SAS, Economy Class -Boeing B 737-800: Haugesund to Oslo

I must admit that I never really understood the Scandinavians’ obsession with summer and the sun until I came on this trip.

But I’m starting to see their point. It’s coming up to eight in the morning and it’s still dark outside. It’s also windy, cold and all round unpleasant.

From Haugesund to the airport there is an airport bus. The journey time is about 30 minutes. The bus leaves at 08h15, to arrive at the airport with enough time to check in and go through security for the 09h35 departure to Oslo.

The bus departs from the Haugesund terminus, which is a rather depressing edifice that really could do with a fresh lick of paint.

In any case, I arrive at the airport about 50 minutes before departure. It’s a very convenient and small airport, with only four check-in counters and just as many gates. There is no lounge though.

Ever since I arrived in Norway, I’ve been craving one of those cardamom rolls. But somehow, wherever I go on this trip, they’ve either just run out or they’re still preparing them. I try my luck at the airport airside kiosk, but no luck…

But at least there is the fact that there are no airbridges at this airport. So when boarding starts, I can take my time walking across the apron taking pictures of the airrcraft taking me to Oslo.

I’m seated on 16F, which is on the second emergency exit row. Seat pitch is obviously very good. The only problem is that there is no arm rest on the window side of the seat. As a result, you’re either sharing the one on the other side, which seems a bit unfair on the guy stuck in the middle seat, or you have to find something else to do with your hands.

Our take-off is to the northwest and very bumpy, thanks to a strong crosswind. But shortly after we’re airborne, we pierce through the cloud and a burst of sunshine floods the cabin.

The fligh time to Oslo is only 34 minutes. On board service in Economy Class consists of complimentary tea, coffee or water.

The weather in Oslo is slightly better. I think. It’s colder, but at least the sun is trying to break through the cloud.

And once more I have the good fortune of deplaning via stairs instead of an airbridge. Hurrah!

I now gave three hours to make my international conn… finally, come to papa my sweets, I’ve been looking all over for you…!

SAS Scandinavian Airlines, SAS Plus – Boeing B 737-800: Oslo to Haugesund

I just stepped off the SWISS flight from Zürich. In 90 minutes I have a connection to Haugesund. If you’re connecting from an international flight that’s not on SAS to any domestic service, you can’t go straight to departures. Instead, you’ll have to exit through customs, then head one floor up and go through security again. Hm’kay…?

Alas, once I’m landside again, it’s difficult to find the escalators to take me one floor up to departures, because they’re all hidden away.

But I must admit, at least the terminal is very nice and spacious, despite the inconvenience.

Luckily, I’m travelling on an SAS Plus fare, which means I’m entitled to use the fast track for security. Not that it helps much, because the security staff have obviously decided my luggage is a security issue and take for ever to check it. It’s just a rucksack, for heaven’s sake. Maybe it’s something to do with my spectacular beard…

There’s an SAS lounge in both the international and domestic sectors of the terminal, one floor up from the public area.

I know, I know – it’s such a cliché… but the lounge really does look like something from an IKEA showroom.

There is also a good selection of salads, breads, cheese, cold cuts and soups.

I just have enough time for a bowl of salad while I upload the previous post before my flight starts boarding from gate C8.

It’s obviously cold outside, because they’ve even covered up the aircraft’s engines.

On this flight, I’m seated on 3F and as my luck will have it, the middle seat between me and the guy on the aisle stays vacant.

The seat pitch is good, but compared to the very modern A220, the cabin on this aircraft look ancient!

There is a USB port in the back of every seat, by the way.

The two cabin crew working the forward cabin are… ehm… difficult? The purser is an elderly gentleman who looks as though he should have retired long ago. And he obviously think he’s quite the joker. Only, he’s not funny and his safety on board demonstration is so sloppy that he might as well not have done it at all.

In Norway it seems to be standard practice that aircraft are only pushed back from the gate, but without turning them to point in the direction of the taxiway. I wonder if perhaps it has something to do with the ice.

In any case, before we head for the runway, we make a stop of about twenty minutes on the de-icing pad for them to defrost our plane. It’s obviously such a common occurrence up this end that the pilots don’t even bother to announce what’s going on.

But then once that’s done, we head for the runway and take-off without any further delays.

On domestic services, SAS Plus passengers get to select any item they like from the buy on board menu for free, whereas in regular Economy Class, food and drinks are only available for purchase. Tea and coffe however, are complimentary in all classes.

I ask for some apple juice and a packet of crisps.

It’s obviously not haute cuisine, but hey, the flight is only 35 minutes.

Despite the delay for de-icing, we still land on time. Up here it’s 15 degrees warmer than Oslo, with the temperature hovering around 9 degrees.

Haugesund airport is very small. Arrivals is more or less one not so big room with enough space to deliver the luggage. But at least that also means there are no airbridges!

I step outside, and the airport bus to Haugesund is already there. The bus runs infrequently, but the schedule coincides with SAS’s arrivals and departures. The journey into town takes about 25 minutes.

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

Winterthur has, undoubtedly, the ugliest railway station in all of Switzerland. Right after Mumpf station, which looks like it was built from one ugly slab of concrete. But hey, no judgement…

So the holidays are definitely over and I’m back to my usual tricks. But the countdown is ticking. I think next weekend I can book the flights for my sabbatical next year. But until then, yes, it’s another short hop to Luxembourg, courtesy of KLM.

And in case you don’t believe me, here’s the dark and gloomy Winterthur station.
My train pulls into the station of Zürich Airport at 16:00. By 16:06 I’m already standing at security. There are automatic boarding pass scanners to access the airside area of the terminal and there is a dedicated fast track for security, to which SkyPriority passengers also have access.

I decide to skip visiting the lounge and head straight for the gate. On my way to A64 a gate change is announced. And instead, my flight will be departing from A73. Gate A64 will now be boarding the SWISS flight to Amsterdam, which leaves at exactly the same time as the KLM flight. Which is not confusing at all…
When I arrive at A73, the gate is already occupied by another aircraft. I open the KLM app, only to find that the flight hasn’t even left Amsterdam yet. The new departure time is 17:55 from Zürich, which seems a bit overly optimistic, given that the aircraft is still on the ground in Amsterdam when I check at 16:50.
A short while later, I check again. Our departure has now moved back to 18:30. This ought to be interesting…
At least the KLM website is kept up to date. It turns out that part of the problem is that the employees at Schiphol airport are on strike.
Eventually, my aircraft rolls onto its stand at 17:50. The ground crew spring into action and are obviously making their best effort to turn around the aircraft as quickly as possible.
The aircraft taking me to Amsterdam this evening looks absolutely gorgeous in what looks like a fresh lick of paint. I think it’s really cool that KLM has bucked the Eurowhite trend that so persistently haunts the liveries of the European airlines. Are you reading this, Aer Lingus…?
Boarding starts just after 18:00. The gate agent specifically makes an announcement that boarding will be by zones, starting with zones 1 and 2. So immediately the electronic gates are clogged by passengers not in zones 1 and 2. And by the looks of it, if you’re not in one of the eligible zones. The gates won’t open.
The gate agent asks the first passenger to step aside. To which his only reply is that letting him on immediately is ‘the least you can do’ after such a ‘horrific’ delay… M’kay.
According to the purser, the flight is completely sold out. There are two rows of Business Class, and all eight seats are occupied.
I’m seated on 1A, and the pitch on the bulkhead row is excellent. I also like the KLM blue.
The crew are clearly in a hurry so as not to miss our slot time. Even so, it’s obvious that they’re making the extra effort to make passengers feel welcome. There are quite a few passengers with onward connections that are worried about missing their flight.
We take off from runway 28. The flight time is announced at one hour and twenty minutes.
As soon as we’re above the clouds, the service begins. But I just ask for a Coke Zero, which the purser brings me with a small packet of spicy corn. I hope this doesn’t mean they’ve done away with those delectable salty almonds…
Throughout the flight the crew take excellent care of all passengers and make a point of giving regular updates about the progress of the flight and any possible impact on connecting flights.
Eventually, we land at 20:02. It then takes us another 15 minutes to make our way to our stand on the C pier. By the time the aircraft comes to a stop, we’re exactly one hour late.
KLM handles irregularities really well. Of course delays are inconvenient and nobody likes having to worry about their travel plans. But when something like this happens, it’s nice to feel you’re in good hands. And in actual fact, it turns out all passengers would make their connection.

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

Transfer in Amsterdam

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

Airside & Lounge

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

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

Boarding

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

Cabin

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

Crew

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

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

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

The Meal

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

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

Arrival

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

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

Epilogue

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

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

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

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

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

INTRODUCTION

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

CHECK-IN

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

LOUNGE & AIRSIDE

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

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

BOARDING

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

CABIN

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

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

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

THE CREW

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

SERVICE

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

THE MEAL

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

a small plate of salad with chilli shrimps, served with olive oil

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

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

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

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

ARRIVAL

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

Royal Air Maroc, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Casablanca to Paris Orly

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INTRODUCTION
I wake up this morning to find it’s raining. The light outside is strange, with the sun trying to push through the cloud while the rain is still pelting down. We’ve heard all sorts of horror stories about how long it takes to leave the country, so we’ve decided to make an early start.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
We exit the hotel just after 8 in the morning. The journey from Mohammedia to the airport should take roughly an hour and we still need to refuel our car and return it to Europcar.

About five minutes into the drive the heavens open. At least this will hopefully slow down the traffic which is ‘interesting’ here in Morocco, to say the least… Theoretically, you could also take the train all the way from Mohammadia to the airport, but I don’t think I have the nerve for that this morning.

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CHECK-IN
We return the car without any issues and then make our way towards the terminal. And this is where the fun starts. To enter the terminal, you first have to go through security and have your passport checked (1). Fortunately, you only need to show your passport and not your ticket, because I only have that in electronic form.

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From there I head one floor up to the departures level. Royal Air Maroc operates out of terminal 2. There is a dedicated area for Business Class passengers. The check-in agent is not overly friendly and not overly bright I don’t think. There are immigration forms on the counter, but it doesn’t occur to her to point out to me that I might need to complete one of these for immigration, even when she checks my passport (2).

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From check-in I head for the dedicated fast track for security and passport control. To enter the fast track area, again you have to show your passport (3). Immediately behind the security check is the passport control (4), where my passport is checked and stamped. And then behind passport control there is another guy who checks your passport (5) before allowing you inside the actual airside part of the terminal.

LOUNGE & AIRSIDE
The lounge really doesn’t look like anything much to write home about. In addition, I’m here with the wiry R., whose flight to Brussels will be leaving 5 minutes after mine. So instead of staying in the lounge by myself, we decide to have a coffee and this really tasty chocolate thing at one of the many cafés in the terminal.

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BOARDING
Boarding for the flight starts twenty minutes behind schedule, due to a medical case that needs to be boarded first. When eventually boarding starts, I first show the gate agent my passport (6) and boarding pass, which he scans. Immediately behind the boarding gate another guy is already waiting to inspect my passport (7). And then finally, before I can enter the airbridge, I actually have to show my passport again (8)!

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THE CABIN
The cabin of this aircraft is quite nice. Royal Air Maroc has a dedicated Business Class cabin in a 2 + 2 configuration. I really like the colours of the cabin and seats. The only thing I’m not too happy about, is the fact that the seats are covered in leather rather than cloth.

Other than that though, the seat is comfortable. There is a pillow on every seat when I board the plane. The leg room is good and even when the woman in front of me reclines her seat, I still have more than enough space. There is also an extendable footrest.

Mind though that there are no power plugs on the seat.

For inflight entertainment, Royal Air Maroc uses a system called Sky-RAM. You need to download the Royal Air Marco app first. Once that’s done, you can turn on the wifi and watch films, listen to music, etc. on your own device for free.

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SERVICE
The service in the Business Class cabin is done by a really friendly and very charming young Moroccan lady. While we’re still on the ground, she passes through the cabin with a selection of drinks. She also distributes newspapers and magazines.

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Once we’re airborne, the maître de distributes the menus, which have the same intricate pattern as the bulkhead. Before the meal service begin, the crew hand out hot towels that are scented with jasmine.

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THE MEAL
The meal service is really the highlight of this flight. We start with a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne and a bag of salted almonds.

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Shortly after, the table is set. The trays are then brought out individually and contain the first course and the dessert.

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The first course is a plate of honey-marinated scallops with salad and asparagus. This is quite good and the vinaigrette served with the meal goes well with the lemon as a dressing for the scallops.

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No sooner has the first course been removed that the hot meals are brought out. Royal Air Maroc places all the hot meals on a cart, which is nicely decorated with roses. There is a choice of lamb tagine or chicken breast in a cream sauce with rice and vegetables. I decide to go with the latter, and it really is good. The vegetables are not at all soggy and don’t give you the impression of having been cooked to death. The chicken has a tasty grill flavour and the rice also very flavourful.

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After the hot meal, the plates are removed and the cheese cart is rolled out. Blimey! There is a choice of five different cheeses. I make the mistake of asking to try a small piece of each one. But obviously the charming young lady’s interpretation of ‘small’ is not the same as mine and she cuts me a large chunk of each cheese. The cheese is served with bread, crackers and fruit.

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And then finally, it’s time to tackle the dessert which has been eyeing me all through the meal. The wiry R. would be drooling right now if he saw this. It’s a tasty pecan caramel pie that is simply lovely. I really wish more airlines would make desserts like this. Seriously, it’s divine. The pasty is crumbly and buttery. The caramel is sweet, with a subtle hint of salt.

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The meal concludes with a glass of sweet Moroccan tea, served from a dainty little silver tea pot.

ARRIVAL
Eventually we land in Paris Orly just slightly ahead of schedule. Royal Air Maroc operates out of the south terminal, together with all the other carriers from the Maghreb. But the process is fairly swift and efficient and within just a few minutes I’m through passport control and already have my suitcase back.

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And now I shall kick back and enjoy the weekend in Paris! To get into town, I exit the terminal through door C and then take the shuttle bus to the RER station Pont de Rungis. A ticket on the shuttle will cost EUR2.-. From Pon de Rungis I take the RER train to the Gare d’Austerlitz. That ticket costs EUR10.40.

CONCLUSION
All in all, I must admit I was quite surprised by Royal Air Maroc. Quite frankly, I thought they were going to be a real stinker. But it turns out their service is in fact quite professional and elaborate. Admittedly, I’m not so sure I’d want to connect through Casablanca – their hub – which is just tedious and really very boring. But other than that I don’t think I’d mind having to travel with them again.

Germania, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-700: Zürich to Rostock

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INTRODUCTION
Admittedly, I know I’m an embarrassment to all self-respecting southern Europeans, given that I really don’t handle the heat very well. On the other hand, having said that, it really is unusually hot in Switzerland right now – with temperatures constantly in the mid-thirties.

But thank God, there are some places on the continent that have been spared the stifling heat. So that’s where I’m heading for the weekend.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
I take the train from Winterthur at 11h58. I’m actually at the station early enough to catch the earlier train at 11h55. But as soon as that comes rumbling into the station, I figure I’m not is such a rush after all. The regular 11h55 train has been replaced with something that avid train spotters would probably lovingly refer to as vintage, which, Swiss Federal Railways lingo, is a euphemism for carriages with no air conditioning.

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CHECK-IN
My flight is at 13h50, but I already checked in at the airport this morning at 05h15, when I dropped off my dad at the airport on his way to Malta.

Germania does not have web check-in or self-service check-in. At Zürich airport they are handled by Swissport in Terminal 2.

When I return to the airport in the early afternoon, the place is a lot busier than it was in the morning. Even so, I manage to secure a nice spot on the A pier, with a good view of the apron and runway 28. Today 28 is in use for arrivals, with 32 and 34 in use for departures.

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BOARDING
Boarding for the flight starts about forty minutes late. The aircraft was already late arriving in Zürich by about thirty minutes.

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The heat in the glass airbridge is agony. For a moment I feel compelled to do my best ‘I’m melting, I’m melting…’ impression of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. But then I remember I forgot to put on my green makeup this morning so people might think I’m odd…

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Anyhow, once we board, the crew inform us about a further twenty minutes delay before we can finally start our engines due to ATC restrictions over Germany. Eventually we depart one hour behind our scheduled departure time.

CABIN & SEAT
Germania’s Boeing 737-700 have a seating capacity of 148. Today’s load is a bit over one hundred passengers, I should say.

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Germania Doesn’t offer a Business Class as such. However, the first row are the so called XL seats, which are available for advanced seat reservation at a cost of EUR30 each. Included in the price is a bulkhead seat with slightly more pitch, earphones as well as complimentary alcoholic drinks and snacks from the buy on board menu.

The pitch is not bad on row 1. However, the lack of width of the seat is quite striking. The cabin feels a lot more crowded and tighter than for example on KLM. I suspect that maybe Germania went with a slightly narrower seat in favour of a wider aisle.

SERVICE & CREW
The crew are a friendly and interesting lot. Strangely enough though, the entire cabin crew is made up of Spaniards and an eastern European and none of them speak even a single word of German, which is a bit unusual for a German carrier, I find. 

THE MEAL
The meal service is confusing. There is a buy on board price list in the seat pocket, which contains drinks and snacks like crisps or chocolate. By at the same time, Germania will also serve you a complimentary snack. On today’s flight there is a choice of either a salami or a cheese sandwich.

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With the sandwich I have a coffee and a sparkling water, both of which are apparently free of charge. I also ask for a Kit Kat, which I haven’t had in ages!

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ARRIVAL
Rostock airport is a dinky little place with only two airbirdges. It is also home to a large Eurofighter base. Because there are so few flights up here, the bus into town is scheduled to coincide with the arriving flights. But seeing as our flight is more than an hour late by the time we land, the bus has already left. Instead, there is a replacement service for EUR9.80 per person.

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The journey from the airport into town will take you about thirty minutes.

CONCLUSION
The tall, blond M., himself triathlete extraordinaire, engineer and skeptic of all sciences that don’t involve numbers, has pointed out that I did give my candid opinion on Germania in the original post.

So here goes: all in all I very much doubt I would go out of my way to fly with Germania. By the same token though, I wouldn’t actively avoid them either. The service was okay but not outstanding, either in a positive or a negative way. I think EUR30 is a bit steep for a front row seat, the additional complimentary snack and complimentary earbuds, particularly given that the earbuds didn’t look as though they were any good and the flight time was only slightly more than an hour anyway.

Virgin Australia, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Adelaide to Melbourne

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Date: 09. February 2017.
Departure: 19:20.
Arrival: 20:20.
Flight time: 1 hour.
Seat: 2F, window on the starboard of the aircraft.

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INTRODUCTION

I step off Qatar’s Airbus A 350 and make my way to immigration, which is deserted. From what I can tell, ours is the only international flight to arrive around this time. The guy at customs seems a bit surprised to see me travelling such a long way with only a small carry-on suitcase, but eventually he lets me pass anyway.

If you are catching a domestic connection, simply exit customs and then turn left. There is an escalator that takes you one floor up to the departures level.

CHECK-IN

Counters: Virgin Australia have their own dedicated check-in area and there is a separate counter for Business Class passengers.

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It had not been possible to check me in for this flight already in Frankfurt or in Doha.

LOUNGE

Location: Opposite immigration for international departures.
Name of Lounge:
Virgin Airlines lounge.
Access:
As you exit the security checkpoint, turn left.
Toilets & showers:
Available in the lounge.
Food & Beverages: The food selection in the lounge is limited to junk food and toast. Drinks are ordered at the counter.
Connectivity:
Complimentary wifi is available. The password is given to you at check-in.

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BOARDING

Priority Boarding: Business Class passengers and frequent flyers are invited to board first.

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CABIN & SEAT

Configuration: 2 + 2.
Seat Layout: There are two rows of seats, making a total of eight seats in Business Class. The aircraft has a dedicated, proper Business Class cabin and seat.
Pitch: 38 inches.
Width: 19.5 inches.
AC Power:
Not available.
Audio and Video: Virgin offers wireless inflight entertainment that you can watch on your own handheld device. But you need to download their app for that first.

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SERVICE & CREW

The crew seem friendly enough. They work efficiently to get the service through in just one hour, but without making it feel rushed.

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Taking off over Glenelg.

THE MEAL

Welcome drink on the ground: Sparkling water.

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Choice: There is a choice of either chicken or a salad with beetroot.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Dinner.
Main course:
Chicken breast with creamed corn and tomatoes.

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Dessert: A really very tasty carrot cake.

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Cheese: A plate of camembert with fig chutney and rice crackers.

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Beverages: Coke Zero.

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Bread: One bun, served with butter.

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Coming from Europe, it is quite amazing to be offered a hot meal on a flight of only one hour and to have a proper Business Class seat at your disposal. I am certainly impressed!

ARRIVAL

We arrive in Melbourne more or less on time. Virgin Australia have their own terminal in Melbourne.

From arrivals it takes me about five minutes to walk the short distance to the Holiday Inn hotel, where I will be staying for just the one night.

In summary, I rather like Virgin Australia and I am very glad to say that their service is still as good as I remember it from when I travelled with them last back in 2013.

Garuda, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur

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Date: 22. December 2016.
Departure: Scheduled at 14:10, departed at 16:30.
Arrival: Scheduled at 17:45, landed at 19:25.
Flight time: 1 hour 55 minutes.
Seat: 8K, window.

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TRANSFER IN JAKARTA:
Upon entering the terminal I follow the signs marked ‘transfer & transit’. The arrows are pointing one floor up, but the escalators and stairs are cordoned off. I look around and eventually spot some dude wearing some semi-official looking uniform. So I ask him what I should do? To which he tells me to just go ahead and take the escalator. He even moves the cordon out of the way for me. But for all I know, he might have been the janitor.

I do not really have that much time to go to the lounge, but I need to go to the loo and figure I might as well go in the lounge and see what it is like. But to be honest, I really do not think I am missing anything much. The lounge is a real dive – dark, gloomy and tatty. But I have to say, the apron views are brilliant!

BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Yeah right…
Number of Airbridges:
Remote boarding.
My flight is departing from gate E4. I pass the security checkpoint and head into the gate area, which is really crowded because there are another three flights leaving from the same area. The place is also stiflingly hot.

Eventually, our flight starts boarding one hour behind schedule. In the meantime, there are no announcements or anything of the sort. When eventually boarding starts, complete chaos breaks loose. There are people for the Air Asia flight queuing up for my flight to KL. An announcement is made for SkyPriority passengers to board first, but quite frankly, nobody really seems to give a shit. Neither do the ground crew. Obviously, at this point the easiest thing would be to just sit down and wait for everybody else to board. The only problem is, I cannot move, there are people all around me and I am trapped where I am.

Throughout the whole process, I think what bothers me the most is that there are people everywhere and the ground crew obviously have not got the situation under control.

Eventually, I manage to get on board. By which time the flight is already running 75 minutes behind schedule. By the time we move off stand we are running two hours late and by the time we finally reach the departing runway, the delay has increased to two and a half hours.

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SERVICE & CREW
The crew on this flight is very similar to the one on the previous flight. The young lady working the Business Class cabin is outstanding – attentive and friendly. She addresses passengers by their name, even without having to consult the flight manifest first.

Earphones and two English language newspapers, a blanket and pillow have already been placed at each seat.

The crew try to bring passengers in Business Class a hot towel and a welcome drink. But somehow, the size of the Boeing 737 with just the one aisle does not really lend itself to this while boarding is in process.

THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Orange juice.
Towel before the meal:
Hot scented towel served with the welcome drink on the ground.
Choice:
There are three choices for the main dish – fish, beef or chicken.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Dinner.
First course:
Bowl of fruit with dragon fruit, grape and watermelon.
Main course:
Beef in a sweet curry with noodles.
Dessert:
Chocolate and coffee cream sponge cake.
Breadbasket:
A selection of bread, including garlic bread.
Beverages:
Still water with the meal, tea with milk after the meal.
Comment:
Again the presentation of the meal is very nice and it tastes good too. It does not happen to me very often that I like all the options served on a plane. But in this particular case, I think I would be happy with any one of the three choices.

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ARRIVAL
Eventually we land in KL. I always find landing in KL Sepang a bit strange because you feel as though you were landing in the middle of nowhere. Everything is in darkness and the airport covers such a vast area that from the touchdown point you cannot see all the much of the terminal.

Eventually, we park at the satellite terminal. From there I just follow the signs for ‘imigresen’. There is a shuttle train to bring passengers from the satellite to the main terminal building.

CONCLUSION
This is my first experience with Garuda. All in all I think the inflight product is really very good. The layout of the cabin is nice and the presentation and quality of the food is excellent. Where Garuda really is an epic fail though, is with the situation on the ground. While Jakarta airport may be quite nice architecturally, the place is a mess – crowded, old and too hot. The way the flight delay and subsequent boarding is handled is absolutely atrocious. I really do not mind the delay, these are things that happen and that you have to expect when travelling by air. However, what I really find unacceptable is the somewhat lax attitude to safety and security. I am sure any one of the passengers could have walked on to the apron, unnoticed in all the chaos.

The new terminal is nearing completion. Hopefully it will bring an improvement to the situation on the ground. Garuda have come a long way and are really a great airline, once you manage to get on the plane.

Garuda Airways, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Hong Kong to Jakarta

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Date: 22 December 2016.
Departure: 09:30
Arrival: 13:00
Flight time: 4 hours 30 minutes.
Seat: 8K, window.

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Complimentary hotel shuttle.
Journey time:
10 minutes.
Arrives:
Terminal 1, departures level.
Frequency:
There is a shuttle every 15 minutes that runs on a first come, first served basis.

CHECK-IN
Terminal: Terminal 1.
Row: Row G.
Airport check-in:

  1. One counter for SkyPriority passengers.
  2. Three counters for all other passengers.

Web check-in: No available.
Self-service check-in:
Not available.

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LOUNGE
Location:
Near gate 15, one floor down.
Name of Lounge:
SkyTeam lounge.
Type of Lounge:
First & Business Class lounge for all SkyTeam carriers.
Access:
Passengers flying in Business Class and passengers with status in a frequent flyer programme of one of the SkyTeam airlines.
Toilets:
Available in the lounge.
Showers:
Available in the lounge
Food & Beverages: There is a buffet with hot and cold dishes. In addition, there is also a noodle bar where you can choose between three different types of noodle soups.
Connectivity:
Wifi is available in the lounge, password required. There are also workstations with Apple computers.
Newspapers & Magazines:
There is a selection of international magazines and newspapers at the entrance to the lounge.
Comment:
The SkyTeam lounge in Hong Kong opened just over a year ago and is the common purpose lounge for First and Business Class passengers of all the SkyTeam carriers.

The place is pretty empty when I arrive. It is a very nice lounge, with many comfortable seating options and a bright decor. From what I can tell, power plugs are available at all seats in the lounge. The only drawback is that there are no views of the apron from the lounge. However, if you get bored, there is also a Yoga room for you to do something good for both body and spirit.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
There is a separate lane for SkyPriority passengers.

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CABIN & SEAT
Configuration:
2 + 2
Capacity:

  1. Business Class, 12 seats.
  2. Economy Class, 144 seats

Seat layout: The seat is not fully lie flat. It is more of a recliner, which is perfectly adequate for a day flight of only five hours. The material covering the seats has an intricate pattern design. The seats are kept in grey and dark red and give the whole cabin a very elegant look and feel.
Pitch:
42 inches.
Width: 19 inches.
AC Power:
There is a 110 V power port in every seat in Business Class.
Audio and Video: Audio and Video on demand.
Earphones: No name brand.
Connectivity: No wifi available.

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SERVICE & CREW
The crew are friendly and all smiles. As soon as I enter the cabin the young lady working the Business Class section shows me to my seats and offers to help me with my hand luggage. Once I am seated, she takes my order for a welcome drink. She returns a short while later with the fresh orange juice, which is served in a tall champagne glass, the vanity kit and a warm, scented towel with a really nice fragrance.

A pillow, blanket and the earphones have already been placed at every seat.

VANITY KIT
The vanity kit is by L’Occitane and contains:

  1. Eye shades.
  2. Socks.
  3. Slippers.
  4. A comb.
  5. Earplugs:
  6. A toothbrush.
  7. Toothpaste.
  8. Eau de toilette.
  9. Lip balm.
  10. Body lotion.
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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Fresh orange juice.
Towel before the meal:
Scented hot towel served before departure.
Pre-meal drink:
Bintang, Indonesian beer.
Amuse bouche:
Crab meat on water melon.
Choice:
There are three choices for the main course.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
First course:
Smoked salmon with capers and Waldorf salad.
Main course:
Beef with peppercorn sauce, potatoes and vegetables.
Dessert: Pear tart.
Beverages:
Still water, coffee with dessert.
Breadbasket: A small bowl with a selection of bread is provided with butter.
Hot towel after the meal:
Comment:
The meal is served on a lacquer tray. The presentation of the food is nice and the crockery Garuda uses is very unusual and different to what you usually get on a plane. The tray arrives with the first course, bread and the dessert. Once I am finished with the starter, the plate is removed and the main course is served, again in very nice tableware.

The quality of the food is good and the presentation is very nice. It looks more like a First Class product than a Business Class one.

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After the meal service the crew are quick to remove the trays to allow passengers to spread out. Even so, they pass through the cabin regularly with snack and drinks.

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ARRIVAL
We land in Jakarta pretty much on time after a flying time of four hours and thirty minutes. Our aircraft parks at a remote stand, which I think is always a good idea. There is even a dedicated minibus for Business Class passengers to take us to the terminal. The terminal complex of Jakarta airport has an interesting design, which I suspect is intended to reflect local building traditions.

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I now have one hour and ten minutes to make my onward connection…