[b]West Midlands to the Middle East[b]
[b]A Flying Blue Premium Experience[b]
Greetings from Wales! After a couple of years of lurking on this forum and reading all your fantastic trip reports, I thought I'd have a go at producing one myself. Comments and feedback are always welcome! The pics were taken on the move with my iphone so the quality is not always perfect, but atleast they give you a good idea of my flight experiences. I hope you enjoy!
[b]Background to the trip[b]
As a Secondary School Teacher, the UK summer holiday period gives me up to 6 weeks to travel. Since the British 'summer' is so pathetic these days, I decided on a trip to Dubai where the sun is guaranteed. I was to meet family there for a 5 day break at The Hilton on Jumeirah Beach. I haven't written about the stay in this report; I have merely focused on the in-flight experiences.
I booked the flights way back in January using miles I had left over from a previous trip to MEL. The online booking process was very simple and quick. AF allow you to choose seats instantly, whereas KLM only allow this 90 days defore departure, which I think is unacceptable, particularly when flying in Business (but it's better than the BA seating policy!!)
[Up, up and away!]
The BHX-CDG sector was to be operated by Cityjet for AF using an Avro RJ85. I initally selected seat 2A as bulkheads can have limited legroom and I'm 6' 4" tall. It later changed it to 1A as I had been seat-shifted several times! At the time of seat selection, the map was showing a 2-2 configuration in Business. A few months later, the airline downgraded this service offering to 'Cityplus' their Premium Economy offering, now in a 3-3 configuration! Okay, this was no big deal for me as it was only a very short hop anyway.
The AF CDG-DXB sector was to be operated by a 777-300ER. I selected the mini forward J cabin, seat 4A, as this is more intimate and quiter and on the opposite side to the toilets.
Check in at BHX was handled by Servisair. My flight was leaving at 6.30am so I printed off my boarding passes the day before. The check in agent was swift and efficient and nothing more. My bags were checked through to Dubai and I was told where the lounge was. I had my fingers crossed that my bags would actually make it to DXB given past experiences of AF's ability to 'misplace' baggage! They were priority tagged which, of course, meant they came out last!
Using the priority lane worked well, although there were limited queues at this time of the day. One guy politely told me that the back of the queue was 'back there!' I then showed him my boarding pass with the Priorty Boarding stamp on it and he smiled and said, 'Ah, your lucky day!' I offered to let him go infront of me, but he politely declined because he had a young family with him. How nice am I? I could have been sarcastic towards him, but life's too short.
After a quick visit to duty free, I went straight to the 4 deck lounge. It opened at 5am and I was the first person there.
|Entrance to the BHX lounge facilty|
The lady in the lounge, not really a 'dragon,' was polite but said very little. I can understand this at such as early hour! The lounge itself was small and offered a limited selection of snacks and drinks, but it was sufficient for the small wait.
|BHX 4deck lounge entrance|
|Refreshments in the BHX lounge|
|Interior of the BHX lounge|
After a couple of drinks, the flight was ready for boarding. I had never flown on Cijyjet before, but I heard that they had a pretty good reputation. My aircraft awaited.
There was no priority boarding, probably because the Avro is a tiny aircraft. On boarding, there was a greeting and I took my seat which was 1A at the very front. There is a small pair of seat here. Legroom was tight, but as the load in J was 50%, a female Cabin Crew asked if I'd like to move to row 2 all for myself, so I did! Here are some shots of the interior.
|Cityjet from my new seat in row 2|
|Cityjet row 2 - more legroom here!|
The flight pushed back ten minutes late, but the captain announced we'd make up the time en-route. I had a 5 hour connection time in CDG, so wasn't worrying too much!!
The inflight service began.
|Cityjet breakfast in J. BHX to CDG|
Breakfast arrived in a white plastic box and was okay for a quick snack. I can't eat much first thing in the morning anyway.
I took some shots from the air...
|Leaving the UK enroute to CDG|
|Bonjour La France! Dieppe from above.|
The flight passed without incident and we arrived on schedule. I now had to make my transfer from termnal 2E to 2F. This was slightly chaotic as you'd probably expect at CDG. There was a 10 minute bus journey, but I found signage was poor.
|My ride from behind!! BHX-CDG|
I made my way to the AF lounge. My initial impressions were that it was dated, a little tatty around the edges and crowded. I went downstairs into the 'dungeon' where there were more seats and peace. Refreshments were very ordinary and basic.
It was soon time to board the 777-300R for the 6 hour flight to DXB. I had flown in AF J before and was underwhelmed by the experience. The cabin crew were surly, arrogant and disinterested. The seat had also been the old version with no foot rest or retracting arm rest, and my parents' baggage had gone missing. Would this be any different..?
Priority boarding worked well and I was pointed towards my seat 4C. The seat was brown this time, although the pics make it look blue! It was also the latest generation, NEV 3 I think?? The male steward took a pic of me settling in. Initial impressions were favourable.
I was hoping for a spare seat next to me (don't we all?) but the flight today was going to be full. A guy sat next to me without saying anything, just a slight smile. I prefer this rather than someone who is constantly gossiping in your ear for hours on end. A little conversation is always good thoough, just as long as both parties know when to shut up!
|It has to be done, even though I hate Champagne!|
After the pre-take off drinks, push back was on time. Once airbourne, hot towels and menus were distributed.
I always love a G & T, though there was not much ' T ' in this one!
|Aperitif? Has to be a Gin and Tonic!|
|AF F cabin from the mini J cabin where I sat|
(Almost - First Class was 75% capacity.)
I have always found airline food to be very hit and miss. I have had very bad food in BA FIRST and excellent food in EK Economy. The service was slow to begin with and nothing spectacular, but I was going to enjoy it anyway.
|AF Duck! Tasted better than it looks!|
The food was okay really, even though presentation was not the best! Notice how the cheese course is now served with the main! I much prefer the way EK bring around a trolley. This was all part of AF's 'improved' meal service. I don't know about you, but whenever I read the word 'improved' I instantly read 'cost-cutting' and 'downgraded.' Umm, interesting thought!
After the meal, I stretched out to watch something on their IFE although I can't remember what it was!
I found the seat to be quite comfortable in both the sitting and the 'flat' position. Even I was able to stretch out fully when the seat was in the infamous angled, lie-flat setting, almost on a par with QF's angled lie-flat J seat...almost!
Well, the rest of the flight went well and we were served the usual snack selection before landing (sorry, no pics of this.) I had a wander to look at he new Y+ cabin. It looked pretty decent and private, but the seats did look narrow and plasticky. I'm sure it would be better than AF's 10 abrest seating in Y, 'The Emirates Effect!'
To summarise, the flight was average. Cabin Crew did their job and that's about it. I have definitely had much better, personalised service in SQ Y, but I suppose one would expect that. I'd give this flight a rating of 7 out of 10.
[b]The KLM Experience[b]
After a few days of sun, sun and sun, it was time to return to the good old UK winter, sorry, summer. I had vever flown with KLM before, except for a short hop many years ago MAN-AMS on KLM UK. I had read varying reviews about their World Business Class Product, so I was looking forward to trying it for myself.
I had pre-selected seat 1A in the nose of this 747-400 Combi. When I came to OLCI, I had noticed that this seat was no longer available and I had been shifted to the Upper Deck. It turns out that the lower deck J cabin was going to be used for a few lucky Economy Extra passengers, but with Y service. Good for them. Downstairs was overbooked.
Check in was swift and efficient and I made my way to the Crown Lounge. It was a small facility with very limited snacks and drinks. There were a few rolls, crisps and peanuts. The lounge was fairly quiet and comfortable though.
|Entrance to lounge in DXB|
|DXB Crown Lounge. A poor selection!|
The flight was due to depart on time and I made my way to the gate looking forward to my first ever KLM experience. Priority boarding was used and worked well, but it always amazes me how people are so anxious to board the aircraft even if they have not been called yet, almost as it the flight will leave without them!
On boarding the aircraft, I was hit with swathes of blue! Blue everywhere. I was pointed towards the stairs leading to the upper deck. I managed to snap the new Economy Plus cabin which looked pretty spacious and new. All seat were fitted with personal IFE screens too. Apologies for these being blurred; they were literally taken 'on the move.'
|KLM Economy Plus - a blurred shot! |
|KLM Economy Plus 35" pitch|
On entering the Upper Deck, I was greeted by two FAs adorned in blue! They reminded me of a scene from Thunderbirds! I liked them as they were friendly and slightly quirky. Here are some shots of the UD and my seat.
|Half-empty Upper Deck (or half-full!)|
|Upper Deck World Business Class|
|Legroom on UD exit seat in WBC|
As many have commented, the seat was comfortable in the sitting position, but VERY difficult to get comfortable in the fully-reclined setting.
Push back was on schedule and the service began once we were airbourne.
As this was a night flight, I just wanted to sleep, as did the other passengers. I opted for a juice before a light meal of chicken and pasta was served. Service was quick and efficient. The two female FAs were charming and very friendly throughout. An excellent impression so far! (Again, apologies for the poor quality of some of the pics taken in low light without a flash!)
|WBC DXB to AMS. Only juice this time for me!|
I found the IFE impossible and very fiddly to operate. The controls on the handset seemed to have a mind of their own, so I gave up and managed to get 4 hours' sleep in the semi-reclined position!
Breakfast was served about an hour before landing although I was not very hungry. It was pancakes and the usual fruit / bread selection. The pancakes were dried up but the fruit was welcome. Drinks were offered by the friendly, whacky crew!
|KLM WBC breakfast DXB-AMS|
We landed on time and I made my way to the KLM Crown Lounge to await my final sector to Birmingham. By this stage, I was ready to get back after so much waiting around since checking out of my room in Dubai! I thought the KLM inflight experience was good. As ever, the crew can make or break a flight and ultimately determine whether or not you use that particular airline again. I would certainly fly with KKM again and would give them 7 out of 10, the same as AF. They just need to get their seat sorted!
Oh, and I liked this finishing touch from KLM!
|Nice house, shame about the horrific contents!|
|My chariot from DXB to AMS|
I found the KLM lounge to be huge, but disappointing. The drink and food selection early in the morning was very limited. Around the edge of the lounge near the window, were many stained, dirty seats which looked like they had seen better days! I just sat in a peaceful spot towards the rear waiting for my flight. By this stage, I was very tired and worn out but still looking forward to my final sector in Europe Select.
|My ride from AMS-BHX 737-700 with 'winglets'|
|Legroom Europe Select row 2 bulkhead|
|Eurpoe select breakfast box|
|Europe Select 'breakfast' AMS to BHX|
Once again, the flight was on schedule and priority boarding worked well. The seat was a standard bulkhead but with decent legroom. Food was served in a 'Europe Select' box. Its contents were strange for 7am! A beef kebab and a chessecake! Oh well, it tasted good and my body clock was out of touch with the real world, so who was I to complain?
An hour later, we were on our descent back into Birmingham. I still had a two hour train journey back to Wales though! I really enjoyed he KLM sectors and would not hesitate to fly with them again or AF for that matter! For me, whenever I decide to travel, the planning phase and the anticipation of the flight experiences are part of the thrill For many people, flying is merely a way of getting from A to B, but for me, it's perhaps the most exciting part of any trip. If you're reading this, you will probably agree with me too.
Many thanks for reading my very first trip report. I hope you enjoyed it.