KLM Cityhopper, Economy Class – Fokker 70: curtain call

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INTRODUCTION
This post is not so much about the flight experience – after all, KLM has received its fair share of coverage here over the years. No, today marks the end of revenue service for the Fokker 70 with KLM Cityhopper.

I managed to take no less than 90 flights on this little aeroplane. I experienced one burst tyre and three rejected take-offs on the Fokker 70. And so I figured it might be nice to send this sturdy and reliable workhorse a last salute before the curtain call.

Today will be my 91st flight on the F70. It will probably also be my last.

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LOUNGE
Fortunately, the Swissport lounge in Basel has an open air terrace from which you have some good views of the runway and the approaching traffic. It’s quite breezy this afternoon. But hey, it’s not every day you have to say farewell to an old friend…

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My flight arrives in Basel with a slight delay. As the aircraft turns off the runway it comes into earshot and I am greeted with the familiar whining sound of the Rolls Royce Tay engines. This is where it starts to dawn on me that I’m probably going to miss this noisy little bugger.

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BOARDING
Most stands at Basel are open, which is of course good news for me. There is a buzz of excitement at the gate and most of the Dutch passengers on the flight today are aware of the fact that they are becoming a part of history by taking this flight. And so, rather than having to feel self-conscious about taking pictures, I actually find myself having to elbow my way in between the Dutch grannies to get a good spot.

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SERVICE & CREW
The crew are obviously in a good mood and this last flight is a special event for them too. During the turnaround they can be seen walking around the aircraft taking pictures and selfies as a souvenir.

Once we’re on board, the captain comes on the speaker to welcome us to ‘the last Fokker 70 flight out of Basel with KLM. Ever.’ Apparently, our particular flight will do another short hop to Hannover later on, and that will then be it. It’s quite sad actually.

THE CABIN
The one thing I think I will always remember about the F70 is the noise of the ventilation system, which sounds as though it were directly linked to the engines. When ever the engine thrust is increased, the volume of air being pushed through the ventilation system increases too, producing roughly the same effect you might achieve by turning on your hair dryer to full volume and pointing it directly at your ear from a distance of about 1 cm…

Other than that though, the cabin is in good condition. KLM has taken good care of these aircraft and the facelift the cabin received just a few years back certainly gave the Fokker 70 a new lease on life. 

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ARRIVAL
We land in Amsterdam with a slight delay and are then treated to the grand tour of Amsterdam, otherwise known as a Polderbaan arrival. As we turn the corner, the Fokker Farm comes into view, which is apparently the colloquial term for the ramp on which the KLM Cityhoppers are usually parked. The other seven remaining F70s are already here too. The crew of one of the aircraft is just disembarking, all of them taking pictures. And as we pass them, they all send us a cheery wave.

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The usurper

CONCLUSION
And so comes to an end my farewell trip on the Fokker 70. The aircraft is being replaced in the fleet of KLM Cityhopper with the Embraer 175, which is definitely newer, quieter and probably more fuel-efficient than the old Fokkers. From a passenger’s point of view though, I think the Embraer 175 can hardly match the Fokker for comfort.

Later on the same day operations will come to an end with the arrival of the last Fokker 70 flight from London Heathrow. The British capital was deliberately chosen for the last flight because the very first international revenue service of a Fokker aircraft on behalf of KLM had also been to London, back in 1920. And then the Fokker 70 will be relegated to history.

Good bye Fokker 70. And thanks for all the memories!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But at least the views outside are nice.

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

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

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

KLM Cityhopper, Business Class – Embraer 175: Inverness to Amsterdam

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Date: 02. October 2016
Departure: 11:05.
Arrival: 13:30.
Flight time: 1 hour and 25 minutes.
Seat: 2F, window on the starboard side – upgraded from 6A.

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Car rental.
Journey time: 45 minutes because we got lost…

I leave The Coul House at 08h40. The air up here is just so fresh that it really is a pleasure to just stand there inhaling a few breaths of the crisp, cool air. It must have been cold last night, because the windscreen is covered in a thin layer of ice where the night’s dew froze on the car.

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The sun is just coming up over the highlands. The valleys are still thick with fog, and as the sun rises higher in the sky, the light creates strange and beautiful illusions.

CHECK-IN
Location: On the ground floor of the terminal, on your right as you enter the building.
Counters: There are two counters for KLM, one is the drop-off counter and the other is the SkyPriority counter for Business Class passengers and Platinum/Gold card holders.
Facilities: Counter check-in, self-service check-in, Web check-in via the KLM app.

By the time the car has been dropped off and I reach check-in, it is 09h45 and my flight is scheduled to depart in about one hour. There is a bit of a hold up at the SkyPriority counter because there are two guys checking in weapons.

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LOUNGE
Type of lounge: Swissport Aspire contractor lounge.
Location: Near gate 3.
Facilities: Comfortable sofas to sit on as well as other seating options, toilets are available outside the lounge.
Catering: A selection of hot and cold drinks and small breakfast snacks – things like Cornflakes or scones with clotted cream.
Wifi: Complimentary wifi is available in the lounge, the password is printed on the wall.

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To be honest, I am quite surprised they have a lounge at all here in Inverness. It is a nice place with good amenities. The view in particular is brilliant because you are at ground level and have excellent views of the ramp. The lounge is managed by an elderly gentleman and he really is brilliant. He is very chatty and quite funny actually, and makes passengers feel instantly welcome with his joking. He keeps a low profile in the lounge, and most of the time you do not even notice he is there, but somehow everything is cleared up straight away.

BOARDING:
Priority boarding: Priority boarding is available. A separate call is made for Business Class passengers and Platinum members only, then for Gold and Silver members and eventually for everybody else. There is also a separate queue.

The scanner issues an alert as my boarding pass is scanned and the gate agent informs me I have been upgraded to Business Class again. It is quite surprising just how often that seems to happen on KLM these days.

I take my new pass and head out across the apron, taking pictures of the shiny chariot that will be taking me to Amsterdam this morning.

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CABIN
Configuration: 2 + 2.
Pitch: 32 inches, which gradually decreases to 30 inches by row nine.
Width: 17 inches.
Seat: There are two rows of Business Class on this flight. The seat next to me is kept empty. The seat on the Embraer 175 looks slightly different to that on the Embraer 190. Other than that though, it feels pretty much the same to sit in. On the first few rows the windows on the Embraer 175 are properly aligned with the passenger seats, so at least you have a good view of the outside. Towards the back though, the windows are increasingly unaligned. As a result, you end up either cranking your head back to look out through the window behind you, or sharing the window with the guy sitting in front of you, which is likely to give you tunnel vision…

SERVICE
There are two crew working the cabin. The purser is a young man in his mid-twenties, I should say. The other is a young woman who seems younger. Both of them are very professional and friendly, just your typical bog standard KLM flight attendants basically, which is what I like about KLM.

Before the doors close, the young man comes by offering a selection of English, French, German and Dutch newspapers.

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THE MEAL
Type of meal: Lunch.
Selection: Two choices for the sandwich.
Service: Individual service. The meal is served in a box on the Cityhopper flights, which looks better than it sounds. Really.
Menu:

  • Greek salad with feta cheese and pumpkin, with a mango chilli and lime dressing.
  • Salmon and egg wrap with spinach and cream cheese.
  • Tropical Pina Colada mousse with a lime topping.
  • A selection of hot and cold drinks.
  • After the meal I have a coke Zero, which is served with two packets of some really tasty almonds.

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ARRIVAL
It is a lovely day for flying and the views outside are spectacular. After take-off from Inverness we head out onto the North Sea, and stay there pretty much until we hit the coast of the Netherlands. The weather in Amsterdam is pretty bad though and we are required to circle over the sea before eventually we are cleared to make our approach.

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In Amsterdam I have two hours to make my connection to Basel.

 

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

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INTRODUCTION
Finally, I really thought the moment would never come. But it has – at long last, it is finally time for my summer vacation. I normally tend to head East for my longer excursions. And of course it is always interesting and exciting to experience new cultures and exotic locations. But it is also very tiring. That is why this year, I did not really fancy straying too far afield. And so I find myself heading West instead for a change. Obviously, taking the most direct route to my destination would have been the most sensible thing to do. But where is the fun in that, I ask you?

And so my journey begins with a set of positioning flights from Zürich to Amsterdam and then from there on to Frankfurt, both on KLM. I already have quite a few posts about ‘my friends in blue’ – as my colleague the Flying Dutchman refers to KLM – so I think we can skip introductions and keep things short and simple.

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CABIN
There are three rows of Business Class on this flight, with a total of twelve seats. The middle seat is kept empty. Only seven seat are occupied this evening. I am on 1C, which is the aisle seat on the port side of the aircraft. Just a piece of advice: 1C sticks out quite far into the aisle, because the bulkhead is not quite as wide as the row of seats. While this certainly allows you to stretch you legs, it can also be slightly irritating after a while. Every time somebody walks past, you end up with the curtain brushing against your legs or in your face.

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SERVICE
There are two cabin crew working the Business Class cabin and they really are excellent. They are very attentive and address every passenger by name, which I always find rather a nice touch.

THE MEAL
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Light dinner.
Meal:

  • Carrot gazpacho with parsley and shaved almonds.
  • Spanish chickpea salad with beef bresoala, Kalamata olives and fresh herbs, served with a chilli and lime dressing.
  • Orange mousse and chocolate ganache.
  • Selection from the breadbasket, the crew make two rounds.
  • Diet Coke.

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I am not really all that partial to smoked meats. To be honest I find them rather off putting most of the time. But apart from that, the meal is nice enough. Especially the gazpacho is well seasoned. Throughout the meal, the crew are very attentive and make sure to keep drinks replenished at all times.

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TRANSFER IN AMSTERDAM
We approach the airport from the North, to make an approach for runway 18R. Amsterdam has three parallel runways with a North-South orientation and very often, like today, 18R and 18C are in use for simultaneous approaches, which always look really cool, I think.

I exit the aircraft into the C concourse. I do not think I have ever seen Amsterdam airport so deserted. Obviously, it is the holiday season and most people have already left on vacation. Even the Crown Lounge is pleasantly empty.

AND ONWARD TO FRANKFURT
The flight to Frankfurt departs at 20h45 and is operated by an Embraer 190 of KLM Cityhopper. There are still quite a few empty seats on the flight, despite a fairly large group of passengers who are obviously returning from a cruise in Scandinavia.

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The flight time is announced as 40 minutes. Even so, every passenger is given a small box with a container of still water and some BBQ flavoured crackers.

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In Frankfurt KLM uses Terminal 2, which is basically used for all the non-Star Alliance traffic. I will be staying at the Hilton Garden Inn, which is located above the railway station for the mainline trains adjacent to Terminal 1. Access to the railway station and hotel is via a footbridge from Terminal 1.

TRANSFER FROM FRANFURT TERMINAL 2 TO TERMINAL 1
There is a shuttle bus that takes passengers from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1. The first thing the smokers do upon exiting the terminal building is light up. As a result, the waiting area for the shuttle bus is constantly shrouded in a veil of heavy smoke. So instead of milling about with the chain smokers, I decide to walk across to Terminal 1. It is not really that far to walk, but the path is not clearly marked. Even so, walking at a leisurely pace it should not take more than 10 minutes to reach Terminal 1.

 

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

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INTRODUCTION
The day after I return from Malta I am on my way to Aalborg in Denmark. For me the most convenient way to get there is, as usual, with KLM. As I have already covered KLM extensively in my blog, our story today starts just as yours truly steps off the escalators to the ground level of the B concourse at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
The first boarding call is for Business Class and SkyPriority passengers. Although in this particular case that only means that you are first to board the bus to take you to the aircraft.

The gate agent scans my mobile boarding pass, only to discover – lo and behold – that the upgrade fairy has done her magic yet again and I have been shifted from 6A to 1A, the window seat on the bulkhead row. IMG_2218.jpg

CABIN
The first thing that strikes me is that there is no cabin divider to separate the Business Class cabin from the Economy Class one. Furthermore, on the Embraers KLM does not keep the seat next to you empty in Business Class. So in other words, essentially you have exactly the same level of comfort, or lack thereof, as all the other passengers at the back of the bus.

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SERVICE
There are two cabin crew on the flight today. A young man as the purser, and a young lady working the rear of the aircraft. Interaction is somewhat limited, given that the flight is full and the flight time is only one hour. Even so, the crew are friendly in the way I am used to from KLM. Before departure, passengers on the first row are asked if they would like a newspaper, so I figure this means there is just the one row of Business Class on the flight today.

THE MEAL
Delivery:
On KLM Cityhopper flights the Business Class meal is always served in a cardboard box.
Type of meal:
Light dinner.
Meal:

  • Waldorf salad.
  • Greek salad with honeyed goats cheese, tomato, onion, cucumber and olives.
  • Two buns.
  • Tropical mousse with lime topping.
  • Tea or coffee.

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The meal is tasty enough and hits the spot nicely. One thing I have noticed with KLM though, is that they do not really seem to vary or change their menus that often. So if you fly with them a lot, you are going to end up having the same meal over and over again.

ARRIVAL
Very soon after the meal is removed, the descent into Aalborg begins. It is a really nice evening for flying and the setting sun looks brilliant on the horizon.

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By the time we land it is already 22h30. So I shall be spending the night at the Aalborg airport hotel before heading into town in the morning.

KLM, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-700 & Fokker F 70: Zürich to Luxembourg via Amsterdam

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INTRODUCTION

This way the world ends.
Not with a bang but a whimper.

– T. S. Eliot

Don’t worry. I’m not feeling suicidal. It’s just that this shall be my last trip for this year and after that I will not have a single PNR open. No future reservations. For the time being at least. Of course, I am aware of the fact that this series of trip reports on my last trip of 2015 should be something spectacular, something flashy and fancy. But it’s not quite like that.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport: Train.
Departs from: Winterthur Station.
Arrives: Zürich Flughafen.
Journey time: 13 minutes.
Frequency: Every 20 minutes, the nonstop trains run at 25, 28, 55 and 58 past the hour.

My flight will be leaving at 17h30, with boarding scheduled for 17h00. So I leave the office at 15h40 to catch the direct train 15h55. I like this time of year, when the sun remains low above the horizon all day and casts melancholy shadows.

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Surprisingly, when I arrive at Zürich airport, the place if fairly quiet. I have already checked in online, using the KLM App. But before I go through security, I have an errand to run. I want to get some pralines for my business partners in Luxembourg.

Personally, I think Läderach make the best chocolate out there. Forget about Cailler, Lindt or Belgian chocolate. Läderach makes them all look like amateurs. At Zürich airport their shop is in Terminal A, opposite the entrance to the centralised security check facility.

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BOARDING
Priority boarding: Available.

By the time I get the chocolate and I am past security, it is already gone 16h30. My flight will start boarding in less than half an hour from gate A 83, which is at the far end of the A concourse. Also, in my old age I find that I am increasingly bored by airlines lounge. It is much more fun to sit in the public area, watching the world go by. So from security I head straight for A 83 and park myself in a good place for some serious people watching.

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Boarding for the flights starts five minutes ahead of schedule. The flight is not full and the captain is eager for us to get away as quickly as possible to avoid a bank of fog that is rolling in from the north.

CABIN
Configuration: 3 + 3 in Economy Class. There are 132 seats in total.
Seat: 6A, window. The first four rows of the cabin are Business Class, although on today’s flight there are only three passengers sitting in the forward cabin.
Pitch: 33 inches.
Width: 17 inches.
Inflight entertainment: There is a console in the armrests to select channels and regulate the volume. However, I am not even sure the aircraft has video screens.

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The flight this evening is not full, so the maître de comes on to make an announcement that for weight and balance reasons, all passengers are required to take the seat they were assigned at check-in, despite the many empty seats. Quite frankly I think this is a load of bull. I can imagine that the distribution of passengers may make a difference on a small aircraft like the ATR-42 or the Saab 2000, but I hardly think it matters on an aircraft the size of the B 737-700.

Fortunately, the Platinum fairy has worked her magic again at check-in and the seat beside me stays empty. If you are interested in airplanes like me – you may have guessed – 6A is a good seat. You have an aligned window which provides some good views of the engine and wing.

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In any case, we push back on time and then make the short taxi to runway 28. We are number five for departure and the mist is coming in pretty thick by this time.

THE MEAL & SERVICE
Type of meal: Dinner snack

As this is an evening flight, KLM has the decency to serve a small cheese sandwich as a snack. What I like in particular, is that it is always a Dutch cheese they use for the sandwich and there is usually a brief explanation about what kind of cheese it is in the box in which the sandwich is served. Today’s cheese is a Beemster.

To drink with that I have a coffee and a glass of still water. Note that KLM will only provide sparkling water in Business Class, but not in Economy.

The meal hits the spot nicely and just a short while after I finish, it is already time for us to start our descent into Amsterdam.

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TRANSFER IN AMSTERDAM
We land on the famous Polderbaan that is runway 18R. It is the runway that is farthest away from the terminal area and the apron. After landing on the Polderbann it is another fifteen minutes of taxiing before eventually we arrive on our parking position at the C gates.

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By the time I disembark I have a bit more than one hour before boarding for the flight to Luxembourg begins. I am also hungry. So once more I decide to ignore the lounge and instead head up one floor from the central airside plaza to the food court.

Just in case you are interested, there is a central check-out area for the entire food court, where you pay for your purchase. I could really murder a hamburger right now, so I make my way over to Burger King. The queue is long but at least it moves quickly. There is also a Sbarro’s serving Italian food as well as a restaurant serving Asian and Dutch specialties.

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THE FLIGHT TO LUXEMBOURG
There is not really anything much to say about the flight to Amsterdam, except that it is very short, with a block time of only forty minutes. Boarding is from a remote stand and the flight is not overly full.

As a Platinum member I can select the emergency exit at no additional cost, so I am seated on 11A, which is the window seat on the emergency exit on the row of two seats. The seat next to me stays empty.

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Despite the very short flying time, KLM provide a snack on this service, which consists of a small packet of English crisps and pre-packed Turkish still water.

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ARRIVAL
We arrive on time. I only have hand luggage with me on this trip. So as soon as the bus drops us off at the terminal, I head upstairs, through arrivals and then head one floor up to take a taxi to the Doubletree in Domeldange.

Just so you know, in case you are contemplating taking public transport. First of all, the airport bus runs to the centre of town. So if you are staying at the Doubletree, you would first need to grab a bus to Hamilus and then from there catch the bus line 5 to take you to the Doubletree, which will take for ever. Secondly, you can purchase tickets on board most public transport in Luxembourg, except  the airport bus, and there is no machine for you to purchase tickets at the airport either. Which is just all sorts of awkward.

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

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INTRODUCTION
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.

CHECK-IN
I checked in for the flight yesterday evening in Sao Paolo before I left for the airport. I do not have any checked luggage so I am good to go.

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
Priority Boarding:
Available and enforce.

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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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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SERVICE
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
Welcome drink on the ground:
No.
Towel before the meal: Hot towel served after take-off.
Pre-meal drink:
No.
Choice:
There is a choice of chicken or pasta.
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
Meal:

  • Mixed salad.
  • Ricotta Tortellini with Zucchini, Bechamel and tomato sauce.
  • Selection from the breadbasket.
  • Something sweet with cherries.
  • 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!

 

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

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.

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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SERVICE
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
Welcome drink on the ground:
Negative.
Hot towel before the meal: Negative.
Pre-meal drink:
Negative.
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…
Meal:

  • An amuse bouche of asparagus salad with grilled tomato and sauce Hollondaise.
  • A seasonal salad with lemon flavoured olive oil.
  • Vegetarian Risotto with grilled vegetables and pickled onions.
  • Orange Bavaroise with blueberry sauce and white chocolate shavings.
  • 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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LOUNGE
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
Priority Boarding:
Available for SkyPriority passengers.

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.

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.

SERVICE
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
Menu:

  • Mixed salad and sun-dried tomatoes with pepper jack dressing.
  • 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.
  • 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 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
Priority 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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SERVICE
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
Welcome drink on the ground: None.
Towel before departure: None.
Choice: None.
Type of meal: Breakfast.
Meal:

  • Plate of cold ham and a selection of cheese, served with butter.
  • Fruit salad.
  • Fruit yoghurt.
  • Jam (no choice).
  • Selection form the bread basket – they came through the cabin three times.
  • 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…