Flight: KLM 658
Date: 27 Dec 2001
Aircraft: Boeing 767-306ER
Aircraft Reg: PH-BZK (Zeeland Bridge)
Departure Airport: Newark (EWR)
Arrival Airport: Amsterdam (AMS)
Scheduled Departure: 4:40 PM
Actual Departure: 5:46 PM
Flight Time: 6:25
I arrived at Newark Airport about three hours before scheduled departure time of 4:40 PM. I checked in for KLM 658, which was quick and efficient. I was assigned seat 35A in the economy section, or as KLM calls it, tourist class. From that point I decided to check out the viewing area (small window) between the B and C terminals. I saw an Alitalia 763 “Leonardo da Vinci” (EI-CRT), TAP A340, and two Continental 777s parked at the B gates at Newark. Meanwhile, the inbound KLM flight from Amsterdam landed about 20 minutes behind schedule and parked at gate 52 for passengers to disembark. The aircraft was PH-BZK “Zeeland Bridge.” After the short viewing period, I decided it was best to proceed to gate 42 as viewing may be better there and the security line looked rather long. So I waited in the security line for about 30 minutes. Quite frankly, security in the US is still a joke. The security personnel at Newark seemed very lax. The hand baggage screener was not even looking at the x-ray monitor as baggage was going through; instead he was watching a few very attractive women proceeding through the metal detector. So after passing security, and feeling rather insecure, I sat at gate 42 and watched the KLM 763 being towed over to our gate. Also saw a BA B777 and an AA Airbus A300 arrive from LHR, plus lots of Continental 777s and 757s arrive and depart.
Security: (5/10)-wont be included in final rating.
Numerous announcements were made regarding a delay in boarding. First announcement was that our crew was stuck in heavy traffic from midtown Manhattan. Second announcement was that the crew was in the building but waiting in the long security line. Finally, an hour after scheduled boarding time the crew arrived at the aircraft and passengers applauded and the first officer said, “Don’t worry, I will get you to Amsterdam right on time.” Boarding started about 30 minutes later after cabin crew prepared the aircraft. Boarding was terrible. There was no order whatsoever. KLM/Northwest definitely needs to improve on this. It was a free for all…basically open boarding like it was a low-cost airline. So despite my row being near the rear of economy, I was the last to board.
Once onboard, we were told to sit in our seats with out seatbelts unfastened since the aircraft was being fueled. Flight appeared to be fully booked in Y. After fueling, push back commenced at 5:35 and we taxied quickly to the active runway 22R for departure. We watched the safety video that is done on the video screens in English with Dutch subtitles. The woman on the video had an English accent and dressed in the KLM cabin crew outfit. First officer came on the radio informing us that the flight time to Amsterdam was 6:25 and that we would have an on time arrival of 6:15 AM. He said that because of the favorable winds that if our flight would’ve taken off on time we would have had to of circled above Amsterdam for an hour because of what he called “circle six rule” which requires that no aircraft land before 6:00 AM for noise abatement. So I guess the delay worked out for the best. At 5:46 it was our time for takeoff. Takeoff roll was 45 seconds followed by an immediate left turn for noise abatement. Then a right hand turn that put us on a Northeast heading over Teterboro and towards New Haven, Connecticut. I have heard numerous complaints about KLM’s 767 seat pitch. I found it adequate and much better than Virgin Atlantic’s economy seat pitch. I’m 6’2 and had no issues at all with the legroom. Aircraft looked rather clean inside with nice light blue bulkheads adorned with the KLM logo. 40 minutes into the flight we were over Boston and a drink service commenced. I got a diet coke (just a cup, no full cans). 1:15 into the flight the meal service started. It was a choice between Beef of Veggie Pasta. I chose the pasta, which was basically Vegetable Lasagna. Also on the tray were a piece of cheese, pack of crackers, small salad with a tub of vinaigrette, and a square of apple cake. Everything was really good. In addition, crew came around with a basket of warm rolls for the meal. Meal trays were cleared in an efficient manner and another drink service started. In-flight entertainment wasn’t the greatest but was okay. Main cabin video was Serendipity. Also, episodes of Friends and Seinfeld were shown along with the most boring Discovery Channel documentaries. I would’ve preferred to watch the flight-tracking map the entire flight! The route took us over St. John’s then the typical North Atlantic crossing route. Seatbelt sign came on and off four times over the Atlantic for turbulence. We flew north of Dublin and breakfast was started. It consisted of a “Good Morning Breakfast Box.” It included a tub of strawberry banana yogurt, banana muffin, minute maid orange juice and then the crew came around with another basket of rolls. This time the rolls were really good, they were croissant like with melted cheese inside. I ate this and skipped out on the breakfast box, as I really hate food made with banana. The flight path took us over the Irish Sea, south of Manchester, and over the North Sea. A video about Schiphol Airport was shown and we started our descent. Pilot informed us of our arrival status, still on time. He also said that turbulence was expected on landing, as the winds were rather strong. We landed at Schiphol at 6:15. Landing was abrupt with a very noticeable crab to compensate for the crosswinds. Being a CFI, I tell students that during crosswind landings make a nice firm landing instead of finessing the aircraft onto the runway. Well, guess the pilot of our KLM flight has the same view on crosswind landings. He did a good job. No reverse thrust was used. We taxied to the gate and I saw a MH 777 being towed to a gate and we parked next to two Transavia 737-800s. We were on gate at 6:20 AM. One thing I lacked to mention was about the cabin crew. They were honestly the friendliest I have experienced. I found them better than BA, VS, KE, AA, DL, etc. They were very friendly and as I would say, “down to earth.” They acted professionally, efficient, took the time out to talk to passengers individually, and did not hesitate to get you anything you asked for. I asked for a diet coke during the flight and the one flight attendant came with a cup full with an additional two cans. I like when crew looks ahead to assure your overall comfort in-flight.
Rating: 9/10 because of the in-flight entertainment.
Overall Rating: 23/30 because of the poor boarding process.
Flight: KLM 657
Date: 03 Jan 2002
Aircraft: Boeing 767-306ER
Aircraft Reg: PH-BZO (Karmsund Bridge)
Departure Airport: Amsterdam (AMS)
Arrival Airport: Newark (EWR)
Scheduled Departure: 11:30 AM
Actual Departure: 12:00 PM
Flight Time: 8:10
Check-in: Long check-in lines at Schiphol. Took approximately 35 minutes. Glad I arrived over 3 hours before flight time. Proceeded through passport control and then through security checkpoint number one. I got my bag searched because of a Gemini Jet 1:400 model I bought that apparently had a fuselage that looked like a weapon. After that, I saw a MASSIVE line and asked the security guard what the line was about. It was for security checkpoint number two for concourse E. These were mainly flights going to the US. That line was about a 1:10 wait. I felt as though I was at Disney going from one line to another waiting to get on a ride. At that checkpoint my bag was searched once again. This is totally random I believe. About 1 in 4 people had their bags inspected. Because I beeped going through this metal detector and not the last one (?) I was asked if I could be searched. I got the full pat down. No wand like they use in the US. This guy checked everything! After clearing, I went to the boarding area and saw the aircraft parked at the gate. It was PH-BZO “Karmsund Bridge”. This is KLM’s newest 767 (del: 02/2000) and it shows. The interior and paint looked brand new. Back to KLM’s boarding mess again. Crew arrived 30 minutes late and boarding commenced 30 minutes late. Business passengers boarded followed by an open boarding call (aka push and shove to get on the plane). GREAT!!!! Once in line, passengers had to pass security checkpoint number three. This involved random bag searches and mine was once again searched. Security in the Netherlands is done so professionally and the security agents actually appear as though they take their jobs seriously. The US certainly needs to look at Europe as an example for airport security. Again, bag checks were random. I don’t fit the profiles they use in the US…I think I was chosen cause I was carrying my book bag with my hand because it was really heavy to hold for an hour on my back, so it may have appeared that I was trying to hide my backpack from them.
Check-in Rating: 8/10
Boarding Rating: 5/10
Security: (10/10)-not included in final rating.
Pushed back and taxied to the runway. I believe we pushed at 11:50 AM. We taxied past an SQ A340 that had just been pushed back and was starting its number 3 and 4 engines. Passengers on our plane gasped as they saw smoke come from the engines, which is completely typical of an engine start on a cold morning. I overheard comments like, “Oh my God,” “That plane will not make it to Singapore,” etc. Passengers can be annoying…forgot to mention about the American’s on the flight to AMS. They were cut off from alcohol cause they were drunk, rude, and subsequently obnoxious the entire flight. Every time the drink cart would come by they would steal bottles off the drink trolley when crew wasn’t looking…also they were drunk in the boarding lounge before the flight…it was obvious. Also, you got to love those passengers in the boarding area that point at different aircraft and sound as though they are pro’s. The guy next to me in the boarding lounge pointed at the SQ Airbus A340 and insisted it was a DC-8 and I overheard another guy saying that he only like flying on 777s, that’s why he flys KLM…hmmmmm!!!!!! Maybe in the future he’ll finally get his wish if KLM chooses the 777. Okay back to the flight. We departed at 12:00 PM. Took off to the north, flew north of Haarlem, over the North Sea, over Manchester, and north of Dublin. Flight track took us further north than normal over the southern tip of Greenland making landfall over Goose Bay, overflying Labrador City, Montreal, Albany and to the south of Newark for a landing on runway 4R. In-flight service started about 30 minutes after takeoff and meal followed about 45 minutes after that. Again a very cheerful crew. The Dutch women serving as crew were very pretty. Meal was chicken or pasta. I chose the chicken. It was Mexican Chicken with French green beans and chunks of potato’s. It was quite spicy. Also served with a warm roll and a piece of cheese, orange chocolate cake, and a salad made with couscous. Meal wasn’t that great. I bought some Liga cookies in Amsterdam that held me over. Wish we had these cookies in the US. In-flight movie was Rush Hour 2. I’ve seen this movie a couple of times and like it more each time I watch it. Makes me want to go back to Hong Kong for vacation. Flew for a few more hours and then was served a small tub of French ice cream. It was vanilla with a fudge swirl. After the movie, Christmas versions of Home Improvement and Seinfeld were shown as well as a New Year’s version of Mr. Bean. Before landing meal was easy to serve. It was French bread pizza. It looked really good but I passed as my cookies filled me up. It was nice and hot…not just partially warmed like other pizzas on airplanes that I have had. We then had another drink service and after that started our descent and landed at Newark at 2:10 PM, right on time. I think KLM’s late boarding may actually be from well-planned flights as both my flights arrived on time. We taxied to gate 52 and disembarked where I waited nearly an hour to clear customs. The lines were huge thanks to all the European arrivals. That concludes my flights to AMS. For those of you wondering why I didn’t choose SQ…well they didn’t fly on the days I needed to depart and arrive. I will hopefully give them a try next time. I’d classify KLM as a classy airline, with a very friendly and hardworking crew who seem to really enjoy their jobs. I’d highly recommend them. I recently read another report about KLM…I haven’t experienced their service enough to make an overall assessment of the airline, but from my point of view, things were run smoothly.
Overall Rating: 22/30. Again because of poor boarding.
PS…to all the Europeans and other non-US members on this forum, I apologize for the obnoxious behavior of some of the Americans I observed oversees. Their behavior on flights and around the city that I observed made me embarrassed. Believe me, we’re not all like that. Example, one American passenger insisted because his seat didn’t recline that he be upgraded to world business class. The crew said that would cost roughly $4,000 USD. That passenger continued to use rude and explicit language to the crew that could’ve gotten him kicked off the airplane and the rest of us passengers diverted to Gander. If I were a crewmember on that flight, I would not have put up with his behavior!
Hope you enjoyed the report. Any questions, please ask.
I’m flying to LHR from EWR on VS002/001 on 9 Jan on an A340 so that report is to follow…stay tuned.
Thanks for reading,