Edoca From Belgium, joined Mar 2005, 688 posts, RR: 8 Posted (10 years 10 months 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 8354 times:
Hi all - I've enjoyed many of the reports posted here, so I decided to add one myself - this one describes our trip back to Aruba (AUA), where we currently work and live, after a two-week holiday with our families backin Belgium.
We (my wife, myself and our 6-month old son) had 2 regular economy-class tickets and an infant ticket/bassinet reservation (i.e. no separate seat).
Now, before you start thinking - "oh no, I HATE babies on board of an aircraft", rest assured, ours didn't cause any trouble! Although I have to admit I did worry about it before we left...
Anyway, we were fortunate enough to get an upgrade to World Business Class using Flying Blue miles for our return trip. For those who want to get upgraded as well, please note that KLM/Air France have made it much more difficult to do so, as only the most expensive economy class tickets are eligible now. Before, any ticket could be used. Luckily our (cheap) tickets, upgrades and preferred seats were confirmed and paid for long before "Flying Dutchman" turned into "Flying Blue".
Another tip - if you are a Flying Blue member, it's well worth flying a feeder flight into the hub airport (Amsterdam in this case), rather than getting there by car: the price difference is not too much, and you get an easy 750 level miles even for 20-minute, less-than-150-mile flight.
We arrived at the airport around 9AM on July 21st, Belgium's Independence Day. Traffic on the airport's access road was busier than I've seen before, and the departures hall was packed as in the good old times - Brussels Airport is apparently on the right track again, and of course it was also a holiday and check-in time for many long-haul flights.
Thanks to the upgrades (and the Silver card we've earned with our hops to and from Aruba) we could bypass the queue a bit by using the Elite check-in counter. The silver card also gives an extra baggage allowance, which is much appreciated when travelling with a baby.
We received our boarding passes (5A and 5C for BRU-AMS, and the wonderful 1A and 1B for the AMS-AUA section). The long walk all the way to the end of the A-pier, through security and the shopping area, took us quite a while. We were really loaded with the maximum allowed carry-on luggage (travelling with a baby, again...)
The plane to AMS, a Fokker-70 (sorry, I didn't catch the reg# but this is what it looks like)
left with only a minimal delay, and after a short ride to 25R we were airborne very quickly. For this short-haul flight, we just received an extra safety belt to attach to the regular seat belt, so that you can secure a baby passenger.
Although the scheduled flight time is 55 minutes, we touched down in rainy Amsterdam after only 25 minutes of flight, thanks to the approach pattern. You have to admire KLM/Cityhopper for serving an orange juice and a quick bite on a flight that is only this short! Many airlines give you no food even on flights longer than 2 hours... We had to park at Schiphol's B-gate area. On the pic below, that is the area left of the picture's center where all the regional jets and turboprops are parked.
Our departure gate for KL733 to AUA was E2 (on the above pic, the first gate on the left side of the long pier in the right-hand corner). After clearing passport control, we had about 3 hours to spend prior to departure. And it really is no problem to spend that time - shopping is always nice at Schiphol airport, we also checked out the baby room facilities between piers E and F, and our little boy enjoyed lunch in the KLM Crown lounge at pier E - I hope not too many people were annoyed by that spectacle...
About 40 minutes before departure, boarding started, and so we entered PH-KCK, an MD-11 as usual on this route. Although I am not such a big fan of the MD-11 as many others on these forums, it is a nice plane to fly in; if they could just modernise the interior a bit (what's wrong with power outlets, for example - they are absent even in business class?) and fix the many little defects with the seats, it would be even better.
We took off about 15 minutes late, around 2.45PM, from the Kaagbaan (thanks to the delay, otherwise, according to the Captain, it would have been the Polderbaan with its endless taxiway. Taking off with the MD-11, I have to admit, is memorable thanks to the powerful engines (great sound as well), both on the inside, as apparently on the outside as well.
Meanwhile of course, we had already received a drink, and thanks to the early boarding, we'd had plenty of time to settle into our cosy little compartment (that's how it feels, the front section of KLM's MD-11's only has 12 seats in 2 rows!), which would be our "home" for the next 9 1/2 hours.
Service started soon after takeoff, with (in our case) installation the baby bassinet, another drink and menu selection (choice between chicken, salmon lasagne or lamb). As always with KLM, flight attendants were very friendly and professional. The crew accomodated for our "baby entertainment" by allowing us to dine in two shifts (try that in economy!). Add to that excellent food, wine and desserts quality, and the result is an extremely comfortable experience.
The flight took us over southern England before starting the ocean crossing in a straight line to St-Maarten. About mid-way and two movies on the IFE later, ice cream or sandwiches were served, and at all times snacks were always available for pick-up for business class travellers anyway. Our baby enjoyed the flight as well, he had plenty of space to sit, roll over and play between his naps in the bassinet (again, try that in economy with 31"-pitch seats...). About 2 hours before arrival, another meal was served, with a choice between a quiche or a dessert this time. Service was concluded with the typical KLM touch - a small liquor bottle disguised in a typical Dutch Delft blue miniature house... a great collector's item.
We arrived 10 minutes early in Aruba, and touched down in the typical MD-11 fashion.
Immigration and baggage pickup was swift, and by 7.30PM local time we were home unpacking... Considering the duration of the trip, and the baby-circumstances, this is just a great way of travelling. I hope I can enjoy more upgrades in the future!
Edoca From Belgium, joined Mar 2005, 688 posts, RR: 8
Reply 2, posted (10 years 9 months 4 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 7836 times:
To be honest, I am a bit less enthousiastic about Y-class KLM flights on the MD-11 and 747 planes. Although service is at a very high standard in my view, the aged seats and lack of modern personal video screens make those flights less enjoyable. The new 777's and A330's would be very different...
I'm also going to take the opportunity to shamelessly plug my most recent addition to the database here - a tribute to the KLM MD-11's flying into the Caribbean...