A ride with a rare blue bird!!
The summer season of 2010 was getting closer and closer and it was time to travel again. I had more time to travel this time so I would be combing Florida, South Carolina and another US city (will leave it a surprise for the moment). On this trip I wanted to add an aircraft that was on my must-fly list which consists of the MD11, A310 and the B753.
In the beginning of June I started to puzzle around a little bit. I could fly on the A310 from TS from Amsterdam to Toronto or Brussels to Montreal but fares were not inviting. Another option was from Brussels to Orlando and back from that surprise city on Continental via Newark which was a good deal and consisted of the 753 on the EWR-MCO segment. But the next day fares went up. No luck again… but there was another option, I could fly KLM from Amsterdam to Montreal or Toronto with it’s MD11 for a nice deal giving me another nice opportunity on my return journey back to Europe. So Montreal it was, the first segment of the trip would go from Antwerp Central station to Montreal via Amsterdam. I just want to talk a little bit about the fare structure KL gives on flights from Belgium. The cheapest options are from Antwerp/Brussels by the regular NSHispeed/Benelux trains to Amsterdam, this is an unreserved train that runs every hour, the ride takes about 2 hours from ZYP. For a little extra cost you can take the 1-hour trip by Thalys to Schiphol. The most expensive option is to fly from Brussels to Amsterdam. I chose the regular train to Amsterdam, but things can change.
As time flew by 19 July approached quickly. That morning I woke up at 530 to leave at 645. I was supposed to be on the 712 service to Brussels to connect on to Antwerp. This train left on time but broke down at the next station, thankfully there was another train to Brussels leaving minutes later. I was by 810 in Brussels and by 830 I was of to Antwerp where I arrived an hour later.
@ the station
First you join the international ticket line where you will receive your train ticket and a sort of evidence that you have got your ticket. By this time it was 945 and I went down for a 1000 departure to Amsterdam. A few minutes later the board showed we had a 10 minute delay. Not a big deal, but 10 minutes became 15, 20, 30 and so on. By now it was 1030 and still no train to see. Now I was getting worried because once I got into AMS I still had to check in for the flight to Montreal and it was starting to get tight. By 1040 the Thalys service to Amsterdam rolled in. Suddenly I had an idea. If I could get onto that train, I would still be in plenty of time for the flight. I asked the train manager and after a small hesitation I was allowed to board with a 18 euros fee to reserve a seat. This instead of the 75 euros fine that he should have accounted. I was very thankful and took a seat onboard the first segment of the trip.
Monday 19 July 2010
Antwerp Central station (ZYP)-Amsterdam (AMS/EHAM)
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 2662 (THA 9315 Paris Nord-Amsterdam Centraal)
Train Thalys Coach 15 seat 41 Coach Class.
10h31-10h44 (platform 22)
11h27-11h36 (platform 2)
Load factor: 80% in Y
Est Riding time: 56 minutes
As soon as I boarded the doors closed and we were on our way. First of all I arranged the financial deal with the train manager, therafter I checked the Belgian train status page to see how the other train was doing. The train had left Antwerp with a 55 minute delay, I was so glad that I was let on the train. Actually I would be arriving before my scheduled arrival time in AMS at 11h51. This train had the new interior, these are much better than the old interiors. I liked the larger seats. In Rotterdam I went to the bar and got me a quick chocolate pastry to eat. This was my first trip on the new high speed line which runs parallel to the highway from Antwerp to Rotterdam and on to Amsterdam. I was quite impressed about the short duration between Belgium and Amsterdam. Before I knew it I could see the airport, in the distance I spotted the Privatair BBJ HB-JJA operating it’s regular flight from Houston to Amsterdam. By 11h36 I was in the airport and was in the plaza by 11h45. I was really relieved to be in AMS because I then noticed that my original train was cancelled. Boy I was lucky.
I first went to the famous aviation shop, but the shopping just went to looking. I did not want to buy a model plane here yet because I still had a flight to YUL and several other flights after and did not want anything to happen. I joined the rather large queue at 1215 and just about 5 minutes I reached the kiosk and found something disturbing. When booking the trip I selected seat 29J. When I reached the check-in kiosk I noticed that my seat was changed, 23C it was. Seat 23C is the bulkhead of the second Y-cabin. KLM’s MD-11 used to have a 2-4-3 configuration but a few years back it was changed to a 3-3-3 configuration. For this reason the person in 23C has unlimited legroom, in a normal case I would have been happy. But I have been wanting to fly on the MD11 for many years now, and this would be my only chance. I was not happy to be in the aisle. After that I went to the automated baggage drop-off which did not go as smooth. I hade to change lines about 3 times because the machine broke down. Finally by 1245 I was done and was allowed into the ‘SXM’ of Europe. This was my first visit in Amsterdam since the Delta takeover of Northwest, It did look quite strange not to see the redtails anymore, instead the E-concourse was full of Delta 767’s and A330’s. I was lucky enough a wingletted 767 preparing it’s trip to Memphis, I was able to make a (bad) pic. As you already now KLM was very well presented to with it’s 737s,747’s,330’s, 777’s and MD11’s. To end my tour I found the Martinair retro jet ready to fly to Orlando. It was getting late and my camera really started to act bad so I decided to go my gate D53. The gate was yet to open but people we standing and sitting in the aisle around it. At exactly 1345 the gate opened. First of all the crew went thru the security check. I was in the gate area by 1350, now I finally had a good view of PH-KCH which had arrived from Paramaribo earlier this morning and being prepared for it’s journey to Montreal. Before passing the second check into the holding area I asked if there was any window seats available, but still no luck. After passing the second check I was asked how long I was going to stay in Canada, one night for the purpose of a connection to the US the following day. As noted on the screen the boarding started at 1420 and a few minutes later it was my turn to board this beautiful bird.
Monday, 19 July 2010
Amsterdam (AMS/EHAM) – Montreal (YUL/CYUL)
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 0671 (Codeshare: Delta Air Lines 9393)
Mc Donnel Douglas MD11 PH-KCH “Anna Pavlova”. Economy Comfort* 23A
*= I know that this row is not officially in Economy comfort, but given the legroom and that KL normally charges 50 euros for this row, I guess one can call it Economy comfort.
14h45-14h59 (Gate D53; wheels up on runway 18L at 15h22)
16h00-16h10 (Gate 57; wheels down on runway 18 at 16h04)
Est flying time: 6hrs45mins.
Cruising Altitude: FL 340, 330 and 380
Load factor: 100% in Y
Routing: Amsterdam-Newcastle-Shannon-Goose Bay-Quebec City-Montreal
124th registered flight.
5th flight in 2010
25th flight on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
1st flight on the MD11
1st flight on PH-KCH
The flight boarded thru the 2L door and was greeted by the senior purser. On my way back I passed thru the J-cabin which looked attractive, my seat was the first row after the 3L door. When I arrived the window seat was taken by a German lady and an infant. The middle seat would be taken by an older Dutch woman. These parties had their seats mixed up to, and guess what happened after some trading, I got the window seat 23A. This does mean that I will be facing the sun during the whole trip, but it was better than no window seat. Once the boarding was completed the captain came on announcing a small delay because someone left something behind in the security line and the cargo door not being able to close. I did not mind at all, this would mean some more time on this jet. Another detail about the flight was that except for the first announcement and all cockpit announcements, all announcements were made in English and French. No Dutch today, if you wished to talk Dutch you were more than welcome to. Just about 15 minutes after our scheduled departure time we pushed back. Once we left the apron we taxied on to the left towards the Polderbaan. For the ones who do not know AMS that well, the Polderbaan is the runway that is almost back in Antwerp where I started my journey. We were advised to enjoy the Dutch countryside. On the way to the runway I recognized some spotters, by coincidence any a.netters on this Monday afternoon? Behind us in the line was the A310 of Air Transat operating TS351 to Toronto, to far to see the registration however. At 15h22 we blasted off towards YUL, after takeoff we turned left over the North sea immediately.
KLM has recently refitted it’s MD11s with PTV’s and AVOD. There were more than 80 movies on demand, hundreds of music tracks and programmes, you could create your own music list, or play games. There were numerous HBO’s and information channels available. Personally I found the system not to be user friendly at all. There was no listing in the in flight magazine and it was very hard to navigate in. I finally ended up watching Yes Man and several sitcoms. On the main screen in front of the cabin they showed the moving map.
Meal service consisted the following.
45minutes after takeoff: Beverage service
1,5hour after takeoff: Main meal: fish or pasta, I opted for the pasta which was good.
3,5hours after takeoff: Midflight Ice-cream snack.
1 hour prior to landing: Afternoon snack: sweet or savoury, I choose for sweet which was a little pie.
During the flights drink-carts were set up in the galleys.
After the meal service completed and my movie was finished I was eager to explore the cabin. First off all the massive size of the jet really impressed me, there was more than enough room to stretch in without getting in anybodies way. In the rear galley looked like a ballroom you could dance in. This time I was more than welcome in the rear galley and chatted for a while with the Flight attendants about everything. There were very interested in my trip, especially flying the route just to be on the MD11. A few years back I was on the last DC10 flight from NWA from Amsterdam to Memphis, those trijets do have something special when you are used to flying with 767’s across the pond. I always have found the KL flight attendants to be one of the most open F/A’s in the industry together with Delta’s Flight attendants. The 6,5 hours flight just seemed to short on this jet. Seating itself in the bulkhead was very spacious, my legs were not complaining at all on this trip. The flight itself was very smooth, the seat belt sign stayed off during the whole flight. 2 hours prior to landing they gave out the Canadian immigration forms. I had just completed them when they started to serve the pre-arrival meal.
At this time we were almost about to start our descent into the Montreal area. When I was making my final stretch I got a request from the Assistant purser if I wanted to see the flight deck, which I accepted immediately. He went to explain it to the main purser, in the mean time the captain came on and told us that we will be making up some time in Montreal but that it will be a hard landing, I liked the sense of humour of our captain. I thanked the crew for everything and went back to my seat. The seat belt sign plinged on at 10 000feet. About 15 minutes later we slammed (literally) down on runway 18 and used full reverse trust. After a short taxi we were parked at gate 57 next door to an Air France 77W that just arrived from Paris CDG. Once we stopped I waited until almost the last passenger to make a picture in the flight deck. Unafortunaly my camera started to act weird again, therefore my apologies for the blur picture. The very informative first officer gave me some details and thanked me for flying KLM.
At 1620 I disembarked and went up the escalator were I had a last view of a memorable journey. Thereafter I joined the queue in the rather spacious immigration hall. It was nice and bright comparing to most US airports. After immigration I went to the baggage claim which did take a while, in the mean time I had the chance to trade in some money. Once I retrieved my suitcase it was up to customs. There was quite a line here but there were at least 10 flights arriving from all over Europe and the US at that time. I was out by 1655 and at 1705 I was in the airport shuttle van, on our way we passed a SWISS A330 leaving for Zurich on runway 24L and shortly after that around 1720, I was in the park inn airport hotel in Montreal.
I have already flown with KL many times and it was a pleasure to be with them again (especially after having trips on Continental, US Airways and Delta), they have one of the best crews in the air. The catering was pretty much ok, however I did notice the effects of the recession, back in 2006 they served a full meal before our arrival into Atlanta. But I guess all airlines did cut back the last couple of years. The only downside was the IFE which was very hard to navigate with, at least a listing in the inflight magazine would not be a bad idea. Departure in Amsterdam was below my expectations, changing lines 3 times because the machine broke down was a little to much. The holiday crowd made AMS more crowded and less enjoyable than it normally is. Arriving into YUL was painless, some US airports should really look at this (more about this in my next review). As for the MD11, It is one great and spacious machine and I advise everybody to take a trip on these birds before they are phased out.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 0671: (Total 76%)
Departure: 50% (Check-in problems and crowded)
Aircraft cleanliness : 80% (Aircraft was clean en kept clean)
Seat Comfort: 80% (Bulkhead row, always nice)
Crew: 90% (Very kind and friendly crew set, especially the assistant purser.)
Catering: 70% (Was pretty good, impressed by 4 service rounds on this 7-hour flight)
IFE: 60% (Hard to navigate with)
Arrival: 90% (Arrival went pretty smooth considering all the traffic coming in)
As a bonus I would like to give a list of regs I spotted in AMS and YUL
My Total travel time was about 16,5 hours.
Total facts on this trip
1 New aircraft type (MD11)
1 New registration (PH-KCH)
1 New airport (YUL)
Thank you for viewing comments and feedback are appreciated.
Next trip report:
Air Canada, North America’s hidden jewel?
Past trip reports (not related to this trip)
US Airways A333's.Are They Really That Bad? Part 2 (by MSS658 Oct 23 2010 in Trip Reports)
US Airways A330-300's. Are They Really That Bad? (by MSS658 Oct 16 2010 in Trip Reports)