Hello, everyone! I just wanted to preface this TR
by telling you that I hadn't intended on chronicling this trip, so I've forgotten some details, and my pics aren't that many, and are by far not the greatest (as you will soon see).
My third year at the University of Michigan had come to a much-awaited end. No more pens, no more books, no more endless hours spent at the UGLi (Undergraduate Library) thinking about giving the professor dirty looks. It was now time to go back home, to sunny, sunny, sunny Abu Dhabi. Two months of laziness, relaxation, and spoildedness (ahem) awaited me, and I was raring to get my vacation started!
After 3 days of packing, laundering, cleaning, and trying to squeeze in time with friends I may never see again, Monday came, and 'twas time to leave.
DTW - AMS
ETD: 21.20 ATD: 22.00
ETA: 11.10 ATA: 11.05
At 18.30 I was dropped off and duly escorted to the NW
/KL international check-in desks at the far right end of the McNamara Terminal by my friends, who vehemently refused to leave before I was all checked in. The line was, to say the least, long, and it took us a good 20 minutes of waiting before we were waved over by a check-in agent.
Can I just say how utterly inane and ridiculous the new baggage restrictions are? Two pieces of luggage which cannot exceed 23kg/50lbs each? That's horribly unrealistic, and extremeley unfair! I mean...why? Was 70lbs too heavy for baggage handlers? Are airlines trying to save on fuel? They've taken so much from us already, at least leave us our goddamn baggage! Needless to say, one of my bags was 7 lbs overweight, and I was sternly told to remove some stuff from it. However, even after I did that, the bag was still around 2.5lbs overweight. The agent, who was clearly having a bad day, was adamant on charging me for those few measly pounds, though after some sweettalking and a doe-eyed, pouty plead, she relented and "let them pass".
I bade farewell to my friends and went on to security. Security at McNamara is almost never a hassle for me anymore, and is much better than what I've experienced elsewhere. There are plenty of agents available and they are mostly friendly and courteous. Thankfully, it's been a while since I've been "blessed" with the much beloved 'SSSS' on my boarding pass--I guess they figured that, after flying the exact same route twice a year for the last 3 years without incident, I wasn't much of a threat!
Security was quick, and soon I found myself in the beauty that is the Northwest WorldGateway. Definitely my favorite terminal by far--it's modern, spacious, airy, and exquisitely designed. I was particularly tired today, so I chose to just find my gate, A54, and sit there and relax.
My ride to AMS
Thirst soon struck, so I decided to take a walk to the end of the terminal, toward the A70s, and get myself a refreshing drink from Caribou Coffee.
By the time I returned to the gate, the seating area had filled up considerably--nothing unusual for this route, which is always packed to the gills (whenever I fly it, anyway). The boarding call was made around 20.50 in both English and Arabic, which seems to be the norm for this flight, as that's happened pretty much everytime I've flown it. After World Business Class passengers, Elite members, and families and people with special needs boarded, the rest of the passengers were invited to board at their leisure--no rows, no groups, nothing. I was dreading this ever since I'd heard of NW
's new policy, but surprisingly it wasn't as chaotic and savage as I'd expected it to be. I was greeted by two friendly FA
's, and was directed to my seat ("down there and to the right"). Miraculously, there was still some overhead space left, and I managed to squeeze both my carry-ons into the bin across from me, and was soon settled happily into my aisle seat.
Boarding took another few minutes, but it was getting fairly obvious that we wouldn't be leaving on time. We were told the reason for our delay, but I unfortunately can't remember it. I do remember the crew apologized profusely, though, and assured us we would arrive in Amsterdam on time.
At around 21.45 we finally pushed back and made our way to the runway. I'm used to an at least 20-minute long taxi at DTW
, but today it wa surprisingly short, and before I knew it, the engines spooled and the Airbus blasted down the runway and elegantly lifted off into the dark, cloudy Detroit sky. We were off.
Service started around 20 minutes after take-off, with the FAs distributing headsets followed by a snack of pretzels (yech) and drinks. I was given a full can of Sierra Mist--the norm on NW
--and was actually served with a smile, something which, unfortunately, isn't the norm. The FA
serving my section of the cabin was an older woman, very poised and elegant, and very pleasant. In fact, I noted that the entire crew on today's flight was pleasant--smiling, humoring the passengers, and generally being nice.
After the garbage was collected, dinner service commenced. The options were either a vegetarian pasta or a chicken dish. I chose the chicken (naturally), and was handed a tray that contained some cabbage salad (not coleslaw!) with a packet of dressing, my main course, a piece of chocolate cake, a (cold) bread roll, a packet of crackers, butter, and a piece of cheddar cheese. Of course, the cutlery was plastic, which drives me nuts! It's totally useless! The chicken option consisted of a chicken breast over potato cubes and some beans in a tomato-based sauce. It wasn't that bad, actually, but wasn't spectacular. The salad was horrible, a definite step down from previous meals, and the cake was just OK
. All in all, an acceptable airline meal, but not as good as earlier NW
The trays were collected after a while, and the lights were dimmed as the pax settled in to sleep or take advantage of the entertainment system. I personally chose to check out the entertainment system, which is definitely one of the best parts of flying NW
's A330s. It is a completely AVOD system with a plethora of options, including a fairly large flim and audio library (though nowhere near the behemoth that is Emirates' ice). My favorite feature is the "Jukebox", which allows you to choose any song of the many available and form your very own customised playlist. You can also play games on it using the retractable remote control; they include my favorite, Bejeweled (ridiculously addictive, with hypnotic background music) and a multi-player trivia game in which you compete with other passengers. I noticed that they'd added a couple of more games, too, like "Caveman" or something like that. Very good.
I ended up watching "Failure to Launch" (shut up--don't judge me!) and the first 20 minutes of "The King and I" before my fatigue caught up with me. I created a playlist, switched to the flight tracker, and dozed off to the melodies of The Corrs' latest album.
I was awakened by the lights flickering on and the aroma of freshly heated breakfast and crappy coffee wafting through the cabin. The FA
's then served us the standard NW
breakfast of cheese biscuit, fruit cocktail cup, and raspberry (or was it strawberry?) yoghurt cup, and offered tea and coffee.
Garbage was collected after that as we prepared for our descent into AMS
. However, the usual hustle and bustle of landing preparations was interrupted by a call for any doctors on board to head to the rear of the aircraft. Apparently, a passenger had fallen ill. It didn't seem very serious at first, but as the entire cabin looked back, it soon became apparent that it was in fact very serious--the passenger was lying on the floor of the rear galley, clearly unconscious, and the doctor had attached a drip to his arm and was pumping oxygen into him. Sure enough, the captain came on advising us that a medical emergency had been declared. As soon as we had landed (very smoothly, I might add), he came on again instructing us to remain in our seats when we reached the gate in order to let the paramedics reach the rear of the plane quickly. Once we had stopped at the gate, the FA
's sprung into action, disarming the exits as soon as possible and ensuring no one left their seat. Of course, there were a few idiots who attempted to get up, but were quickly and sternly told to sit down.
There was a change of plans, though, as the paramedics decided to board the aircraft through the back door. Thus, we were allowed to collect our bags and disembark. I don't know whatever happened to the sick passenger, but I hope he's doing well now, and I applaud the crew for their calm, professional demeanor and their composure under such stressful conditions. Bravo!
At 11.10 CET I walked out of gate E09 into the busyness that is Schiphol. I had just over 2 hours to relax before my onward flight to AUH
. I freshened up and then walked around a bit. I ended up buying my favorite siroopwafelen from the deli at Lounge 2 before I got rid of all my Euro coins by calling a friend of mine in France.
AMS - AUH (- BAH)
ETD: 13.10 ATD: 13.50
ETA: 21.45 ATA: 22.10
At 12.20, passengers were allowed to pass security and enter the holding room at the gate (which I don't remember; D-something, I think). I got in and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.
You get the picture.
Finally, at 13.05, 5 minuted before scheduled departure, the gate agent showed up and boarding was started. Boarding was a pain and took a long time, but finally I was greeted on board KLM's very first A330-200 by the usual friendly FAs that make KLM such a pleasure to fly. After years of flying their horrid B763s on this route--the only (and biggest) negative point of flying on KLM--I was eager to experience its newest pride and joy.
I was not disappointed.
The plane was a huge improvement over its predecessor. It smelled new, looked new, felt new. My first overall impression was "blue". Pretty much everything, bar the walls, ceiling, and bins, was blue, which although pleasant, is a bit boring. I passed by the last two rows of World Business Class and found it to be a bit underwhelming--seat pitch seemed a bit tight for business, and the seat looked narrow. Economy however, looked great--the signature blue seats were spotless, the seat-back PTVs looked great, and pitch looked OK
As I settled down into my seat, I noticed a few differences between it and its NW
counterpart. First of all, the seat a bit firmer, which actually felt much more comfortable, as it gave some support to my thighs and back. Secondly, the left armrest, which is on the aisle, did not move up, unlike NW
's, which is a shame, since that feature gives me just a few more centimeters of width that make a world of a difference.
The load in Economy on today's flight wasn't as high as I was expecting, considering June is the month when all students studying in Europe and North America return home to the Gulf for the summer. However, I think that the fact that the A330 has more seats than the B767 may have something to do with the "light load". I wonder if KL
is losing any money by using this aircraft on this route? I must mention, though, that I watched the ground crew load a substantial amount of cargo onto the plane, which may counteract the lower loads.
The captain came on and greeted us. He apologised profusely for the delay, blaming it on the late gate agent. He added that we would be delayed a bit more since a passenger failed to show up and his luggage had to be offloaded.
Eventually we pushed back and made the long trek over to our runway. The A330 spooled up and we were soon piercing through the clouds over Amsterdam.
Around 20 minutes after take off, the crew began the snack service, which consisted of a packet of (delicious) smoked almonds and a drink of your choice. I found it funny how KL
used small 100ml cans while NW
used the regular 330ml cans--bigger is better in America! After the garbage was take care of, the crew distributed hot, moist towels--they were made of paper, but were quite thick so one could barely tell the difference between it and a real towel. This is a lovely touch on KL
's part, one that is unfortunately not present on NW
Lunch was subsequently. The choice was between a vegetarian pasta and 'Chicken Padang', or something to that effect. I chose the chicken (I'm a staunch carnivore, what can I say?), and was handed my tray with a smile. Today's lunch consisted of a salad made of shredded cucumbers, string beans, and corn in a yummy sauce, the Chicken Padang (which consisted of chicken breast cubes in a tasty, Asian-style tomato sauce with a side of moist, well-done rice), a sort of fruit mousse, and crackers and cheese. I was offered a warm roll from a nice wicker basket. This meal, as I am used to on KLM, was absolutely fantastic. Every single item was prepared to perfection and presented nicely, and the portions were just right. When combined with the brilliant, friendly FA
who served it, it made one of the most memorable meals I have had in the sky to date.
After the trays were cleared, I started exploring KLM's new AVOD entertainment system. Astonishingly, KL
also managed to trump NW
in this domain--the system was fast, easy to use, pleasantly designed, and had a broader selection of movies and music, including many albums sorted by different genres and a ton of films in different languages. I was too tired to watch a movie, so I opted to listen to some music and fall asleep. Unfortunately, the flight map was out of order, so I had to live without it.
I woke up around an hour before landing, as the crew were handing out the pre-arrival snack. It was a delicious grilled veggie sandwich; I could've eaten 2 more of them!
Before long, the brightly lit highways of Abu Dhabi came into view, and the captain made one of the smoothest landings I've ever experienced. The purser welcomed us to Abu Dhabi International Airport, informing us (much to my mixed delight and chagrin) that it was a warm 33C (remember, this is at 10PM!). She went on to ask those pax continuing on to BAH
to remain in their seats for the duration of th 1-hour stopover, as new pax bound for AMS
were to board.
The aircraft parked at the satellite, close to the terminal, next to an Etihad plane--a more and more common sight at this tiny airport.
A few minutes later, I walked off the plane into a wall of heat and humidity.
I was home.
Your attention, please.