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

KLM_Logo

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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The Swissport Aspire 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 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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The 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…

The Crew

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 lights, which looks better than it sounds.

  1. Greek salad with feta cheese and pumpkin, with a mango chilli and lime dressing.
  2. Salmon and egg wrap with spinach and cream cheese.
  3. Tropical Pina Colada mousse with a lime topping.
  4. A selection of hot and cold drinks.
  5. 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 – Airbus A 330-200: Basel via Amsterdam to Kuwait

KL KWI

Introduction

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

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

Transfer in Amsterdam Schiphol

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

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

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

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Boarding

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

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

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

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The Cabin

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

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

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The Crew

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

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The Meal

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

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

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The First Course

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

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The Salad

Mixed salad with roast pumpkin seeds.

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The Main Course

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

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The Cheese

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

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The Second Service

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

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Arrival

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

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

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

Getting into Town

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

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

Introduction

I spend three days giving a course to a group of Spanish and Portuguese participants. It has been a fun three days and our Spanish host were very welcoming and hospitable. Of course it also helped that the weather in Madrid was simply gorgeous, with clear blue skies and temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius, while back home in Switzerland they had already started to take out their winters coats.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Shuttle bus from the Airport Hilton
Departs from: Right outside the lobby
Frequency: Every 25 minutes
Journey time: About 10 minutes to Terminal 2
Fare: The shuttle is complimentary

At 15h05 I catch the complimentary shuttle bus back to Barajas airport. By the looks of it, I am the only hotel guest making the journey to the airport. On its way to Terminal 2, the shuttle makes a brief stop at Terminal 1, which is the non-Schengen terminal, before continuing to Terminal 2.

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Check-in

Location: On the first floor. If you arrive by car, there are signs indicating which carrier is located at which entrance.
Facilities: Online check-in, self-service check-in and baggage drop counters.

KLM and Air France have their own set of dedicated check-in counters at Barajas, including a large number of self-service kiosks. I have already checked in using the Air France app. However, I briefly check at one of the counters to inquire about the location of the Air France lounge. The check-in agent is a friendly young lady. She points out to me that at the far end of the concourse, behind the Alitalia check-in counters, there is a fast track for security for Business Class passengers and status card holders.

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The Lounge

Location: One floor up from the main transit area on the E concourse. The stairs to the lounge are located near gate E69. The E concourse is one of the newer facilities in the original terminal complex at Barajas. As such, it has a very spacious and airy feel.
Type of Lounge:
Puerta de Sol contractor lounge, operated, I think, by the airport authority.
Facilities:
A large bar with hot and cold drinks. There are also cold and warm snacks. For the latter there is a microwave for you to heat the prepacked food in. It does not look particularly sophisticated or elegant, but I guess it gets the job done. There is also a set of workstations. Toilets are available in the lounge, but there are no showers.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi connectivity. The code can be found at the bottom of the information screens which are located by the entrance to the lounge.

The lounge is nothing special really. Its one redeeming feature however, is the commanding view of the apron and the runway used for arrivals. So I take up a seat by the window. I actually take out my Kindle to do some reading. But somehow I keep getting distracted by the constant stream of aircraft filing past my window. Brilliant!

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Boarding

Boarding takes for ever, due to the fact that it is a full flight today. I am sitting on 2F, which is a window seat on the right-hand side of the aircraft. One of my windows is right above the forward cargo hatch. As the suitcases are loaded onto the aircraft, I get a chance to look at the labels on the conveyor belt, before the bags disappear into the hold. Most of the checked luggage, from what I can tell, belongs to connecting passengers. There are only few bags with Amsterdam as their final destination. The majority of the bags are labelled for Incheon and Pudong.

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Apart from all that, I am just happy as a pig in shit for finally bagging the retro-liveried B 737-800.

The Cabin

I have already covered the cabin of the KLM Boeing 737-800 in my previous posts, so I guess there is no need for an introduction. One thing that strikes me on this particular trip though, is that apart from a greater pitch, the seats in the forward cabin also seem to be slightly more inclined when the seatback is in the upright position. And quite frankly, it is not particularly comfortable. I keep sliding down the seat.

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The Crew

I have yet to experience a bad crew on KLM. I think that is one of the carrier’s most impressive features. No matter what, the crews are always friendly and welcoming. Service in Business Class is conducted by a middle-aged gentleman.

The Meal

Choice: There are two choices for the main course, including one vegetarian option. Although on this particular flight the vegetarian option is different to the one printed on the menus which were distributed before departure.
Delivery:
Tray service
Type of meal:
Early dinner, although is you are Spanish it probably qualified more as a latish lunch…

  1. An amuse bouche of asparagus salad with grilled tomato and sauce Hollondaise.
  2. A seasonal salad with lemon flavoured olive oil.
  3. Vegetarian Risotto with grilled vegetables and pickled onions.
  4. Orange Bavaroise with blueberry sauce and white chocolate shavings.
  5. Selection from the bread basket with butter (two servings).

Despite the flight time of over two hours, KLM does not have a pre-meal drinks service. However, even after the meal service is over, the crew come through the cabin repeatedly, asking passengers if they want anything else to drink.

Other than that, the meal is rather tasty and hits the spot nicely. The Hollondaise sauce is nice and creamy and always goes well with the asparagus. The Risotto with the pickled onions in surprisingly good! The dessert is the only thing about the meal I do not really like. It is awfully sweet and the orange tastes slightly artificial.

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Arrival

By the time we reach the top of descent, the sun is already very low on the horizon, providing a spectacular display of colours in the sky. And by the time we finally land in Schiphol, it is already dark. In Amsterdam I only have about 40 minutes before my connecting flight to Basel departs. So I decide to forfeit the comfort of the Crown Lounge in favour of walking up and down the C and B concourses to meet the daily step target on my Garmin Fenix 3. Life is good…!

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