Welcome to my fifth trip report!
In fall last year I was given the opportunity to take part in a school trip to Scotland. Never having been there before, I decided to come along on this seven day long journey through the countryside, Edinburgh and Glasgow. As there is no direct flight between our airport of choice, Stuttgart-Echterdingen, and Edinburgh as of yet, the choice was made to fly KLM via their hub in Amsterdam. The first leg of the outbound flight would be operated by their regional affiliate KLM Cityhopper, the second one on a mainline aircraft. I was quite excited for these flights since I hadn't flown KLM in more than a decade and because they would give me the chance to explore new aircraft types.
Courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper
The experience started before the flight itself, online: I "liked" KLM's online presence on facebook. Therefore I was able to ask questions directly to the KLM staff which were responded to within minutes (if you're lucky, sometimes within seconds), among other perks. According to KLM's social media manager, Anna Ketting, "these channels [facebook and twitter] are as much about service as fun". Interestingly, the team has handled rather complex tasks such as "locating lost luggage and ordering specific meals" through them. Moreover, KLM said it will soon launch "a major new campaign" on facebook...*
KLM on facebook: "Growing importance of social media"*
KLM Cityhopper maintains a sizeable operation at Stuttgart-Echterdingen. They operate several flights a day from and to Amsterdam. Ever since the airline began taking delivery of brand new Embraer E190 aircraft, they have been deployed commonly to Stuttgart. Our flight to Amsterdam was scheduled to depart at noon, which was convenient, operated by the modern Brazilian jet — a first for me.
Photo © Thomas Schwitalla
Photo © Emilio Zeininger
On the day of departure, the 31st of March, I left home rather early and arrived at the airport about three hours before the scheduled departure time. I wandered about the terminals for a while, taking pictures. After the whole group had gathered and the (bag drop) counters had opened, we proceeded to use the self check-in machines. This procedure turned out to be some sort of roulette in terms of seat assignments. Luckily I was given a window seat on the first flight, and an aisle one on the second one. I left it at that for the time being, knowing I might have the assignment changed in Amsterdam, and dropped my bag off. The friendly staff proved to be very helpful at getting everyone checked in.
SkyTeam app: All the flights, all the updates.
Stuttgart Airport/Trade Fair suburban train underground station
Up in terminal 1, which is home to the Lufthansa check-in counters pictured here
A huge advertisement promoting Qatar's thrice-weekly Doha service – on the A319LR, though
As much as I liked Scotland, I wouldn't have minded a destination change – of course on HB-JMJ
Terminal 3, pictured here are the check-in counters for Delta, Air France and KLM
KLM and its "main partners" as the airline refers to both Delta Air Lines and Air France
The morning rush was already over, so security only took a couple of minutes and then we were airside, heading for gate 316. I noticed that SkyTeam offered free quality newspapers to its passengers — well, basically to everyone, since the rack wasn't guarded in any way. Quite a nice offering, I went for "le monde" this morning.
Overview of the gate area, the crowd in the back was boarding an airberlin flight to Palma de Mallorca
Gate 316, before the arrival of the aircraft from Amsterdam
"Going to the counter is Stone Age, opening the car with the mobile phone is New Age"
Air France' babybus in the rehashed livery
There it is: I would definitely fly on an E-Jet
My boarding pass, printed on thermal paper
||Thursday, 31st of March, 2011
||Stuttgart-Echterdingen – Amsterdam Schiphol
||1h 25m (12:00 PM CEST - 1:25 PM CEST)
||PH-EZD (delivered 29/04/2009)
After a bit of waiting, boarding commenced as scheduled. I was pretty much in the back of the line, but I eventually made it through the jetway. Once onboard the aircraft, I was welcomed by a young and good-looking "cabin attendant" before I continued to my seat right behind the wing. The E-Jet was equipped with a patterned carpet, dark blue leather seats and dark red seatbelts attached to them. All in all, the cabin appeared to be in a generally good condition.
First sights: G-EUUB that had just come in from London-Heathrow
KLM's in flight magazine, the "Holland Herald". Well worth reading, en route or elsewhere
Soon enough the door had been closed and the pushback took place. We had a quick welcome from the flight deck before the safety demo playback started, along with manual demonstrations by the two "cabin attendants". First in English, then in Dutch (what a lovely-sounding language, by the way). Since I have flown a couple of times on CRJ aircraft equipped with GE CF-34 engines, I wondered wheter there would be similarities to the ones the E-Jets use. However, I found there were only few, if any at all. Quite amazing how the subtypes of one engine can sound so differently. We taxied for a departure from runway 25, where we took off from only a couple of minutes after pushback. The take-off roll was not that powerful, but for the first time I felt an aircraft moving from left to right (and vice versa) during a high-speed roll. It was a windy day here, nonetheless the steep initial climb was very smooth.
During pushback, with common traffic at Stuttgart-Echterdingen
A picture that should never have existed...
Arriving at the holding point of runway 25
After the initial climb, the aircraft made a right turn in north-westerly direction and climbed to FL340. As it broke through the clouds, both the seat belt and the "turn off electronic devices" signs were extinguished simultaneously. The crew then sprung into action, distributing both savory and salty snacks at first, which was followed by a drink service. Water was mainly served, but other drinks could be had on request. Every passenger who was willing to got a second drink as well. I decided to have some tea in addition, but unfortunately it tasted only like boiled water. As for the view, there was basically none due to a solid overcast that wouldn't be passed through until the final approach. So I kept myself entertained by reading the "Holland Herald".
Savory and salty snacks. They tasted quite good.
Drinks flow, note the nice decor on the tea cup
Not much to see out there
During the descent
Pretty much my first view of Holland
Eventually the Pilot Flying made an excellent landing on runway 27. After vacating the runway, the aircraft taxied for the B-Apron. The block off was at gate B24 – "gate" in this context meaning that movable stairs are used for deboarding and then the passengers walk another set of static stairs up into the jetway. I was granted a quick look into the cockpit, but there was only time for some smalltalk with the crew. I didn't want to risk the gate to close, having experienced this once too often. It was quite amazing to see how many Embraer aircraft KLM Cityhopper has acquired thus far: They were really all over the apron.
Leaving the "Buitenveldertbaan"
Martinair's retro colored B767 – a nice sight, despite the weather conditions
Arriving at the gate
I hadn't been to Amsterdam in more than a decade, so this was essentially my first true visit. Our layover time turned out to be very short: We were in the terminal by 1:30 PM and the boarding for the onward flight to Edinburgh would already be at 2:20 PM (for a 3:15 PM departure). Quite a lot of time, one would think. But the explanation is easy: Before being able to board the aircraft, the non-Schengen area has to be entered through a passport check by some passengers, and everyone of them has to undergo another security screening at the gate. Bearing this in mind, a boarding time almost one hour before the scheduled departure time begins to make sense.
Looking at the "Lounge 1" congregation area...
...and toward the "Transfer T2" area
A Pegasus B737 during pushback, seen from the food court
Air France is here as well
Flying Europe-wide on KLM mainline is a clear affair in terms of equipment used: The airline operates a short/mid haul fleet of Boeing 737 Classic and Next Gen aircraft. Consequently, the only diversity is the subtype that is ultimately used, save for equipment changes. For the connecting flight to Edinburgh, I hadn't found many information about what subtype would be sent ("Boeing 737" was listed). It could have been any, but I hoped it would be one of KLM's rather new Boeing 737-700 aircraft. After passing the passport check and walking to the periphery of the terminal to gate D54, I became aware that only Classic 737 aircraft had been parked there. But which one would operate my flight to Edinburgh? Before finding that out, I had to line up for the security check, which turned out to be a bottleneck: A lot of passengers had to clutter up the corridor due to the slow-moving line.
My boarding pass, taken while standing at the back of the line
Finally a good view of the aircraft: PH-BTA, named "Fernão de Magalhães", would bring me to Edinburgh
||Thursday, 31st of March, 2011
||KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
||Amsterdam Schiphol – Edinburgh Turnhouse
||1h 32m (3:13 PM CEST - 3:45 PM BST)
||PH-BTA (delivered 16/11/1991)
When I stepped onboard, I was pleasantly surprised. For an aircraft older than me, the cabin looked inviting: Clean carpets and blue cloth seats with decent legroom. There were four cabin crew members onboard, one "purser" and three "cabin attendants" as KLM refers to them. I didn't manage to get a window seat, and the row turned out to have a misaligned window anyway. Pushback and take off from runway 24 were almost on time. The captain mentioned that he expected to "park the aircraft at the gate on schedule" and that some turbulence had to be expected en route due to strong winds.
Legroom on the B737 Classic
The take off felt much more powerful than the one on the Embraer, but the initial climb was rather shaky. I suspect it might have been wake turbulence caused by a KLM Jumbojet that had taken off right before us. Service on this flight was essentially the same as before, however, only one snack was given out at first. The three of us in the row asked if we could have another one, but the flight attendant said that at first every passenger had to be served one. I had already forgotten about it, but she did return a couple of minutes later and gave each one of us another pack of cookies – definitely a nice touch.
A smaller tray table with two engravings for the drinks. Note the cart still standing on the right
I decided to have coffee this time, but it was similarly tasteless like the tea I had. Just as I was handed the cup, the aforementioned turbulence began to make itself felt. I had to sip rather quickly, keeping in mind that "the strength of turbulence while in an airplane is directly proportional to the temperature of your coffee". This trend continued for the remainder of the flight. The landing, however, in these windy conditions was perfect in my opinion: Not too firm, but not too soft either.
At the gate, last view back on "Fernão de Magalhães"
Akin to my London-Stansted experience last year, entering the UK was quick and easy, and soon thereafter the luggage was on the belt as well. We wouldn't stay in Edinburgh this evening, but continue to Glasgow right away – on the road, so we headed over to the rental car facility first.