Now that classes are over for the holiday, I've finally had the time to sit down and really set myself to finishing part two of my summer trip (CMH-AMS-FCO, BCN-AMS-MEM-CMH). As you will notice, I have included many more pictures from my actual flight on this report than I did on part 1. For those of you who missed the first part (including photographs of the Mediterranean ports we visited on our cruise) you may wish to catch up here:
Beauty & Beast -TATL On The 747, A330 & NW/KL Pt.1 (by TJM321 Oct 1 2009 in Trip Reports)
BCN-AMS KL1666 737-900 PH-BXP "Crested Coot" -with a video of our go-around
AMS-MEM NW57 A330-300 N808NW
MEM-CMH NW2834 CRJ-200
The rolling of (too much) Sangria on an empty stomach is never a pleasant sound to wake up to, but fortunately it was appreciably less galling than I know my human alarm clock (Dad) would have been had I woke up late for our morning flight from BCN. We made our usual baggage checks and left Villa Emilia to pick up our airport shuttle- for those of you who have not visited Barcelona, I think the city is extraordinarily easy to navigate, and it is not difficult to find transportation to important places.
We arrived at BCN around 7AM for check-in. The KLM/AF ticket counters were not busy at all unlike the snaking wind at Lufthansa, but unfortunately there was a computer malfunction that severely prolonged the check-in process. The gate agents were very friendly and focused despite a few impatient, suite-clad, and probably caffeine-deprived passengers muttering and checking their watches. After a short wait, we were able to check our bags through AMS, MEM, and finally to CMH. We took the escalator up to security, and proceeded through quite easily, as there were very few people in line at this time (note- therefore, a good time to catch a flight out of BCN on KLM!)
Shopping at BCN; somebody has their eyes on the Ferrari mechandise!
A JK MD-87; not an aircraft seen particularly often in the states
Iberia A320 to Madrid, I believe
Reminds me of my real home
AA early morning arrival from the states (presumably JFK) I actually was not aware that AA flew to Barcelona with the 763. I know Continental uses the 752 (which certainly seems like a long time on a narrowbody), and I caught a glimpse of a US 762 taxiing by, then a DL 764. So lots of "different" products on US-BCN flights, which is interesting to note.
Unfortunately, not many (if any at all) of these LH 737-500's left
The real treat of the morning at Barcelona!
Near our gate, 43. The gates at BCN are roughly organized by alliance, though long hauls operate in one area. On a side note, I want to note that, while the airport is airy and evidently designed to feel more "open" than some other large airports (parts of LHR come to mind), it is difficult to get good quality photographs unless you have a good quality camera. I had a little trouble finding good angles on some my shots- so sorry about the poor quality of some of the photos I've posted!
Arrival of our Crested Coot
Boarding was a one-step process, and ended up operating fairly smoothly despite the large crowd. We were greeted promptly by two flight attendants, and proceeded to our seats, mine 17F, which happened to be right over the wing of the 739.
On a random note, I truly do love the stylish figure of the A321
We taxied for a good while; this flight was nearly identical to incoming into Rome, so I won't go into detail until the end, when things became a bit interesting. I tried to take a video of the takeoff to capture the beauty of the Spanish coast below, but I unfortunately ran out of battery power during the climb. I'll say that it is one of the more impressive takeoffs I've ever experienced (though this is probably not saying very much ) in terms of scenery. We flew right over the beach, in a way that sort of reminds me of departures from LAX.
KLM is so very... blue- purposefully, of course, but I don't know whether to be impressed with their dedication to a continuous, timeworn theme, or to pull out the eyeshades to block out the garish, shifting corporate identity it exudes. Classy, yes, in it's own way, but at the same time, would I myself be contemptuous it to point out its sense of pride? If I ever saw a (mutated) crested coot with bright blue feathers, it would certainly stick out among the others even though it is, in essence, the same bird. I'm not saying that all airlines should normalize the appeal of their products to the corporate austerity of, say, American- just that, while KLM offers a good in-flight product, I find the "Royal Dutch" part to reside much more in tradition than in product.
Service on this flight was the same as before, with the two sandwiches and later coffee with Punselie.
Descent was rather quick and unassuming, as expected. I did notice, after a while, however, that the pilots seemed to have trouble pulling the aircraft down. We thrust upwards, back down, and as the runway neared, I realized we were going to have to do a go-around. I happened to be filming the landing while this occurred- you can notice the climb around 2:00.
The pilots alerted us as to what was going on in Dutch, English, then the FA's in Spanish. There were murmurs throughout the cabin, but overall everyone seemed to be fine with the situation. I actually enjoyed my first experience, as we were treated to a nice view of AMS and the surrounding area.
We landed normally the second time, disembarked, and re-entered security. With little time to spare, my dad and I rushed to the gate where our NW A330-300, N808NW still in old colors, was waiting for flight 57 to Memphis. Security was tight around the "high risk" flight's gate, but I did manage a nice view of our machine
Flight attendants were cheery on this flight. The purser was obviously well-trained in speech, and her voice was very pleasant to hear over the PA. Another, very obviously from the southern USA, was very enthusiastic, which really set a relaxed atmosphere in the cabin. She darted through the rows with newspapers, making sure everyone was comfortable and cool despite the temporarily inoperable air conditioning. She also noticed that I was sitting by myself in seat 22J, and offered to reseat me in another empty row if someone else came to take the seat next to me, which I thought was very, very nice. The flight was actually roughly full, but since the aisle seats in the front part of the cabin are/(were) reserved for WorldPerks Elite (I think that's the designation) members, many of them were empty.
PTV's and the lack of legroom onboard the A330. This was due to the entertainment box located under each window seat. However, nobody ended up sitting next to me, so I got the two seats for myself!
Today's flight was moderately full
Classic MD-11's, before they're gone!
Taxi for takeoff on what I believe is the Polderbaan- someone correct me!
Take off was very smooth and quiet, which is something I really enjoy about the A330. Having just flown on a 747, I'd have to say that the two aircraft offer very different ambiences across the pond. I think it's safe to say that they serve different purposes as well. NWA's A330 is its premium aircraft, especially in comfort, and I think it will continue that role (along with the 777) at Delta. It's a comfortable plane to fly transatlantic, especially with the AVOD, improved seats, and more contemporary-styled interior. The 744 is a beastly people-mover, albeit a sentimentally impressive one.
How much longer will we see these red winglets?
Beverages were served very shortly after takeoff, then lunch. I opted for what was generically called "chicken." Interestingly enough, it was actually quite good- the meat was tender, the vegetables fresh-tasting, and the - haha- tater tots actually crisp (I thought they were seared scallops at first glance, which would have been a remarkable effort for economy class!)
The side dish included a creamy cucumber-dill slaw which was actually quite nice, and a chickpea salad which was okay. Dessert was NOT JUST OREOS this time- I suppose I might have been a bit overenthusiastic over what was still a too-small, kind of boring airplane meal. Still, it was an improvement on what I received on my outbound flight, and probably an effort to magnet to the fridge of US airline mealhood.
AVOD worked well except for the moving map, which was somewhat disappointing. I watched Quantum Solace, which I had previously seen, then Finding Nemo out of boredom. The device has games as well, Bejeweled to name one, but I didn't quite playing them worth the effort, with all the navigation on the remote. It is easy to use, though, once you use it for a certain amount of time.
FA's came around frequently with orange juice, water, and occasionally Biscoffs, which was nice. The flight actually became quite cold about half-way, in which case the blanket became useful. Though the entire flight ran over daylight, the flight attendants did their best to set up good sleeping conditions, suggesting that everyone close their window shade if they were not using it. I took a few pics before taking a snooze myself
We descended into Memphis smoothly, dodging a few heavy clouds that had evidently dumped heavy showers onto the airport shortly before we had arrived. Disembarkation was very quick; it was a bit sad leaving the beautiful A330, but at the same time I was more than ready to come back home. I had never been to MEM before; it's not a bad airport in terms of convenience, although it is a bit dated inside with the exposed brick walls and low ceilings. I didn't take a ton of pictures here, though I wish I would have remembered to.
We proceeded to customs, which ended up taking much more time than I had expected. I don't think it was so much because of the crowd as staff just taking their time. This was fine since we had plenty of time to spare until our connection, but I think everyone was tired of maintaining their legs in one position after the long flight. We proceeded up the escalator and down terminal B, where most of the shops and food venues are. MEM is pretty much dominated by barbeque, which is fine with me- wow, did some of the smells wafting from those places make my stomach growl! It was also interesting to see some of the more locally-focused stores, such as the Rock n' Roll Museum and Elvis Store. The walk from B42 to A20 is deceptively long; it's only about half the length of the airport, but MEM is built as essentially one (actually, three) long stretches instead of a grouping of smaller terminals connected by an underground, such as ORD. I saw my A330, a handful of DC95's, a couple A319/20's, and a horde of CR2's, one of which would take me home to CMH. While the airport is dominated by NW/DL, it seems as though everything points to MEM being, at its largest, a regionally-focused operation for them.
The flight home was quick and painless, nothing special to recall, except how beat we were upon arrival!
Final Thoughts - - - -
NWA transatlantic treated me well. I thought their product was generally consistent, though the cabin crew on NW57 was better (more enthusiastic) than that of my outbound flight. The 747's need a lot of work; the economy seats were worn, hard, and uncomfortable, and would be better if they had an IFE system- only, that is, if they are going to be kept in the Delta fleet for a while. Only airline purists (and not even all of them) concerned with preserving the legacy of the aircraft itself are going to yield tolerance to it's lack of amenities. The 747 is a beastly aircraft, but in a pragmatic sense it flies for transport, not impression, as it may have decades ago. But if its time has indeed (arguably) passed, the mechanic elegance of transatlantic air travel can assuredly be preserved in the future of the A330. I appreciated the comfort of the aircraft, although I was quite lucky to not be forced to share my legroom with an entertainment box. AVOD is a nice system, and certainly helped to pass the time. I'm not one to argue the necessity of IFE on longhaul flights, and I'm not sure how much less enjoyable the flight would have been without one. However, I think the majority of passengers on NW57 appreciated the amenity.
AMS and KLM are fine choices when traveling in Europe, no complaints. I was a bit annoyed having to stand for such a long time while boarding my flight to Rome, though it didn't ruin my impression of the voyage as a whole. I found KLM's crew, on ground and in air, to be exceptionally well-trained, and consistently personable- a virtue airlines here in the US could readily learn from, unfortunately. At the same time, I thought their in-flight amenities were nothing more than just "okay" - the seats on the 739 were slightly hard, and for such a new aircraft, I was surprised to not see video monitors. All in all, I had a small sampling of the KLM product, and thought it was excellent from a personnel standpoint, and fine from an equipment one.
We absolutely LOVED our cruise with Azamara, and would recommend it to anyone looking to see the Mediterranean in an intimate way- without the hassle of finding clean hotels, transportation between cities, and reputable restaurants. We booked the same trip for May 2010- this time, Mom included We're flying AZ out of JFK, then AF from BCN to CDG, and CMH (sidenote- have any of you had experience with A.) Alitalia's 767's and B.) changing flights on DL by their policy that allows you to change your flight if it is changed by more than one hour? We'd rather not sit at JFK for 4+ hours, but the website is demanding change fees despite their change of time)
Thank you for reading this lengthy report, I hope it was an enjoyable read. This is only my second effort, so I'm sure it has room for improvement. I have a few photos from my flights back and forth from GSO/school and home/CMH on UA and DL, so look for possible reports from those flights. Later this summer, I'll be heading back to Zurich on LX, so another one there in the future as well.
Until then, Happy Holidays and Happier Flying,
[Edited 2009-12-21 08:54:48]