It has been a long time my last trip report (see link below, it is impossible to make a direct link), but I have been working/travelling too much and I did not have time for writing.
But now I have some more time, so here we are:
Since June I flew 2 times between CDG
The first time with KL
in C (unfortunately C is only allowed in case of emergency by my company now), the second with AF
For my third flight, the Y fare on AF
was 50% higher than CX
for the same days.
In addition AF
flights to HKG
are using 777, which is a plane I don't like, (noise, plus ventilation system than gives me headaches for flights longer than 6 hours. Without even mentioning the dreadful 10 abreast config AF
is squeezing in the 77W now. But the schedules I wanted used a 772, still in 9 abreast config).
So I searched another option, and as KL
was in the same range of price than CX
, I decided to go with KL
-to check the Y KL
product (my last long haul flight with them was 12 years ago),
-and to get FB
As I am really used to the AF
long haul service (107 flights in Y during the last 10 years) I wanted to see the difference between the "sister airlines”.
The ticket was bought by my company travel agency, with seat 9B assigned for the outbound AMS
flight, and not seat for the inbound.
When I checked on the AF
website (using my FB
number to access the reservation), seat 9B was indeed appearing, but with the mention "not available".
So I tried to select seats for the flights.
For 3 weeks I connected to my booking through the AF
website every 2 days, but all good seats (in the front Eco cabin of the KL
744 that have an original arrangement with rows of 3+2 seats on the left, and a huge galley on the right) appeared systematically blocked. And the return flight was not accessible.
In addition only half of the front cabin was shown (rows 9 to 14 -- completely booked) while the back of the cabin (rows 15 to 18) was not even displayed.
After all these useless efforts I finally called the AF
hotline for Elite Plus members, but the lady was seeing the same seats than on the website (and all already booked). She supposed that KLM was blocking theses seats for its own use.
So in the end I did the OLCI the day before the flight and then the small cabin was nearly empty and I was able to get seat 12E, near the wall. I did not mind not to have a window seat as it would be a night flight.
Globally the pre-selection of seats (for an Elite Plus member) was totally ineffective. Not a very good start for the trip!
Monday 6th October 2008
I left my home on the southern part of Paris at 10:15 in taxi, and arrived at CDG
terminal 2F at 10:53.
I went to the single business counter luggage drop-off of the Schengen area pier, where 2 passengers were in line, behind a man that had obviously some difficulties, as the agent was on the phone. Having to make phone calls for a simple luggage drop-off is not a good sign!
This went on during 2 to 3 minutes, and the line behind me was getting longer (we were now 7). Fortunately a supervisor intervened promptly, and directed the first passenger to a normal business check-in counter on one side, bypassing the "normal" queue (but these passengers had other counters opened for them), and staffed another counter with an agent that was working at the eco check-in counters, where there was not queue.
This sped up the process and at 11:03 my luggage was checked, and I left, while the "problem" man was still stuck at his counter.
I went to the safety check at 11:05: the "normal" queue had around 20 persons for 2 operating scanners, but there was no queue at the Accès n°1 line. I passed there, thanks to my Platinum card, and at 11:08 I had finished to repack my computer, put again my belt, etc., etc. (fortunately I did not have to remove my shoes).
I gave some phone calls and then went to the lounge.
I arrived just in time to get the last croissants for a late breakfast, as they were changing for the lunch products.
So I got an early lunch as well then went to walk around and take some pictures.
Apparently newspapers are not given in the jetways anymore, but in the main hall itself. This is better because passengers can read them while waiting to board, and, by not stopping at the jetways entrance to pick-up newspapers, they will not slow down the boarding process.
The boarding time on my OLCI boarding pass was 12:05, but at the gate the display was mentioning 12:18.
Flight AF1740/KL2012: CDG-AMS
A 321 F-GTAT
Scheduled 12:45 -- 14:00
Real 12:52 (+0:07) -- 14:00 (-)
Load factor: 85-90% (Eco)
The boarding started at 12:19, with rows 25 to 35, Elite and Elite Plus passengers being able to board at their convenience (but no specific line to do so).
The boarding was uneventful, using the glassed jetways that enable to have a good view of the apron while boarding and that are therefore far better than opaque jetways:
The plane was clean, as where other AF
planes in view.
Boarding was finished at 12:39, and passenger counting was made by the crew at 12:44.
An aircraft parked at the international pier on the left hand side of our plane pushed back just before us, using a remotely controlled tractor that was quite funny to look moving around alone. First time I notice that in CDG
(or any airport in reality).
At 12:49 the captain welcomed us on board and told us we would start within one minute. In reality this minute turned into 3, as we had to wait for the plane shown in the picture above to clear the way.
So we pushed back at 12:52, and taxied to the northern runways (on the terminal 1 side). We reached the runway at 13:04 and, we took off at 13:06, after a VN
777 bound for HAN
At 13:16 the snack service was started, here is my meal (I selected water but soft drinks, juices, beer and wines were also available, as well as coffee or tea).
The sandwich was edible.
inflight magazine had a special issue for the 75th anniversary of the company and gave some interesting figures, such as the fact that 900 000 bottles of champagne are drunk on-board AF
flights every year!
The captain updated us on the routing, and the descent started at 13:29, for a smooth landing at 13:53.
Some taxi and we were at gate C9
in Schipol at 14:00, exactly on-time.
A (the only?) Surinam Airways 743.
Being in row 17 I exited the plane at 14:07 only, and stopped at a transfer automatic machine to check the status of my connecting flight: gate G4
, that's some walking from C9
, and boarding was already commenced, so I started my in-house travel (but I really prefer to be able to walk from one plane to the other).
I arrived at the immigration counters (to exit the Schengen area) at 14:15. 6 desks were opened, with around 30 persons for each desk, but the process was fast and I passed at 14:20, with a friendly "Merci - Bon voyage" in French from the immigration officer.
Some more walking and I arrived at gate G4
at 14:34 after having got a view on the aircraft.
There was a security check to enter the gate area. Seeing some water bottles on the side, I asked the guy before the scanner if I could keep a bottle of water I had taken in the lounge in CDG
, he told me yes. But the lady at the canner saw it in my bag and asked me to drop it.
This is an inconvenient of having the safety check just before the gate.
At 14:40 the flight crew arrived (which seemed late to me, for a flight supposed to leave at 15:20).
At 14:44 an announcement was made, in English, Dutch and then Chinese: there was a technical problem in the plane, and a delay was to be expected. More information later.
At 15:02 an update was given: more information in 15 minutes, stay near the gate.
It must be noted that the number of seats after the security check being lower than the number of passengers (even for a 744 Combi) some had to stand.
At 15:38 we were informed that the problem would not be solved with this plane, and that they were looking for another plane.
At 15:41 the captain took the mike to give us more details: it was an electrical problem, and a long search was expected to find the faulty wire. So another plane would be used, more information in 5/10 minutes.
At 15:48 the captain was on again, informing us that a new plane had been found, it would be a full passenger version, leaving from gate F3 at a time not yet defined.
We were informed that we could get a voucher for drinks and phone calls from the transfer automatic machines.
I did not bother to do so, but went to the nearest KL
lounge where I selected a seat with view on the action: gate F3 (without the new plane yet), and gate G4
at the back.
At 16:08 passengers of the Hong Kong flight were called at the service desk, and we were informed that the flight would leave at 19:45 and were given a booklet with :
- a phone card for a 5 minute phone call,
- an amenity coupon with a choice of either 10 euros meals/beverages, 2000 Flying Blue miles or 15 euros reduction on duty free goods bought on-board. I chose the miles, even thought I felt the compensation was quite light: after a 2 hours delay on an AF CCS
flight I had received 4000 miles, without having to do anything.
- a 50 euro discount coupon for KL
flights to "selected destinations" worldwide.
The value of the discount coupon is in reality not 50 euros, as to redeem it you have to buy the ticket through a ticketing office, with service charges higher than if you buy on internet (with AF
at least, I am less familiar with KL
For example ticketing fees on AF
long haul flights are:
- eco fares: 30 euros if bought at an office, 10 on the AF
website: in this case the real value of the coupon is 30 euros.
- business fares: 70 euros if bought at an office, 15 on internet: in this case the real value of the coupon is ... minus 5 euros. Not very interesting!
I was comfortably installed in the lounge, which is large, and was not crowded.
So between starting to write this TR
, browsing the internet, sending some e-mails, reading and eating some snacks (not a very large choice however) the time flew quite quickly.
But still no plane in sight at gate F3.
I asked to the service desk what to do with my 2000 miles coupons, and the lady said: "just give it to me". The miles were on my account when I checked, 2 days later.
At 18:45 I checked a screen in the lounge and saw that the departure time was now planned at 19:30, 15 minutes earlier than anticipated, and was... at gate G4
. So apparently we would fly on the initially programmed plane, as there had been no plane movement there during the afternoon.
I packed my things and went back to gate G4
where boarding was already going on.
Flight KL887: AMS-CDG
B 74M PH
Scheduled 15:20 -- 08:30
Real 19:56 (+4:36)-- 13:04 (+ 4:34)
Load factor: 100% (Eco)
Row E of the half cabin is interesting as the wall separating the cabin from the galley is at 20 cm from the seats. So you have space to put things during the flight or stretch your legs between the front seat and the wall.
The seat itself was OK
, without PTV. My only surprise was that the (white) pillow did not have a pillowcase: do they throw away these pillows frequently? Or do they wash them? I would have thought it was more economical to wash the pillowcases only!
At 19:40 the captain (apparently the same than for the initial flight) came on the PA and told us than the electrical fault had been found 40 minutes after having decided to change the plane: it was a faulty relay. But, for reasons I did not understand, it was too late to depart earlier.
Maybe the crew when to take some rest and would not have been able to fly right away? If somebody has an idea...
We finally pushed back at 19:56, started to taxi, then stopped and waited. At 20:12 the captain explained us there was a problem with the flight plan, and that we were waiting for a new clearance.
In the meantime we were given headphones, but nothing else in terms of amenity kits.
Things finally improved, and we started to taxi again at 20:16 and took-off at 20:20.
At 20:33 appetizer was served: almonds with a choice of drinks.
Then hot (disposable) towels were distributed, followed by the dinner.
The presentation of the meals gives a quite "cheap" impression, and the boxes are quite difficult to open. Without spilling food.
It was a 3 course meal, with a not very good bean and soya salad, a tasty beef with rice, and a good dessert.
However I was disappointed not to have any cheese (some years ago there was in France an advertising campaign titled "Holland, the other country for cheeses"), and that the "butter" was in fact a sort of margarine. Are Dutch cows striking ?
At 22:30 (04:30 HKG
time) the dinner was finished and I went to sleep.
There were no turbulences and I would have slept quite well if the temperature of the cabin had been slightly higher: there were unpleasantly cold airflows even thought the personal vents were closed.
I guess some snacks were available during the nights as I smelled the distinctive scent of instant noodles.
At 11:25 lights were turned on, followed 15 minutes later by another disposable hot towel and the breakfast.
At 12:21 the captain announced the beginning of the descent and at 12:40 came from the chief purser a long list of the rebooked flights, as most connecting passengers had obviously missed their connections.
We landed softly at 12:56 and were at gate S35 at 13:04.
I disembarked at 13:07 and arriving in the terminal there were no less than 7 agents with boards for the connecting passengers!
I took the escalators to the shuttle platform, and the shuttle left at 13:13.
Having disembarked from the short shuttle trip, and reached the arrival level, I identified on which side my luggage would be delivered, and started to queue at the adequate immigration line at 13:18, with around 60 persons in front of me, and 6 counters staffed.
At 13:32 I was processed, and, when arriving at the carrousel at 13:35 my suitcase was already there. HKG
efficiency, as usual!
I exited and, leaving the easy access to the Airport Express train on my right, I went to the taxi pick-up, as my hotel location in the New Territories requires 2 connections if you take the Airport Express and the metro.
Airport Express Access
Access to taxi stand
On the highway.
As I was not specially in a hurry for this flight the delay was not a too bad experience for me. Apparently KLM passengers are used to them (or are particularly quiet), as the delay announcement did not generate any particular demonstration of anxiety or discontent.
It is fortunate this delay did not happen on my previous flight with KL
, as that time I had a meeting planned just after arriving in Hong Kong.
The fact that a technical problem does lead to a 4 hours delay at the home base of the airline confirms KL
is using its fleet at the maximum (as readers of this board know) and has no spare plane available. This is a risk that has to be considered when having tight schedules.
The impossibility (even as a Platinum FB
member) to pre-select a good seat on the website once the booking is made is a serious inconvenient, as it is not always possible to be on-line when the OLCI process starts. This should be addressed by KL
, it works very well for AF
flights on the AF
On some points the on-board service was better than AF
(hot towel), but in general AF
is slightly better: amenity kit, menu, and meals that do not give a so "fast-food” impression (due to their presentation, but they were quite edible except the salad). Holland cheeses should be added!
The on-board crew was OK
but it was necessary to ask for everything in addition of the basic (water in addition of the wine for dinner, even though no water was given with the tray, second helping of coffee with the breakfast, and she was away before I could ask for sugar and milk, which should have been proposed automatically).
A point that should be improved is the possibility to have water without having to move (especially since a video shown in the plane was remembering the necessity to drink a lot in flight). In effect with the security control it is not possible to bring your own bottle on-board (ex AMS
at least, I guess ex-HKG
it will be possible, as the security is before the duty free area), and no water at all (not even a sealed glass) is given on the trays. AF
has solved this issue by often providing a small bottle of water with the meal that you can keep for the night.
worked well, but KL
lounges in AMS
are definitely better in terms of comfort than those of CDG
, and far less crowded. On the other hand the food available is quite limited.
Now (setting aside the delay problem) if I have to compare a direct flight on an AF
777 and this KL
connecting flight on a 744 (especially in the front half cabin), I'll happily select the KL
flight, as I really dislike 777s (and have decided to totally ban using them when 10 abreast seating, as implemented in AF
77W, not yet 772), and as transferring in AMS
is really easy.
Not having a PTV is not fundamental for me, I prefer space, especially for a night flight where my first objective is to sleep as much as possible.
There is a difference in the on-board service and catering between AF
but it would not have justified the 50% higher fare charged by AF
for the days I wanted to travel, considering the increase in total travel time is less than 20%.