As an intern with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, I regularly travel to some of the best destinations in the SkyTeam network. Usually, I choose not to report on these, however I have a few TRs on the Airliners.net forum already. Of course, all feedback is welcome and I'll be sure to record more of my trips on the site in the future.
This trip was rather special for a number of reasons. The first, is that the flight today was to Amsterdam. The Netherlands is my favourite country I've ever been to, and having lived there for many years as a child (my mother is Dutch) it's always nice to return to. Secondly, this trip (and all the train tickets and attraction visits) was fully paid by KLM as a 'thank you' gesture for our hard work.
The flights taken on the trip were KL1278 and KL1293. All flights were on 9 January 2011, as this was simply a day trip to the Netherlands. All flights were taken in Europe Select, KLM's 'premium' product on European routes - however there is often dispute on whether the product offered constitutes a 'business class' service.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 1278
Edinburgh (Turnhouse) - Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Aircraft: Fokker 70
Registration: PH-KZD (built January 1997)
Delivered direct from the factory to KLM Cityhopper, 22/01/1997
Scheduled Departure 09:45 (09:50 Actual)
Scheduled Arrival 12:20 (12:20 Actual)
Cabin: Europe Select (80% full)
Photo © Aurélien Tranchet
Photo © Ad Vercruijsse
As the flight departed at 09:45, and I wanted to allow time to park the car and visit the lounge at Edinburgh, I left reasonably early at around 07:30. Since we're in Winter, it was still the hours of darkness as I drove to the airport.
Notice in the pic my fuel light is on, so a quick stop to Shell before heading over the Forth Road Bridge to the airport. The commute to the airport from home is only 25 minutes maximum, however since this was a Sunday and early morning I managed to save some time on my journey.
Soon, I arrived at Edinburgh Airport where I had prebooked airport parking. I gathered my belonging (no checked-in luggage today since it was a very short trip) and headed for the shuttle bus to the airport terminal.
The bus journey lasted only a couple of minutes and soon I was outside the terminal building. The airport has gone through some real improvements in the last 5 years or so, including a new control tower, low-cost wing, renovation of the departure lounge and a modernised security check. With the sun slowly rising I managed to capture this image of the new car park and control tower in the background.
Time to check-in for today's flight to Amsterdam. Flight KL 1278 is midway down the screen, with departure time 09:45. I don't know if I prefer the screens I've seen in America where destinations are listed alphabetically rather than in chronological order.
There were four desks open for today's flight. One bag drop, two economy class check-in and one business class. The desks were not exclusively for KLM. Servisair handles KLM, Air France and the Continental (United) flight to Newark from these desks all together.
Check-in went smoothly, with about a 5 minute wait. The economy class queue seemed to move quicker than business class, however the girl behind the business desk did work efficiently. She handed me a lounge invite and wished me a pleasant trip.
From check-in I headed upstairs and through security. The screens read 'Your wait time will be 10-12 minutes' however I walked straight through to the departure lounge with no wait at all. The new modernised facilities are also far more efficient than the previous.
Once through security there is a new platform with flight information screens. Shopping facilities and bar/restaurants have also been improved, including a new Wetherspoons.
I picked up a couple of things from Boots, changed currency to Euros and then headed to the Servisair Lounge. The lounge, which I have reported on before, is a bit of an anti-climax. Decor is simple and although the staff are friendly, they tend to spend the whole time talking behind the desk.
The food offerings are very poor. Wrapped biscuits and crackers are all that are offered. During the morning there are some croissants offered, but these are very dry and seem rather cheap.
Scheduled boarding was for 09:15 however boarding was actually called about 09:25. The KLM Cityhopper Fokker 70 was to depart from Gate 3, with a jetbridge. Often, these smaller aircraft park at a remote stand and passengers are bussed, as is the case at Schiphol.
We were welcomed onboard by an all Scottish crew. This is something which I find quite strange. The KLM Cityhopper crew did not speak Dutch, and made announcements in English whilst using a pre-recorded Dutch message. As someone who speaks Dutch and German as well as English I think its a bit strange having crew in KLM uniform who can't speak any Dutch.
Next to us, at Gate 2, was Continental's service to New York Newark. I was excited to capture the 757 in the 'hybrid' livery, which if I'm honest I don't really like. The United livery with the fade to white I personally feel looks far better than the Continental livery. It just looks now like the planes are being leased between the carriers and they're in some kind of hybrid livery unsure what airline they belong to. Also notice the new Star Alliance logo forward of the doors where previously the SkyTeam logo was.
Meanwhile onboard the aircraft was getting prepared for departure. A lady in Economy Class had left her cell phone in the baby changing toilets in the terminal, and thankfully ground crew were able to go back inside quickly and managed to find it. Our departure was delayed, but not by long, and the passenger was very grateful.
There is always opinions regarding KLM's Europe Select product, especially since the airline does not 'block' the middle seat in the ES cabin. Thankfully on my flight today, the middle seats had been left vacant.
We taxied to the runway, and made a smooth depature to the south-west. Not surprisingly, as soon as we broke through the low cloud the gloomy weather of Edinburgh seemed a thing of the past.
Shortly after we were in the air, the service began. The curtain between Economy Class and Europe Select was drawn and cabin crew headed down the aisle with their trolley. The purser handed me the infamous Europe Select snack box, before I'd been offered a drink. I thought this way of serving was rather strange, as everyone was given a box and THEN offered a drink. Surely drinks come first?!
As per usual with these ES boxes, the combinations were quite incredible. I would say I'm generally quite cultured, but the offering today was strange. A 'game roulade' was served on a bed of Sauerkraut with elderberry topping. Alongside this a cheese and shrimp salad. The dessert was awesome, and similar to something I've had on intercontinental World Business Class last year. With the snack, I had apple juice and tea.
Following this, I had a browse of this month's Holland Herald, the people issue. An interesting read with a much discussed interview with Peter Hartman (CEO of KLM) regarding KLM brand and possible integration of Alitalia into the Air France KLM Group.
After a second cup of tea, the meal boxes were cleared and we began our descent into the Amsterdam. Flying in over the English Channel and across the Netherlands on a clear day made for some great photographs, and I fell in love with the country all over again. KLM continuous descent approach allowed for some great pics showing how the aircraft effortlessly approached the airport.
Our taxi was average from what I've experienced on some arrivals to Schiphol, and before long we were pulling on to our parking stand at the KLM Cityhopper Fokker and Embraer playground. Buses waited to take us to the terminal, and there were some great opportunities to photograph aircraft on the ground.
I moved quickly through the Passport Check and with no bags to collect, headed straight out onto Schiphol Plaza. A quick look in Planes Plaza (no trip to Schiphol is complete without it) and although I was tempted to quickly head to the Panorama Terrace, I decided to head for the train to Amsterdam Centraal.
The train service from Schiphol to Amsterdam Centraal is excellent! I've used it a couple of times before, and today I purchased an 'Amsterdam All in 1 Ticket' which included return train tickets on Nederlands Spoorwegen (NS) between the airport and the city. As well as this, the 'All in 1 Ticket' included unlimited travel on GVB services in Amsterdam (including metro, bus and tram). Total price for this ticket was €13. This is amazing compared to travel in Scotland by train, with return tickets for an equivalent journey of Schiphol - Centraal costing close to €10 alone.
As we approach Amsterdam Centraal the novelty of sitting on a 'double decker train' begins to wear off. These trains are excellent though, and services regular. If you're ever flying into Schiphol and need to go into the city, I would definitely suggest the NS service to Amsterdam Centraal over a taxi.
After arrival into Amsterdam, I headed to the outside tram stops to pick up a tram to the Heineken Experience. The tram services are excellent once you learn the procedure. I kept forgetting to 'check-out' with leaving the tram!
The Heineken Experience is a great place to visit, especially if you love beer! The exhibits are all very interesting and, if you take your time to appreciate everything, you can spend just over an hour in there. It's actually inside the old Heineken brewery (now moved) but visitors can see (or taste) everything from the old brewing tanks to the raw ingredients. There's even a ride 'Brew Your Ride' where you are 'brewed', and the opportunity to take home your own custom labelled bottle with your name on it! Not to be missed by beer fans, or anyone who loves everything Dutch! (Entrance fee is €15 but this includes 2 large Heineken beers at the end of the tour, and 1 smaller beer during tour).
And here is my custom bottle of Heineken, as bottled by me
From the Heineken Experience, I decided to do some exploration on foot. I had prebooked tickets to Anne Frank Huis (Anne Frank's House) for 15:45 so it would make good time by the time I made it across town. A trip to Amsterdam wouldn't be complete without a trip to the world famous Red Light District, which for us laid back Europeans is all very acceptable, however some American (or Canadian?) tourists were clearly finding the sights a little too much... And before anyone asks, no, I didn't enter any of these establishments!
Unfortunately, photography is not permitted in Anne Frank's House so I have no photos of actually inside the building. Nonetheless it was an excellent place to visit and you really do feel right in the moment.
Before long it was time to head back to Centraal Station and catch the NS service back to Schiphol. For anyone planning a visit to Amsterdam, trains returning to Schiphol depart from Platform 13 (correct as at January 2011).
After the short train journey, of about 17-20 minutes, I was back at the best place on earth...
I had planned to visit the Panorama Terrace briefly, however Winter opening hours dictate that the terrace closes at 17:00. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 1293
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol - Edinburgh (Turnhouse)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800WL
Registration: PH-BXN (built December 2000)
Delivered direct from the factory to KLM, 16/12/2000
Scheduled Departure 21:15 (21:25 Actual)
Scheduled Arrival 21:45 (21:50 Actual)
Cabin: Europe Select (88% full)
Photo © Mats Salder
Photo © Joachim Eichner
Since I was returning on the same day, the check-in agent at Edinburgh had checked me in for my return flight at the same time. This saved checking in at Amsterdam, and I headed straight through to the Holland Boulevard and KLM Crown Lounge. The lounge was relatively busy, but as usual the food offerings were to a minimum. The seats near the Entertainment center and the computers seemed to smell strongly of cigarettes despite there being a designated zone. It is a real reminder of how much more comfortable it is with the smoking-ban in the United Kingdom.
Nice features of the KLM Crown Lounge include iPads and shower facilities.
After time in the lounge I headed to Starbucks and took some more photos of the terminal
Boarding was stated to start at 20:10 on the boarding card. This was 1hr 5mins before the scheduled departure of the aircraft, since security is carried out at the gate at Amsterdam. This system seems rather strange to me as there seems to be a lot of hanging around at the gate area before boarding. When I approached gate D51 the queue of passengers was spreading right across the moving walkways. I decided to leave it a while, and return when it was quieter.
I had expected the flight to be far quieter than it actually was, given that this is a later flight and when I had taken the same flight in September 2008 there had been only 2 of us in Europe Select.
The purser welcomed me onboard and put my hand luggage in the 'attic' (a fold out storage compartment in the ceiling of ES - look out for it on your next encounter with the 737NG).
The captain introduced himself and made us aware that we would be departing slightly behind schedule as we needed to be de-iced before take off. This is only the second time I have been de-iced at Amsterdam. Last time was onboard a 777-200 to Detroit, and it's always a pretty cool thing to watch.
Take off was smooth and before long the onboard service began. This time snacks were served WITH drinks, although the Europe Select meal combination was again something quite bizarre.
I didn't take any pictures of the meal or menu card, but the 'appetiser' was cold pea soup with Frisian rye bread and corned veal. The 'dessert' was Bitterkoekjes with apple and apricot compote. Following the meal service was tea/coffee and stroopwaffels (the best little things in the world - which always taste better in Holland, and not as good in Starbucks).
We made another smooth approach into Edinburgh and the flight arrived on stand 5 minutes behind schedule. After a short queue at security of around 10 minutes, I made my way back to the shuttle bus to return to the car.
As per usual, KLM had delivered. IMHO, the service I received from the crew on these flights was actually on par with the service I've enjoyed in KLM Economy Class and I feel flights within Europe don't have the 'business class' edge as some other carriers manage to have. Amsterdam was great to experience, especially on such a nice sunny (but cold) day.
Thanks for reading this report on my short trip to the Netherlands. Will be back with more soon!
Any feedback is appreciated.