrier. My only complaint really, is the departure time. Something a bit more civilised would have been nice. But perhaps that has more to do with the destination and not the carrier.

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

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Date: 15 June 2016
From: Zürich
To: Amsterdam
Departure:
17:35
Arrival: 19:00
Flight time: 1 hour and 25 minutes
Seat: 1A, window on the post side

Ams

Introduction

Today I am on my way to Amsterdam for a meeting on Thursday and Friday. This time, I am travelling with my colleague, the wiry R., who quite apparently does not at all share my passion for aeroplanes.

Check-in

We have both checked in using the KLM app. When the new app was launched, there were a few teething problem, especially when it came to ‘printing’ the boarding pass for Passbook. But those seem to have been overcome and the app is very reliable these days.

Generally speaking, advanced seat selection is possible on all KLM flights, even in Economy Class, and the website works very well, providing a good and detailed seatmap. Some seats on the seatmap are marked in orange or yellow. Orange marks the Economy Comfort seats with greater pitch, while yellow marks the extra legroom seats such as the emergency exit row. Flying Blue Platinum members can select any seat they like free of charge. Gold members pay a reduced rate to obtain an orange or yellow seat. All other passengers must pay the full price, which may vary, for one of these seats.

Once that is done and we are airside, we decide to forfeit the questionable luxury of the Aspire lounge for a visit to the Sprüngli airside café. In case you have not heard the name before, Sprüngli is a Swiss chocolatier. The stuff they produce is really excellent but very rich. Just one of their pralines is enough to make you put on 5 kilos just from looking at it and will probably send some people into a sugar coma – but what a way to go!

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The Sprüngli café is located on the upper level of the Airside Centre, just after security and the obligatory duty free shop. If you want to try out what Sprüngli has on offer without breaking the bank, I can highly recommend a café au lait and a Truffe du jour.

Boarding

Oh happy day, the mighty airline geek Gods look upon me with favouring eyes today! Yes, we are boarding from gate B08. Okay, admittedly B08 is definitely in the remotest possible corner to the terminal complex, but it is a bus gate. I find it so much more exciting to board the aircraft via stairs because it brings you face to face with the beast you will be flying in. Sorry, I think I’m dribbling…

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 – with an empty middle seat
Seat:
Obviously, the bulkhead row offers the greatest leg space. If you prefer an aisle seat, you should definitely go with 1D on the starboard side instead of 1C on the port side. The latter partially protrudes into the aisle, which means you are more likely to have people brushing against you on their way to the loo or galley.
Pitch: 33 inches in Business Class and Economy Comfort (rows 1 to 6), 30 inches in Economy Class (from row 7 on)
Width: 17 inches
Facilities: 110 AC power outlet at every seat

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The Meal

  1. Honeyed goat cheese balls with a greek salad
  2. Waldorf salad
  3. Pina Colada cream with crumble and lime
  4. Selection form the bread basket
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Either there have been cost cuts at KLM or the cabin attendant working the Business Class cabin really could not give a shit – if you’ll pardon my French. He is definitely friendly and chatty, so I kind of suspect the former is the case.

If I am not mistaken, previously you used to get a hot towel before the meal, which was always nice and helped get rid of the grime on your hands from travelling. This is no longer the case. Furthermore, I ask for sparkling water with the meal. Where previously KLM used to give you a whole can of Perrier, this time I am only given a glass just the one glass and I have no idea what brand of water it is. And finally, after the meal I ask for a coffee which quickly arrives – but without those really tasty Punselies caramel biscuits.

Arrival

The flight passes surprisingly quickly. Our approach into Amsterdam is rather bumpy, but I am just glad they have brought us in on runway 18C, which is the central one of the three parallel runways and within a reasonable taxiing distance to the terminal.

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KLM, Business Class – Boeing B 737-900: Barcelona via Amsterdam to Basel

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Transfer in Barcelona

I just arrived in Barcelona on the Singapore Airlines flight from Sao Paolo. We arrived in at 07h40, fifty minutes ahead of schedule. And I now have until 13h20 to make my connection to Amsterdam and then Basel on KLM.

The Pau Casals Lounge

Location: In the Schengen area, on the far right as you come down the escalators from security. The lounge is one floor up from the main airside area.
Type of Lounge:
Premium Traveller contractor lounge.
Facilities:
Toilets and showers available in the lounge, workstations, dining area.
Catering: Limited selection of cold breakfast dishes, like bread with puréed raw tomato and olive oil.
Internet:
Free wifi is provided by the airport authority.

I need a shower to wake me up. For EUR10.- you can buy a set of one towel, shower gel and shampoo and a pair of slippers at reception. The shower is clean and spacious. However, there is no toilet in the shower room.

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Boarding

Boarding begins with the gate attendant announcing that the flight to Amsterdam will be rather full today. Therefore, oversized baggage will have to go into the hold. Fortunately, being a Platinum member I will not to hand in my suitcase, which is good because I only have a short connection in Amsterdam.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2, in Business Class the middle seat is kept empty.
Seat: Originally I am seated on 6A, but then I am upgraded to 1F in Business Class. However, once I board the plane, there is a girl sitting on 1D and her dad is on 1C. Apparently, the girl would like to sit next to the window. So I suggest swapping places with her dad so they can sit together on 1D and 1F, while I take 1C. Admittedly, my motives are not all together innocent. If you are seated on 1C on the B 737-900, you call fully stretch out your legs without getting in anybody’s way.
Pitch: 33 inches
Width: 17 inches
Facilities: 110V ac power port at every seat.

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The Crew

The service is typically KLM. No more, no less. All of the cabin crew are female and there is a good mix of older and more experienced cabin crew and some fresh young ones too.

The Meal

Towel before the meal: Hot towel served after take-off.
Choice:
There is a choice of chicken or pasta.
Delivery:
Trolley service
Type of meal:
Lunch

  1. Mixed salad.
  2. Ricotta Tortellini with Zucchini, Bechamel and tomato sauce.
  3. Selection from the breadbasket.
  4. Something sweet with cherries.
  5. Tea or coffee.

Strangely enough, the food on the tray is not entirely what is says on the menu that is distributed by the crew. Apparently, the salad should have been something with mozzarella balls. But it makes not difference, the salad is good enough as it is.

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Inevitably, one the meal is over I drop off to sleep immediately. I am just so tired.

Arrival

Oh crap! As we approach Amsterdam the weather starts to deteriorate. In fact, it is so bad that spacing between arriving aircraft has to be increased. And indeed, it really is a very bumpy ride into Amsterdam. By the time we arrive and dock at the terminal it is 16h03 and we are parked at the C dock. My onward flight to Basel departs at 16h20 from the B dock and boarding is expected to close in two minutes. Run Forest, run…!

But I actually make it. Fortunately, the aircraft is parked at the gate and not on a remote stand. Otherwise I doubt it KLM would have left the bus waiting just for me. There has also been an aircraft change, and instead I shall by flying on an Embraer 190 instead of the usual Fokker F 70.

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I board the aircraft, take my seat and buckle up. And then I drop off to sleep again. I do not notice us taxiing out or taking off. Nothing. The next time I open my eyes, we are just turning off the runway after our arrival in Basel. It is so good to be home!

British Airways, Club World – Boeing B 747-400: Kuwait to London and Amsterdam

BA KWI

Introduction

The conference in Kuwait has gone well and our host, the Kuwaiti Directorate General of Civil Aviation has been very generous and hospitable. But now it is time for me to move on. I am not quite going home yet, but near enough. Today I am flying to Amsterdam via London’s Heathrow airport on British Airways, to attend a meeting in Amsterdam. On this occasion, British Airways offered the best schedule for my needs, mainly because they are one of the few airlines that depart Kuwait for Europe during the daylight hours of the morning and not at some ungodly hour, as for example KLM and Lufthansa do. Admittedly, the opportunity to get another flight on the mighty Boeing B 747-400 helped too.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Complimentary hotel shuttle.
Journey time: Roughly 30 minutes, depending on traffic.

My flight leaves Kuwait at 08h45, so I have arranged to have a car collect me at the Hilton at 06h00, which should be enough time to make the journey to the airport. The traffic in Kuwait can be rather bad, despite the very good and wide roads.

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Check-in

Location: Check-in area 4 on the first floor.
Facilities: Online and web check-in are available.
Counters: There is one counter for First Class passengers, two counters for Business Class passengers and four counters for Economy Class.

The driver drops me off in front of check-in area 4, which apparently is where British Airways checks in, although from what I can tell there is no signage to enlighten you to the fact. The departure concourse is only accessible to passengers, although by the looks of it there is nobody checking to make sure that this policy is enforced.

The two Business Class counters are occupied when I arrive, so I am ushered to one of the free Economy Class counters instead. The agent labels my bags with a priority and short connection tag and then I am on my way.

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Behind check-in the bad signage continues. There is a dedicated security check for First and Business Class passengers, but it takes me a moment to locate where the entrance is. I am not sure what the point of this check is, given that the alarm goes off as I pass through the gate and nobody in particular seems to care. In fact, the guy doing the check is not even looking at the screen as my hand luggage goes through. I am hoping there will be a more thorough check before the gate.

Behind security is immigration and then, finally I am airside.

The Lounge

Location: As you exit from immigration, turn left.
Type of Lounge:
Pearl contractor lounge.
Facilities:
Hot and cold buffet, toilets are available but not shower.
Internet:
Free wifi is provided throughout the terminal.

The lounge is nothing special. It is large enough, but other than that the décor is rather bland and boring. The seats are covered is fake leather. There are a few waiters in the lounge, so you can either help yourself from the buffet or have them serve you at your table. Incidentally, the food in the lounge is absolutely atrocious.

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Boarding

About an hour before departure I have had enough of the boring lounge, and so I decide to head to the gate and hopefully take some pictures of the aircraft carrying me away to London. Kuwait airport has closed gates and I am happy to see that there is a proper security check at the entrance to the gate. The staff are polite but meticulous. There is a separate queue for Business Class and First Class passengers to enter the lounge.

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It is only just gone eight in the morning when boarding for the flight already starts. I am still collecting my stuff after the security check. So I attempt to take a few decent pictures of the aircraft, which is not an easy task given the general grubbiness of the windows. And then I step aboard the mighty Boeing 747-400 and head for my seat on the upper deck.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 on the upper deck, 2 + 4 + 2 on the main deck, there are 72 seats in total in Business Class.
Seat: 63J, aisle seat. The British Airways cabin configuration in Business Class has seats arranged in pairs, with the aisle seats on the upper deck facing forward and the window seats facing towards the rear. There is a privacy screen which can be raised after take-off, so you will not have to look at your seat companion’s face for the duration of the flight.

If you are seated by the window, keep in mind that you will have to climb over the person sitting on the aisle seat, which can be a tad awkward given that the space is really tight and you have to be quite agile to get a leg over. The nice thing about 63J, is that it is an emergency exit, which provides extra leg space and means you will not have a complete stranger clambering over you during the flight.

To be honest, the BA seat has never truly convinced me. Obviously the idea with this seat had been to recreate the feeling of being at home in your own comfortable armchair. And if that was the objective, then I think it is safe to say it was met. However, the seat is fairly low above the ground and there are quite a few elderly passengers on my flight who struggle getting in and out of the seat. It is also a bit inconvenient for eating in the seat.
Pitch: 72 inches.
Width: 20 inches.
Audio and Video: Audio and video on demand, touch screen.
Facilities: A 110 ac power outlet is available at every seat.

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The Crew

There are two cabin crew serving the upper deck. The service begins with a choice of still water or orange juice.

After take-off, the crew distribute the menus, vanity kits and a flimsy scented hot towel. The vanity kit contains the usual creams by Elemis. There are also eyeshades, socks, a pen and a toothbrush with Colgate toothpaste.

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice.
Hot towel before the meal: Yes.
Pre-meal drink:
Choice:
There are two choices for the starter and four choices for the main course.
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.

  1. Strawberry and mango smoothie.
  2. Seasonal fruit.
  3. Bircher Müsli with strawberries, kiwi and walnuts.
  4. Selection from the breadbasket.
  5. Omelette, turkey bacon, Swiss cheese, vegetables, Rösti, and oven roasted tomato.
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The meal is delivered at a good tempo. There is no rush, but there are no long waits in between the courses either. Once everything has been cleared away, the lights go out and passengers are expected to pretend it is night time, despite the fact that the flight left Kuwait just before nine in the morning.

The Second Service

About fifty minutes out of Heathrow, the second service begins, which is a kind of slimmed down afternoon tea.
Choice: None.
Delivery: Trolley service.
Type of meal: Snack.

  1. Turkey pastrami with Dijon mustard and gherkin sandwich.
  2. Gherkin and roasted vegetables sandwich with cream cheese.
  3. A hot leek and potato twist.
  4. Trio of mango cheesecake, cherry Bakewell and chocolate and black cherry roulade.
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Transfer in London Heathrow

Eventually the mighty Jumbo dips its nose and we start on our descent into Heathrow. We are running twenty minutes early, and no delays are foreseen for our arrival. We disembark at the C satellite of Terminal 5.

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Transferring in Heathrow can be rather cumbersome. From the C satellite I head downstairs into the basement to catch the automated people mover to satellite B and the terminal. At the terminal you have to go through a passport check and then through security again. The process is very efficient. But with all the passengers currently using Terminal 5, it will still take you about fifteen minutes to get processed.

Once I am through security, I check the departure screen, only to find that my flight to Amsterdam will be departing from the B satellite. Which means I shall have to go down into the basement again to catch another train taking me back in the direction which I originally came from.

The Executive Club Lounge

Location: One floor up from the departures concourse, the stairs are near the Harrods store.
Type of Lounge:
British Airways Galleries lounge.
Facilities:
Hot and cold buffet with a large selection of food items, bar, toilets and showers, workstations, newspapers.
Internet:
Wifi is available, the password is indicated on the screens.

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I only have a short stay in the lounge before my flight shows up on the departure screen as ‘boarding’. It is going to be a full flight today. There are five rows of Business Class with a total of twenty seats, all of which are occupied.

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I will spare you all the details of the flight to Amsterdam, and will limit myself to the meal service.

The Meal

Hot towel before the meal: Yes.
Choice:
No.
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal:
Afternoon tea.

  1. Selection of finger sandwiches: egg, cheddar and chicken.
  2. A selection of plain scones and lemon and date scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve.
  3. Orange and hazelnut cake.
  4. Tea
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I just love BA’s European afternoon tea service, honestly. It is just so refined, especially when you are enjoying it above the clouds. And I must say, I really am impressed that Ba will even offer such a service, given that the flight time today is only 45 minutes.

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Eventually we land at 16h39 and my long journey comes to an end, at least for the time being.

Conclusion

British Airways is an airline I tend to forget about. I suspect a lot of that has to do with their hub at Heathrow airport. Heathrow is always fun and impressive to see, but the number of passengers moving through Terminal 5 is just too much. The facility is crowded, and moving from the main concourse to the satellites takes seemingly forever.

But apart from all that, the on board experience was rather nice. The food on both flights was very good and the crews were very professional. The only thing I think I really will never get used to, is the Business Class seat.

KLM, Business Class – Airbus A 330-200: Basel via Amsterdam to Kuwait

KL KWI

Introduction

Please don’t tell me it’s going to be another one of those trips… I am on my way to Kuwait to attend an ICAO meeting/workshop on the implementation of the language proficiency requirements. I am one of the speakers on Monday morning, so it is kind of important that I actually make it on to the flight to Kuwait this afternoon, it is just that I only notice on my way to the gate that I have left all my credit cards in my jeans, which are lying in the wash basket at home. But I think it it should be okay, I still have my bank card.

The flight to Amsterdam starts out all right. We line up on runway 15 for a departure in a southerly direction. The pilot pushes the throttle forward and for a moment we go rolling down the runway, before the aircraft starts to slow down again a moment later – rejected take-off! Apparently the auto throttle is not working properly. Eventually though, the system is rebooted (What ever happened to hands on flying…?!??!), we line up for departure a second time, and succeed in getting airborne.

Transfer in Amsterdam Schiphol

Despite the delay, we still manage to arrive at the gate in Amsterdam on time, at 12h35. The KLM City Hopper flights all use the B concourse. My onward flight will be at 14h25 from the E concourse in the non-Schengen part of the terminal. My first stop though, is at the TravelEx counter where the B and C concourses join up. I have ordered some Kuwaiti Dinar for collection at the airport.

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There is a bit of a hold up, because the money was accidentally deposited for me to collect at the landside counter in the Schiphol Plaza. Fortunately though, the staff are very accommodating and send somebody to bring me the money.

From there I pass through immigration and then on to the E concourse.

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Boarding

By this time it is already 13h22 and my flight to Kuwait is scheduled to start boarding at 13h40. So I figure there is hardly any point in me making the trek to the Crown Lounge above the F concourse. Besides, I am still way off from my target of daily steps. So instead I just walk to the end of the E concourse and then back. Occasionally stopping to take pictures of the aircraft parked at the gate.

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There is a separate lane for SkyPriority passengers, which essentially includes Business Class passengers as well as gold and platinum members.

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There is a trolley in the airbridge with a selection of Dutch and English language newspapers for passengers to help themselves.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 + 2. There are 30 seats in total in Business Class, with three rows forward of the L2 door and two rows aft of it.
Seat: KLM currently offers four different Business Class products on its wide-body fleet. There is the new fully horizontal life-flat which is installed on the Boeing B 747-400 and is now being introduced on the B 777-300. Then there is the angled lie-flat seat installed on the Airbus A 330-300. If I am not mistaken, this is pretty much the same seat Air France has too. The new B 787 will have the same seat as Cathay Pacific in Business Class. And finally of course, there is the old angled seat on the Airbus A 330-200, which is what I shall be travelling in today. This seat is really passed it. It is comfortable enough to lounge in but it can be a tad difficult to sleep in unless you really are completely exhausted. And there is next to no storage space.
Pitch: 60 inches.
Width: 20.5 inches.
Length as a bed: 75 inches, 30 degrees angled.
Facilities: The seat has a reading lamp in the overhead panel, in addition to a reading lamp installed in the seat itself. In addition, there is what KLM refers to as the ‘privacy hood’, which opens up from the top of the seat back to protect the guy sitting behind you from scrutinising your scalp too closely when the seat is in the fully extended position. A pillow and blanket have already been placed at every seat before the passengers board the aircraft. There is also a power port at every seat in Business Class.
Audio and Video: Noise cancelling earphones, 16 audio channels, audio and video on demand.
Screen size: 10.4 inches.

The flights is full in Business Class but rather empty in Economy Class. The purser even makes an announcement to this effect, asking passengers to refrain from moving until after we are airborne.

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The Crew

Once most of the passengers are seated, the crew distribute the vanity kits and welcome drinks. The menus are handed out after take-off. The crew are very attentive and make a point of addressing every passenger by their family name.

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Fresh orange juice. There is a choice of still water, orange juice, sparkling wine and Heineken.
Hot towel before the meal: Slightly scented hot towels are handed out, they are nice and thick and in much better quality than the ones on British Airways or Swiss.
Pre-meal drink:
Coke Zero. There is a choice of warm nuts or small cubes of Dutch cheese to go with the drinks.
Choice:
There are two choices for the starter, three for the main dish and four for dessert.
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal:
Late lunch.

The meal is very tasty, especially the salmon starter is excellent, and the portions are of a good size. By the time the meal ends, I am feeling decidedly full.

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The First Course

Marinated salmon and salmon mousse with pickled cucumber, turnip and basil cream with a dill vinaigrette.

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The Salad

Mixed salad with roast pumpkin seeds.

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The Main Course

Beef and beetroot meatballs with a herbed veal jus, smoked potato mousseline, cauliflower poached in a parmesan broth and leeks.

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The Cheese

Cheese plate with St. Bernardus and Moulin bleu with a fig and cardamom chutney.

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The Second Service

About an hour out of Kuwait, a small snack is served. There is a choice of either a hummus wrap, croquettes or a warm almond cake/biscuit type thing. I decide to go with the latter and a cup of coffee to keep me going until I get to the hotel.

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Arrival

We land at 21h45, roughly twenty minutes ahead of schedule. Surprisingly, most of the passengers are continuing their journey to Dammam, with only a handful leaving the aircraft in Kuwait.

The visa and immigration process in Kuwait is not quite straightforward: first of all, as you exit the plane, do not follow the signs for immigration and arrival. Instead, follow the signs marked ‘visa collection’. The visa bureau is in the far corner of the terminal, hidden at the very back of the food court. The very first thing you must do, is pick a number for your turn in the queue. Do this before you do anything else. The process is slow and you will have more than enough time to prepare all your documents. To the left of the machine dispensing the tickets with your number in the queue are the vending machines for the stamps you will need to validate your visa. For most countries eligible for a visa on arrival, the fee is 5 Kuwaiti Dinar. The machine accepts most notes, but does not give any change. If you do not have any Kuwaiti currency on you, there is an exchange office near the visa bureau.

You will also need to complete an immigration card with your passport details and contact info for Kuwait. When your number is finally up, the visa is issued on an A4 size piece of paper and the officer will stick the stamps on the visa. Once that is done, go to the counter on the far right to have the visa validated. And then from there, finally, you can head downstairs to immigration. You will not have to queue again and can simply walk through the gate to the baggage reclaim area.

Getting into Town

Transport: Airport shuttle.
Departs from: Hotel booth right outside arrivals.
Journey time: 30 minutes.
Fare: 9 Dinar
As you exit arrivals, there are booths for all the big hotel chains. In most cases, the hotel will pick you up, just as long as you inform them well enough in advance.

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 Cityhopper, Business Class – Fokker F 70: Haugesund to Amsterdam

Introduction

You may, perhaps, be wondering where on earth Haugesund is. It is a small town located more or less halfway between Stavanger and Bergen in Norway. I am in Haugesund with the tall and blond M. to visit a business partner who lives and works just outside town.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Car rental
Journey time: About two hours
Haugesund lies due north of Stavanger. The journey by car is very scenic and takes you along the coast. To get from Haugesund to Stavanger you need to take through three road tunnels that go under wanter. The tunnels are between four and six kilometres long, the deepest one we passed through was 228 metres below sea level! Possibly the freakiest thing I have ever seen is that one tunnel even has a roundabout in it where two independent tunnels merge…!

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You will also need to take a ferry. The journey takes approximately thirty minutes to complete. I am not sure if there is actually a schedule or if the boats just run on an ad hoc basis. The price for one car and two adults is NOK206. The ferries have excellent facilities, clean toilets, a self-service restaurant offering hot and cold dishes, and plenty of space to sit.

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Check-in

Location: Departure area on the ground floor. Arrivals and departures are on the same level landside. Airside departures are one floor up.
Facilities: Check-in machines, Web Check-in, dedicated Air France / KLM counters.
Counters: One counter for SkyPriority passengers and two counters for all other travellers.

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Airside

KLM does not provide a lounge in Stavanger. And as far as I know, there is no other lounge in the terminal either. However, two floors up from the check-in area there is a semi self-service restaurant serving typically Norwegian fare and which also offers excellent views of the apron.

So we order ourselves two plates of meatballs in some brown sauce with boiled potatoes and mashed peas, park ourselves in front of the window and settle in to watch the world go by.

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Stavanger plays an important role in Norway’s booming oil industry. The airport serves as a hub for the many operators that fly personnel out to the oilrigs in the Atlantic. Bristow’s Helicopters is obviously the most important operator out of Stavanger and it is rather interesting to watch the mix of commercial fixed wing and rotary wing movements at the airport. They even have a dedicated helicopter terminal.

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Boarding

We wait to watch our aircraft land safely and taxi to the gate, before eventually we decided it is time to head one floor down for security. The place is fairly quiet, despite the fact that there are quite a few flights leaving, including an Icelandair B 757 parked next to us.

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Apparently the flight is severely overbooked, and so I end up being upgraded again. Instead of 8C I shall now be sitting on 5A, which is a window seat on the last row of Business Class. To be honest, they should not really have bothered. I mean, it is not as though I am going to eat again, having just had a full meal on the ground. Still, being in Business Class means I have the seat next to me empty and have a lot more space to spread out and sprawl.

The Cabin

If it is all the same to you, I shall spare you yet another description of the new KLM Cityhopper seat. As I already mentioned above, in Business Class the seat next to you is always kept empty. Which means that on the row of two you can sit on either the aisle or the window seat. On the row of three seats, the middle seat is kept empty to provide some extra space between you and your neighbour.

The Crew

The service is provided by two smart Dutch young ladies. With most of the passengers being male oilrig workers fresh off a platform stuck out in the Atlantic, the two flight attendants can hardly complain of not getting enough attention. In fact they look slightly uncomfortable.

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The Meal

  1. Mixed salad and sun-dried tomatoes with pepper jack dressing.
  2. A choice of vegetarian (falafel wrap with curried hummus, cucumber and bell pepper) or non-vegetarian (club sandwich with chicken, served with potato crisps) sandwich wrap.
  3. Quark mousse with strawberry topping.
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Arrival

We arrive in Amsterdam on time. I know have 40 minutes to make my connection to Basel. Only two more days at work and then finally, I shall be off on holiday.

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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…

Going for a run in Vondel Park

I wake up at around six on Saturday morning and decide to go out for a jog before the city wakes up. From my hotel I first head in the direction of the Rijks Museum. I cross the huge square in front of the main building with its Miffy statues and then turn left towards the hotel Conservatorium. From there I turn right until eventually I find myself at the entrance to the Vondel park right in the centre of the city.

The Vondel park is very generously laid out. There are many duck ponds surrounded by lush green lawns. I even manage to sight a few bunnies. Other areas of the park have been left to look ‘natural’ with thick bushes, shrubs and tall trees. The park is excellent for running and there are dirt tracks throughout the park in case you prefer that to asphalt. The place is still fairly deserted as I run past at around 07:00. However, when I return later on for some serious people watching in the sun, the place is crawling with joggers, runners and cyclists.

The circuit you can see below was just under 6 km long.

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De Bakkerswinkel, Amsterdam

De Bakerswinkel is an excellent place to have breakfast if you fancy something a little different from your usual hotel fare. As far as I know, there are currently three outlets in Amsterdam. The flagship store is located off the Damrak, right in the centre of the really seedy part of touristy Amsterdam. But today I shall be visiting their newest shop in the De Pijp district of the city.

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The opening hours vary from one shop to another. The one in De Pijp already opens at 07:30. It is just coming up to 08h00 when I enter and by the looks of it, I am the first customer and have the place to myself. Keep in mind though, that De Bakerswinkel are really very popular and depending on what time you arrive, you may have to wait for quite a bit.

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What I like about De Bakerswinkel is that the place has a very homey feel to it. It is more like being in somebody’s kitchen than in a restaurant. None of the crockery matches, and neither does the cutlery. I would suggest you work up a healthy appetite before you visit – it is worth it. I would recommend – basically because it is what I always have – the Bakers’ Breakfast, which includes a large tea or coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, a huge plate of ham and a variety of cheeses and a huge breadbasket. At every table there are also two large jars with lemon curd and strawberry or raspberry jam.

And here is the link to De Bakkerswinkel.