10 January 2002
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines KL1168
PH-BTA “Fernao Magahaes”
Departure (Scheduled/Actual): 13:25/13:25
Arrival (Scheduled/Actual): 15:10/14:50
Tourist Class, Seat 25F
Photo © Charles Falk
I got to Helsinki Vantaa airport at around noon for my 13:25 departure to Amsterdam. There were around five pax in front of me checking in at the Globe Ground counters for KL1168 to Schiphol and I had to wait a couple of minutes. The agent was very friendly and good-looking and gave me my boarding passes to AMS and LHR. I thanked her and went to exchange some British Pounds and US Dollars before making my way through security control.
Some five minutes later I passed through security – it took less than a minute as always at HEL. Made my way to gate 23 but it wasn’t open yet. So I did some spotting and noticed two SAS MD80s (OY-KHC and SE-DBM) as well as a Lufthansa CRJ (D-ACJD) and tons of AY planes including OH-LGA going to New York Kennedy as AY005. KLM’s B737-400 landed from Amsterdam a couple of minutes later. Also one of Finnair’s ATR-72s made an emergency landing with a couple of fire trucks waiting
PH-BTA arrived at gate 23 with two MD80s at gates next to it (OH-LMX and OY-KGY). After the passengers had deplaned, the same lady as at check in opened the gate and asked if I’d mind completing a KLM survey. It was about ground service and I was happy to tell them that Globe Ground did a good job. In the “additional comments to KLM” –section I told them how the Flying Dutchman program just sucks compared to others and made some suggestions how to improve it.
Boarding started at 13:00 with and I made my way to the second last row. The purser greeted us at door 1L. As soon as I made it to my seat, I noticed the miserable legroom. A guy who was very worried about his HV connection to AGP was sitting in 25D. The crew assured he’ll be fine with his connection. The ground crew still refuelling the plane but the seatbelt sign was on. I thought that was against the regulations. A safety demo in Dutch/English shortly followed and we were pushed back at 13:25, exactly on time.
Engines were started at 13:26 and 13:27 and we started our taxi to runway 22 but had to wait a while as OH-LMY was landing on 15. Full thrust was applied at 13:35 and PH-BTA left the Finnish soil after a 25-second takeoff roll. This idiot next to me had his seat reclined and hand luggage in seat 25E for the whole takeoff and the flight attendants didn’t care. Even the purser didn’t say a word. (A F/A passed by three times before takeoff)
We were climbing steeply, made a right turn and headed towards Arlanda. As soon as the seatbelt sign went off, the guy in 24F reclined his seat and my legroom was just unbearable. Thankfully nobody was in the middle seat next to me, so I could stretch my legs. The service started shortly and we had the choice of lamb/chicken/cheese sandwiches, I chose lamb. Three very small delta-shaped sandwiches were ridiculous for a 2h40 flight IMHO. Had a coke and Baileys with my sandwiches with coffee and a biscuit following shortly.
As the crew was finished with the service, we experienced some pretty heavy turbulence for ten minutes or so. Our routing took us over ARN and CPH towards AMS. At around 14:15 (CET) I saw a plane going to the opposite direction quite close to us. Shortly after that we began our descent to Schiphol airport and had the Dutch countryside in view. Landed on 19R at 14:50 and taxied to gate D46 where we arrived at 15:00. Some interesting planes I noticed were a CI 744, GA 744 (PK-GSI), KU A340, IR A300 and a few KLM 747-400s plus a NWA DC10 parked at a remote stand. The observation deck being closed, I bought a train ticket and headed to downtown Amsterdam for a couple of hours.
10 January 2002
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines KL1033
PH-BXB “Valk / Falcon”
Departure (Scheduled/Actual): 20:05/20:14
Arrival (Scheduled/Actual): 20:35/20:27
Tourist Class, Seat 14E (exit row window)
Photo © Paul Dopson
Got back to the airport at around 19:15 and cleared security which was a breeze again. I then went to the Schiphol Mc Donald’s to get a Big Mac meal as I knew there wouldn’t be any food on the LHR flight. After I had finished my dinner, I went to gate D43 for boarding. Instead of a 737-900, there was a 737-800 waiting. Bugger.
Boarding was around 19:45 and the flight seemed to be reasonably full. I had seat 14E in the exit row but there wasn’t any extra legroom. Instead, seat 14F didn’t exist so mine was a window seat basically. These seats were much better than the 737-400 seats but still a light year behind Finnair’s A320 seats for example. Also they have no inflight entertainment onboard. Next to us was a 737-400 (PH-BTB) and a bmi Fokker 100 taxied by.
Manual safety demo was done at 20:10 and pushback occurred at 20:14. The captain informed us that there would be a ten-minute delay due to the fact that we needed to be de-iced. We then taxied to the de-icing area and shortly after that to runway 24 for takeoff. A 32-second takeoff roll occurred at 20:27 and we headed directly towards Heathrow airport. As soon as the seatbelt sign was switched off, the pretty friendly crew started the service. A piece of cake and peanuts were served. I had a Coke to flush them down. The cake tasted more or less horrible.
We soon started our descent to LHR and were expected to land at 20:15. It was very cloudy over the London area and I couldn’t see anything before we were almost touching down. Landed on 27R at 20:20 and made it to Terminal 4 ten minutes later. Loads of BA planes there and a QF 744 (VH-OJH). I collected my bag and was on my way to London a couple of minutes later.
London Gatwick 11 January 2002 (didn’t write down BA/VS planes)
CO 772 N74007
CO 772 N78005
CO 772 N78002
CO 762 N68160
AA 763 N638TW
AA 772 N770AN
DL M11 x2
DL 763 x2
NW D10 N232NW
GA 744 PK-GSC
JMC 320 x3
FR 732 EI-CNT “Supersunic”
EI 735 EI-CDF
AIH 321 G-NIKO
EK 330 A6-EKZ
BY 763 G-OBYG
11 January 2002
Virgin Atlantic Airways VS015
G-VROY “Pretty Woman”
Departure (Scheduled/Actual): 12:30/12:35
Arrival (Scheduled/Actual): 16:55/16:58
Economy Class, Seat 25K (exit row window)
Photo © Del Laughery
I took the tube from South Kensington to Victoria first and then continued on the Gatwick Express to LGW. It was a quick and nice train ride but it cost me 11 pounds. At Gatwick South I went directly to the Virgin check-in counters and my passport/ticket were checked before I entered the queue of about 10 people. Check-in agents were from bmi British Midland, which surprised me a bit. Anyway, the lady asked the usual security questions and I asked if she’d have any nice exit row/bulkhead windows available to which she replied “You don’t want anything horrible, eh?” I almost burst out laughing. Anyway she gave me 25K that was perfectly ok. Also asked if it was going to be a full fight – she took a look at a paper slip and told me “We have 91 passengers on that one, sir”.
I then proceeded through security that took around 2 minutes with a pat-down search but no bag search. Continued to the gate area to do some spotting only to find out I need to go through security again to get to the departure lounge. I absolutely hate this fact about the London airports – same thing at Heathrow as well. So back to the security check and after that to a bar with a view of the south terminal gates, located in the second level. Emirates A330 A6-EKZ was on its way to the runway but suddenly stopped and was surrounded by a number of emergency vehicles. It later went back to the gate.
After an hour of plane spotting and a drink, I went back to the departure lounge and found out that gate 21 had been assigned for VS 15. My bag was searched before entering the gate lounge, took a minute – no big deal.
G-VROY “Pretty Woman” was waiting and I snapped a pic of the nose. Took a seat by the windows and soon the crew arrived. It was quite a sight – 15 female flight attendants who all looked like supermodels and two male F/As. They soon boarded and general boarding followed in about 20 minutes. I was greeted by a smiling F/A at door 2L and made my way to 25K. I had forgotten about the slide/raft attached to the door that restricted the legroom quite a bit. I was happy to end up with 25 H/J/K though as the pax in H and J moved to row 26.
The purser soon announced over the PA that boarding was completed and that we’d be on our way shortly. Estimated flying time this afternoon was 9 hours and 9 minutes. The amenity kits were distributed at this point as well. We were pushed back at 12:35 and a manual safety demonstration followed. We started taxiing to runway 26L behind a company 747 (G-VLIP) and I had a great view of it taking off in front of us. We entered the runway at 12:56 and started moving. After a 40-second takeoff roll G-VROY lifted off and we were on our way to Florida.
Photo © Dean Barnes
The seatbelt sign went off rather soon and the service started. We hadn’t reached our cruising altitude of FL390 yet. Pretzels and drinks were served first, I had the usual – Diet Virgin Cola and Baileys. About half an hour later lunch followed, it was a choice of garlic chicken or some sort of risotto. I took the chicken and ordered white wine with my meal. The chicken was very tasty as well as the rest, including baked potato, salad, a roll, cheese and crackers and some sort of cake and chocolates as dessert. The F/As were very friendly and nice all the time.
We started our Atlantic crossing shortly after passing over Cork and I decided to watch a movie at this point. We had the Nova system without games onboard. I picked “Me without you” as the first movie and it was ok. Delicious ice cream was served during the movie. We were close to North America already when it finished. I then walked around the practically empty economy cabin and took some shots of the wings. We then entered the Canadian airspace near St. John’s and headed towards Boston. I decided to read my Airliner World magazine at this point before watching another movie. I picked “Serendipity” this time and it was pretty good as well.
Flew directly over Boston and then along the east coast towards Florida. An afternoon snack was served about an hour out of MCO – it was a choice of tuna or cheese sandwich. I chose cheese and it came with a piece of delicious chocolate cake. As I had finished my snack – the inflight entertainment system was turned off and we started our descent into Orlando McCoy international airport. Weather was pretty nice and I saw a couple of small airports as well as towns as we were approaching MCO. We also flew pretty close to downtown Orlando, I had a good view of it as well as Orlando executive airport.
A very smooth landing followed at 16:58 on runway 17 and we quickly taxied to the terminal. I noticed a BA 744 (G-CIVI) and loads of Delta aircraft including a B767-400 (N828MH). As I deplaned, I saw G-VLIP landing – it one took off a minute before us from Gatwick! US Immigration and customs were pretty good this time, could be even called friendly! I was out of the airport at around 17:40 and took a shuttle to my Holiday Inn in Kissimmee.
13 January 2002
Virgin Atlantic Airways
G-VLIP “Hot Lips”
Departure (Scheduled/Actual): 18:05/18:10
Arrival (Scheduled/Actual): 06:55/06:35
Premium Economy, Seat 74A
Photo © Andy Jung
After having a great time in Florida, it was time to head back to Europe. Before catching the shuttle back to MCO, I called American Airlines to exchange my earned e-upgrades into bonus miles – took a minute to get 10K bonus miles to my account. The shuttle van arrived at 13:25 and I was on my way home. An elderly lady in the shuttle was deeply shocked as she heard about my Virgin fare – she had just been ripped off by Southwest (BNA-MCO, $200).
Arrived at the airport an hour later and I noticed a small queue at the VS desks. Again my ticket and passport were checked before checking in. I asked for a bulkhead window to which the agent replied “not on this flight sir” and picked up the phone. Now this was a very good sign as I knew the flight was overbooked in economy. Soon she asked if a window is ok and handed me a boarding pass with 74A. I asked if it’s on the upper deck and she just said “yeah”. I was very happy – an upgrade with a super cheap fare!
Photo © Ryan Gaddis
Went directly to security check, VS warned that it might take an hour. There was nobody in line and I was in the airside in a minute. No bags searched this time either. I walked a bit around the Delta concourses and was surprised how many Express flights there were. I also saw a DLX 732 (N311DL at 15:15, rwy 35) emergency landing – everything went ok luckily.
I then went to gate 85 where G-VLIP was just arriving. A British Airways 747 (G-CIVJ) from Gatwick landed five minutes later. I took a seat in the gate area and witnessed the crew arriving some 30 minutes later, the ladies were absolutely stunning again. Boarding started around 17:30 and was done by rows as the flight was full this time. Upper Class was boarded first along with passengers needing special assistance. Premium Economy was next and I made my way to the upper deck after being welcomed onboard by a nice F/A at door 1L.
I was very happy to see that it was a 2-2 configuration and the seats looked very nice. I was greeted by probably the best looking flight attendant I have ever had on my 120+ flights . Took my seat and discovered the comfortable legroom and the fact that there was a full footrest. Boarding was soon completed and we had a full load on the upper deck as well. A safety video was played this time and it was very very funny, especially the part where they showed how to assist children with the oxygen masks .
Our estimated flight time was 7h50 today and we were pushed back at 18:10. We then made our way to runway 17 for takeoff. “Hot Lips” started rolling at 18:23 and gently lifted off and turned towards north immediately after takeoff. Drinks and snacks were served as soon as the seatbelt sign went off – had the usual pretzels with diet V-cola and a full glass of Baileys. Dinner followed shortly and it was a choice of fish, turkey or veggie pasta. I chose the turkey that came with some potatoes, vegetables, tomato and onion salad, a roll, cheese and crackers, delicious cheesecake and some chocolates. Had another V-cola and water with my meal.
After finishing my meal, I did some tax-free shopping and watched a movie. Chose “Don’t say a word” and it was pretty good. We encountered some pretty heavy turbulence for a while near Halifax before starting our Atlantic crossing. The crew was offering water and OJ every 30 minutes or so which was excellent. I slept for a while and then turned my PTV back on and watched airshow and some of the short subjects like V-travel etc.
Soon the lights were turned back on and a light breakfast was served. I wasn’t really hungry at 5 am but the fruits and müsli bar were ok – flushed down with OJ and coffee. After the crew had collected the trash, we entered the Britain near Plymouth and started our descent into Gatwick airport. Weather was really miserable, visibility of only a couple of hundred feet and it was raining too. We were almost landing when I first saw the ground, and touched down smoothly at 6:35.
The purser then said the usual “Welcome to London” thing and the following: “I’d like to remind the person who tried to smoke twice in the forward lavatories and destroyed the smoke detectors that it’s still a criminal offence. You put in danger the lives of 439 passengers, 16 infants and 18 crew. Hopefully you will consider this on your future flights.” The last sentence was strange – I’d ban him/her from flying Virgin. We arrived at gate 35 at 6:50 and I made my way to the baggage claim and then to the LGW-LHR coach stop. The bus ticket was a major robbery, 17 pounds for a very uncomfortable ride on a coach with the temperature of at least +35 celcius inside. Should I have known this, I would have taken the Gatwick express to Victoria and the tube to LHR from there.
14 January 2002
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines KL1008
PH-BZE “Ponte Rialto / Rialto Bridge”
Departure (Scheduled/Actual): 09:55/11:10
Arrival (Scheduled/Actual): 12:20/13:22
Tourist Class, Seat 29C (exit row aisle)
Photo © Prem Andreas
The bus from LGW took maybe 90 minutes and I arrived at LHR Terminal 4 at around 9 am. My KLM flight to Amsterdam was delayed by 1,5 hours but luckily the check in agent put me on the earlier flight that was delayed as well so that I wouldn’t miss my connection. I was really hoping this flight would be a 737-900 like my original one but no – a B767 was waiting. They told us that everything out of AMS was delayed that morning because of bad weather.
I then went through security and had something to eat at McDonald’s before proceeding to gate 17 where KL1008 would soon be boarding. Aside from the BA 747s and 777s, I noticed a Qantas 747-400 (VH-OJN) at T4. Boarding started at around 10:50 and I was delighted to see I had an exit row aisle with lots of legroom. The seat was rock hard though and recline was miserable. Also the cabin looked a bit worn even though the aircraft isn’t that old.
KLM/Northwest videos were playing as well as some sort of boarding music before they showed a safety video. Economy was full on this flight, maybe due to the delays. We were pushed back at 11:10 and I heard a very loud takeoff at the same time, Concorde to JFK I assume. We then made our way to 27L and took off at 11:23. Service on this 40-minute flight was again a piece of that horrible cake and peanuts. Flight attendants were friendly though.
I fell asleep for maybe 15 minutes and only woke up as we touched down rather heavily at 13:22 (CET). Full reverse was applied and we then taxied to gate D7. PH-BZE later continued to Accra, Ghana. I had a couple of hours to kill at AMS, went to the World of wings shop and then tried to sleep a bit near gate C14 where I’d later board PH-BDD going to Gothenburg.
14 January 2002
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines KL1159
PH-BDD “Anthony van Diemen”
Departure (Scheduled/Actual): 16:15/17:30
Arrival (Scheduled/Actual): 17:45/18:50
Tourist Class, Seat 10C (exit row window+aisle)
Photo © Charles Falk
Boarding was delayed a bit since they were missing the pilots, but we were still ready for pushback at 1615 or so I thought… Soon the captain announced that there would be a delay of about 70 minutes due to ATC restrictions, we’d be sitting at gate for that time. I had a business class-style seat in the exit row and it was pretty comfortable. Legroom was bad though. Anyway I fell asleep after having some peanuts and OJ.
Only woke up as we were pushed back at 17:30. We then taxied to runway 19L and took off at 17:42. More peanuts were served as well as pieces of that tasteless cake and some pre-packaged waffles. I opted for the waffles that were no better than the cake. Crew was ok again.
I slept for the rest of the flight and woke up as we started our descent into Landvetter. Touched down on runway 21 at 18:50 and arrived at gate 16 five minutes later. I then collected my baggage and proceeded to SAS check-in
14 January 2002
Scandinavian Airlines SK1437
LN-RDP “Huge Viking”
Departure (Scheduled/Actual): 20:55/21:06
Arrival (Scheduled/Actual): 21:45/21:57
Economy Class, Seat 18F
Photo © Alexander Jonsson
Check in was quick – no lines whatsoever. The lady told me my bags are ok as carry-on, I was very happy about that since the last bus from Helsinki departs five minutes after the SAS arrival. I’d have no chance to make it with checked baggage. I then went to the gate area and bought a sandwich at a café there since KLM failed to serve any decent food whatsoever.
There was also free Internet available and I checked my mail before going to gate 18F for boarding. Landvetter was a small but very nice airport – same style as CPH in my opinion. In the lower gate area they had also a Wideroe flight to OSL boarding with a grand total of five passengers. After that it was our turn and the around twenty pax were bussed to LN-RDP. A smiling CPH-based F/A greeted us at the door and I then took my seat 18F in the back of the Q400.
The plane had all leather seats and very generous legroom. Newspapers were later offered by another nice F/A and we were ready for taxi at 21:10, fifteen minutes late due to bad weather and traffic restrictions at Copenhagen. Next to us was another Q400 (LN-RDW) and I also spotted a Maersk/BA CRJ, DAT Avroliner, Spanair A320, TTA BE1, BU Avroliner and SAS MD80 & B737-800 at GOT along with a LH MD11F in the cargo area.
We taxied to runway 21 and took off at 21:20 for our short 35-minute flight. Orange juice was served and the ride was the smoothest I have had on any turboprop. One of the F/As asked if I have any connections from CPH and then told me to proceed to gate B2 immediately after getting to the terminal. Soon we started descending and landed at Kastrup at 21:57, 12 minutes late. We were bussed to the terminal and I saw OY-KBA (SK A340) being prepared for SK973 to Bangkok/Singapore and many other Q400s and MD80s.
14 January 2002
Scandinavian Airlines SK716
McDonnell Douglas MD-82
LN-ROT “Ingjald Viking”
Departure (Scheduled/Actual): 22:25/22:27
Arrival (Scheduled/Actual): 01:05/00:55
Economy Class, Seat 17F
Photo © Charles Falk
My flight to Helsinki was already boarding, so I just walked to gate B2 and boarded immediately. LN-ROT had 15 rows of business class on this flight, which is a pretty damn good load. Very senior crew onboard this evening – none of those nice Danish girls this time . We were pushed back at 22:27 and I noticed a SK 736 (LN-RRX) next to us as well as a Maersk 737 (OY-APB) and two Crossair ERJ-145s (HB-JAA and JAR) at gates nearby with BA’s 737 G-DOCP a distance away.
The crew did the usual safety demo and we were ready for takeoff from 22R at 22:36 with the estimated flying time of 1h25 minutes. The MD-82 was very quiet in row 17 and seats were comfortable with good legroom. Service started soon after takeoff and a cold meal was served. It consisted of fish and eggs as a starter; ham, nachos and onions with salsa as the main course; roll and cheese; and Fazermint chocolates. I had two Cokes and some Baileys with my meal.
The flight was very smooth, we first flew towards Gotland and then directly to HEL. Soon the descent started and we touched down on runway 22 at 00:55, ten minutes early. Parked at gate 21 between Finnair’s A320 (LXA) and MD80 (LMT) five minutes later. I then rushed to the arrivals hall and further to the bus stop where I arrived at 1:05 with five minutes to spare. I then had to spend a boring hour on two buses before I reached home…
- Virgin was excellent and is one of the best airlines I have flown along with AN, SQ, TG and NZ
- KLM Euro service was terrible, I wasn’t impressed
- SAS was excellent again – they always do a great job
Hope you enjoyed this long report – I’d appreciate your comments.