Anyway, my birthday was coming up in October and I really didn't feel like having a big party. Add to that the fact that my daughter had a week-long school vacation in the week of my birthday, and I had the perfect excuse to had to NYC for a week with the wife and daughter. After checking the prices on the internet I decided to go with KLM, my usual mode of air transport. Only DL was cheaper, and at that time DL was in deep doo-doo and I booked a couple of months in advance, so I decided not to risk it and go for KLM as the only other non-stop option. Funny enough, I have a AMS-JFK-DCA-IAD-CDG-AMS trip coming up and I will fly the AMS-JFK-DCA segments with DL. DCA-CDG-AMS will be with AF. But I'm sure you'll see a TR on that in January.
As I mentioned, this was not my first time with KLM, but it would be my first time in a 777! I usually fly KLM's 744's, so this was a nice change. As I am a Platinum Flying Blue member, I was able to reserve my seats 3 months in advance, and I got row 11, right next to the engine. In front of us was row 10, with only 2 seats, so getting out would be easier for us.
We got to SPL well in advance of the flight, and I was really glad to be going on vacation, as I had a couple of extremely stressful weeks behind me. We had the 7 pm flight. Check in was a breeze, as we could use the business class check in. The seats were still reserved (11 A/B/C), so we were set and headed for the gate.
In the distance I could already see the reg on my first 777, it was PH-BQM, only about 6 months old at the time (delivery date May 10, 2006).
PH-BQM waiting at the gate @ AMS
We were quickly through security at the gate, however, the pier was not open yet. Turns out they were doing some extra security checks. This delayed the flight for about an hour. We did get a good look at our pilots. The captain was a very well groomed guy in his fifties (a typical "slick rick" as my wife mentioned) and the co-pilot could not have been older than 25 by the looks of him, but late twenties is more likely I guess. They were joking around with the cabin crew (well at least slick rick was, the co-pilot just stood around).
Finally after about an hour we were allowed to board. When we got to row 11 I was shocked. I knew the GE 90's are big, but as we were sitting right next to them I got to see them up close for the first time, and mine, those are some big friggin' honkin' engines!!! I had never imagined they were so huge, even though I kinda knew how big they are.
Big honkin' engine!!!
Finally time for push back. As the flight was delayed for an hour, dusk was setting in, which I was a bit disappointed with, it would give me less photo opportunities. It was again a long taxi to the much dreaded "polderbaan". Take-off was brisk, but not really special, no doubt due to a reduced take-off setting. But man, you gotta love the whining sound of those GE 90's! I loved it, makes you hear the power of those engines. The funny thing about this flight is that because the flight is about 7 hours and the time difference between the Netherlands and NY is 6 hours, the dusk outside stayed for about 5 hours. Longest dusk I had ever seen! Even funnier is that sometimes it seemed we seemed to "catch up" the sun as it would become more light outside, only to see the dusk setting in again.
Dusk that stayed with us a big portion of the flight
I also finally got a chance to try out KLM's AVOD system. I was toying with it a bit wondering why it wouldn't work right after take-off, untill I noticed you have to wait for the instruction video to finish. The system is great, a lot of options, many movies to watch. If only the screens were a bit bigger. Anyway, the movies kept us entertained, I was mostly looking outside and watching a couple of movies. It was a smooth flight, untill we made landfall over Canada. We had about half an hour of turbulence, and it was finally becoming completely dark outside. After a while we flew over Boston and had some really great views of the cities, as the weather was clear.
Landing at the extremely busy JFK was smooth and we were outside with our bags in about 45 minutes. We got our bags as one of the first (the priority tags worked!!) and security was a breeze. We had a great week in NYC, visiting the Bronx Zoo, Time's square, Musuem of Natural History and Tanger outlet malls .
We also made a trip to Pensylvania Dutch country, home of the Amish. And had dinner in "The View", the restaurant of the Mariott hotel on Time's Square on my birthday. It's a rotating restaurant on the 40th-something floor. Great week.
There was a plaque in the Museum that I wanted to share. It's an old african saying:
Anyway, the week was of course over much too soon (that's why I'm going back of course!). Again, check in at JFK was a breeze, as was security. The new rules regarding liquids were in effect not so long, so we did need to finish off our drinks before going through. This time boarding was on time and push back was also on time. Again we had row 11 next to the huge engines, this time our aircraft was PH-BQK, slightly older than BQM, even though just under two years old at that time. Again enjoying the sound on take-off. My wife and daughter fell asleep pretty quick (in fact my daughter never made it through the taxi, she was exhausted. We after all had the 10pm flgiht and it was a tiring week for her at the tender age of 6).
Descent into AMS:
Touchdown @ AMS, again huge engines!!!
Finally a comment on KLM: Service on board was great. Attentive, plenty of drinks. This was a concern of mine as I usually brought my own drinks on board. However, as mentioned, the new rules regarding liquids were only just in effect. But they made plenty of water runs and I never felt thirsty. Seat pitch seemed to be slightly better than on the 744's. Probalby due to the newer seats. I was not a big fan of the new seat however, it seemed to have a gap at the small of my back, so I needed to sit with a pillow behind my back the entire flight.
Service was great both ways, for example my daughter got sick on the way back. When she woke up on descent to AMS she was complaining about stomach ache, and soon she threw up (thankfully in the sick bag). At this time we were almost @ AMS and everybody was strapped in, including the crew. However, while she was throwing up, the stewardess was already at our seat with new sick bags and wet towels. They also checked in on us after landing. Very attentive and this was true on both flights (the attentiveness that is).
Furthermore, I am a 777 convert. Loved the plane. The seats feel wider than older widebodies and the cabin felt more comfortable as well. There really is a lot to love in Boeing widebodies as well as the Airbus widebodies. Love them both a lot.
Finally a shot of BQK at the gate.
To cap it off: two great flights and a awesome week (if too short) in NYC. Thanks KLM and thanks NYC, you're both awesome!!!