Muenchen (MUC) - Amsterdam (AMS)
KLM KL 1792
PH-BDG (1986 model, msn 1317)
Economy seat 14A
Photo © André de Heus
Photo © Jukka Hemilä
Photo © Achim Stemmer
Photo © Ivan Coninx - Brussels Aviation Photography
Unlike many other trips to the US in the past I chose a convenient departure time this summer with my first flight going out at 10:30. I arrived at MUC's terminal 1E about 90 minutes prior to departure and waiting in front of KLM's counters just took some minutes. I wasn't concerned about getting a good seat because I had reserved it all before. But at the counter it turned out that my reservation on the NWA A330 was changed by more then 25 rows. Though I had had a reservation for 36J it suddenly showed 11A for me. I really hate to sit in the front or middle of the aircraft so I wanted a seat in the rear and the only one left was 33J. Better than nothing and I took it. On the KLM service to AMS only middle section was available and I chose 14A. My reservation for the LAX flight had remained unchanged.
Boarding was started on time and after people being seated it showed a load factor of about 70%. The 18-year old aircraft, PH-BDG, was painted in the new color scheme which really looks fresh and modern. Listen Air France, just keep your hands off that!
The cabin was clean, the cloth seats looked a bit worn but though they were comfortable. We taxied to the northern runway and departed in western direction. There was nothing really notable about the departure, certainly the B737 classic is not a rocket.
I had the middle seat next to me empty and could stretch out. Breakfast was served, just like most airlines KLM introduced snack boxes. They are green with fruit painted on and I wish the content would match the exterior...inside was a cheese roll sandwich made of dark bread which was not only tasteless but totally dry. Without drinking anything that roll can cause serious problems...but that's the orange juice in the box is for. 'Dessert' was a big peppermint candy which was not bad at all. Cabin crew was friendly but not special or outstanding.
Some minutes prior to landing the captain spoke a few words, and amazingly, he addressed passengers starting with 'Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls...' I haven't heard that before anywhere, I can only remember a friend telling me once a similar experience on Virgin Blue.
Though I had spent a few days spotting at AMS in the weeks before I wasn't really sure about our approach and I kept guessing until the end. I expected we would land at the 'Kaag' runway but on short finals and already being very low we flew a sharp 60 degrees turn and landed on the runway next to the KLM maintenance hangars. Even more strange, we didn't use a taxiway but turned on the runway and taxied back. I have no clue about the purpose of that all.
30. August 2004
Amsterdam (AMS) - Detroit (DTW)
Northwest NW 053
N803NW (2003 model, msn 542)
Economy seat 33J
Photo © Christian Ettelt
Photo © Eduard Brantjes
Photo © Magnus Trippler
Photo © Tim de Groot - AirTeamImages
After getting off the 737 I first tried to get all 'registrations' around and then proceeded to the gate area for the US flights. I had expected that viewing possibilities would be the same in that concourse but then I found out that the large windows had sun covers all over and blocked off good views. Quite strange only that concourse had these covers.
At the entry to my gate I found a long row waiting at security so I decided to walk around some more. I went down to the ground level which was empty all over but it allowed a nice view at the aircraft. It was N803NW, the third A330, delivered to NWA in September 2003.
Later the row was smaller and I was then questioned by security. Unlike last time flying with AA I could proceed to the gate without an extra search of shoes, bag and so on.
Boarding and take off
Boarding was started early and I soon entered the cabin. I noticed a different, more modern cabin styling compared to former A340 and A330 flights. The cabin looked roomier and lighting seemed to be improved. Seats were comfortable, though the coloring could be more attractive. Why not try dark red or gray seats to better match the new livery? Blue seems to be the standard almost everywhere.
Leg room was quite limited due to the IFE box under the seat but for eight hours it is ok. And for getting audio/video on demand I can well tolerate the box! As usual (and against my wild expectations ) my seat neighbor turned out to be an older lady but she was in for a nice conversation.
While our departure seemed to be delayed, the latest A330, sister ship N808NW, parked next to us. Boarding had seemed to take forever, obviously a larger group of people had arrived very late. Load factor must have been well above 90%. Push back finally took place 20 minutes late and after 10 more minutes we turned in for departure. Take off was not very exciting, the A330 was definitely not take to its power limits.
Some 15 minutes after take off it was announced that AVOD would soon start but I guess it took a total of 30 minutes after departure for the system to be activated. At the beginning I was close to a shock as it seemed my AVOD unit had a serious problems. Every command on the control pad was delayed by several seconds and I already wanted to complain. But after 10 minutes it suddenly worked normally, I guess it needed some time to heat up.
As a fan of AVOD systems I totally checked every single feature and was impressed by a large number of movies and music songs being available at all time. Some of the movies could also be watched in German and French. I also liked the map sections where you could not only follow the usual flight path but where you also zoom in and out and see even small towns, airports and borders along the route. There were also other features available, such as a view of the globe, night views, city maps and background information on countries.
However, my favorite entertainment option turned out to be what's called the Inflight Trivia Challenge. It's a game, better a quiz with questions and multiple choice answers. Topics are general knowledge, sports, history, geography, literature & arts and others and the questions can be really hard. You can enter a name and just take part in the never ending rounds, with 20 questions in each round. The sooner you press the answer the more points you get. Best is that passengers throughout the cabin can play simultaneously and you can play against them. After every question it shows name and seat numbers of all players and their respective results. It was real fun, I almost got addicted to it and I think, after the meal had been served, I played it for four hours. I didn't even find the time to watch a movie - so the flight should have lasted some more hours. It's so amazing seeing that kind of advanced IFE system on Northwest after having experienced their stone age entertainment on the DC-10. But well, some certain airlines continue to show that stone age entertainment is not related to an old plane type...even A340-600s can feature 1980s entertainment as we all know...well., for those who like it...
Just as a side note, it seemed that many passengers used their PTVs and it opposes the often heard opinion that PTVs aren't used intensively. And in terms of quality, NWA's PTVs offered a very clear screen which was no displeasure for the eyes at all.
Meal service was a bit late, it didn't appear until about one and a half hours after departure. Prior to that pretzels were served. Unfortunately there was no choice of main course and I got a 'vegetarian pasta'...I don't know if they had run out of the other choice but there were some eleven rows behind me which were served after me. I don't mind about a light meal on a flight but the pasta had a quite wet spinach mixed by and it and the taste was not one which you want to keep in memory. Thumbs down, NWA!
The salad however tasted fresh, the dessert was a tasty chocolate cake with pinnacle cream on top and berries in between.
Drinks selection was another negative aspect as they didn't have bitter lemon, tonic and ice tea. Just normal soft drinks, though their inflight magazine promised something different. However, FAs passed through the cabin every 25 minutes with water or orange juice which I found very positive. Prior to landing a snack was served, consisting of a tasty pizza bread and pistachio ice cream.
Cabin crew btw were mostly 'seniors' who were partly very kind and partly just 'friendly', not to say 'neutral'.
Approach was started soon after snack time and we soon were on final approach to Detroit. Touchdown was very smooth and amazingly quite a number people started to applause - hey, never seen (or heard) that 'touri bomber behavior' on a transatlantic flight!
30. August 2004
Detroit (DTW) - Los Angeles (LAX)
Northwest NW 331
N527US (1987 model, msn 136)
Economy seat 39A
Photo © Jerry Search
Photo © Brian Stevenson - SPOT THIS!
Photo © Daniel Wojdylo
Immigration could be passed very quickly, I waited probably only two minutes. Luggage showed up fast as well and customs was just another five minutes deal. All the officers were very kind and they gave the impression of being welcome all over. NWA's new World Terminal at DTW is really a great place, very bright and in modern shape all over. It's one endlessly long building and there's even a train connecting the two ends, with a stop in the middle. I took the train to the middle and in the gate areas I found very large windows without viewing restrictions. There were masses of NWA and NWA Airlink aircraft around and they were a tempting sight, though I tried to be very discrete with writing down numbers.
After walking up to the top end of the building I returned to my gate where N527US just arrived. As hoped before, it was painted in the new colors which make the good old B757 appear even more sharp than usual. I decided not to wait until boarding but walked around for another while and returned to my gate exactly 30 minutes prior to departure. However, when I reached the gate nobody was there except two NWA employees and I wondered - they had indeed already boarded! So I hurried up and quickly entered the plane, being among the last persons to board. I went to the very end of the cabin and took my window seat in row 39. Seats looked quite old and showed an ancient shape and design but they still were comfortable and leg room was not bad at all.
Just as I had taken my seat I took out my binoculars and continued to write down the registrations of aircraft moving around. And I had to hurry because there were many! Once within the aircraft I didn't act discretely any more...and the result came fast. Though the middle seat next to me remained empty a girl and her mother in the row on the opponent side saw enough. Deeply convinced that they obviously had identified a registration noting member of 'Al Qaida', they must have approached the flights attendants immediately. While I was expecting push back soon, the female purser came to my seat and asked me: "Can you please explain what exactly you are writing down in your book?" I replied it was my hobby and that I collect tail numbers but she didn't understand. Of course I had expected questions like these before and that's why I had taken copies of the "jp airline fleets" and the latest "World Airline Fleets News" issue. I handed it all to her, along with my registration book and my passport. While about all passengers around looked at me she asked: "Would you mind if I take this all to the front and show it to the pilots?". Of course I agreed and then she walked away quickly. For some moments I wasn't sure how they would react but I hoped the captain would be intelligent enough to realize I wasn't a danger to the flight. However I thought about the option that they might take me off the plane. While the purser was gone, people, especially the woman and her daughter, stared at me. I was starting to get pissed about their "heroic courage", I shook my head, grabbed my binoculars and continued spotting and writing down. They must have been shocked about that but I really enjoyed that moment of writing down the next number while they all stared at me.
Definitely the flight was already delayed due to these people's "terror fear" and ongoing "investigation". After some five minutes the purser returned and gave me my stuff back: "The captain said it's alright. I hope you didn't feel offended by that but these people were really scared. Would you mind to answer some questions to anyone who wants to know what you are doing?" "Sure" I replied. I felt really comfortable after that...but guess, the 16-or 17-year old cry baby girl just about started to turn on her panic program. She might had expected I get removed from the flight and when she saw I got my stuff back she started crying and crying and her mother got in panic as well. "Oh my god, my daughter cannot go on this flight!!!" Damn I thought, these crazy people delay the departure even more. The purser addressed the mother: "The captain has said everything is fine, we checked him and there's no danger". It didn't help, the girl didn't stop crying and the purser offered: "Would it help if the captain came down to you? He will tell you it's alright." The mother replied: "Oh my god, tell this to my daughter!". I thought they were joking, would they really call the captain now? And they really did, two minutes later the captain appeared and said some words to the girl. I couldn't believe all the mess going on. He told her: "As soon as we are in the air you might feel better". He then went back and the girl didn't stop crying. Paranoia is something really bad...
After a delay of 20 minutes we were finally pushed back and we headed for the runway. The evening rush at DTW was not that bad and the two PW powerplants could soon go to work. We took off into a beautiful orange sky over Detroit and turned west immediately.
Shortly after take off a snackbox was served, consisting of a large sandwich (roastbeef or turkey), mustard sauce, a small bag of peeled carrots and vanilla wafers. I went for roastbeef and I liked it really much. Though American carrier are often criticised for their meal or snack service, this time it's KLM which can learn from Northwest. Drink selection wasn't very bid again but it seems here's where NWA saves.
FAs didn't pass through the cabin very often but you could get drinks in the galley all the time. FAs were very friendly and appeared motivated throughout.
Later in the flight I went to the galley and talked to the purser for a while. I explained my hobby and we had a really good chat. She indeed told me that they had considered to put me on a later flight but then decided against that option. Great.
Meanwhile the girl and her mother seemed to have recovered very quickly. However I was still pissed about them and while walking through the aisle I had my famous evil look on them...sorry, couldn't resist...
After some four hours we reached the outer LA areas and I enjoyed the view of millions never ending lights. As the plane moved slightly and the gear came out the girl again started to cry and it seemed she was afraid from flying in general...hey, why not try AmTrak next time and let people do their hobby?
Touchdown was smooth and the aircraft was stopped quite slowly. As we taxied to our gate a male flight attendant thanked passengers for flying Northwest and mentioned that this flight had been operated in conjunction with KLM and "Air Alaska"...then he added: "aaah, sorry, Alaska Airlines." Well, airline names is a science for itself, right?
The first trip was over...though with trouble...and just yesterday I went on a day trip to Phoenix on Southwest and America West, ahh, America Worst...and I got trouble again...watch out for the trip report!