A recent trip to North America seemed like it would be a good opportunity to contribute another trip report, so here goes. This report will only cover the first segment of the trip, a short hop from BLL, a local regional airport in Denmark, to AMS. Once I can manage to take care of some camera-related issues and convince it to give up the pictures from the other segments, more should follow.
For both business and personal reasons, I needed to travel to North America at the end of March/beginning of April time frame. Looking around for flights I found the most reasonably priced options going through Amsterdam with a combination of KLM and Delta. Actually the trip was booked entirely on Delta, though the Denmark to/from Amsterdam part would naturally be flown on KLM equipment. Also, interestingly, once again the overall price was cheaper booking the Denmark to/from Amsterdam part separately from the Amsterdam to/from North America flights. Of course, you have to be careful when you break up a trip this way, as problems can occur if there are flight delays, cancellations, etc. But the savings were significant enough that I went for it, and just tried to give myself enough padding to (hopefully) take care of any unforeseen delays. It seems odd that things price out that way, but I have seen it happen many times before. Who knows how the airline pricing algorithms really work, but this is one of those anomalies they sometimes produce.
Off to the Airport:
As noted in a previous trip report, though BLL, the closest airport for me, is the second largest/busiest in the country, there are surprisingly few good public transportation facilities available. This continues to be a frustration for people in the local area. I have heard rumours that there might be improvements on the way in this area. While I certainly hope this is true, for now the matter is still very firmly in the "I'll believe it when I see it!" category. So given the limited possibilities for getting to the airport, taking a taxi was the only realistic option. As usual, I called the taxi company the day before the flight to make the arrangements.
On the day of departure I woke up early, actually a bit before the alarm. After a quick shower and some coffee to get the requisite caffeine intake, I proceeded to get ready. I knew I had plenty of time, so was not that rushed. I was ready to go with time to spare. About 20 minutes before the scheduled taxi pickup time, I thought I heard a car outside so I looked out the window. I was surprised to see a taxi waiting there, presumably the one that would be taking me to the airport. Taxis around here normally show up right on time (at best), and are almost never more than a minute or two early at the most. I figured the driver was just running ahead of schedule, and had decided to drive to his next appointment and wait around. Oh well, since I was ready to go anyway, I grabbed my bags and walked towards the door. As I opened the door to leave, I was surprised to see the taxi driver standing there, apparently just about to ring the buzzer. I wasn't quite sure why he was so eager - had he simply been told the incorrect time by the dispatcher? No worries though as I was game to get going early, so I proceeded to the taxi and we headed off to the airport.
Normally it takes about 50 minutes or so by taxi to get to the airport, under average traffic conditions. As we started to the airport, the traffic looked light to normal, so I figured that would be the case this time as well. The taxi driver, however, seemed to have other intentions. Once we got out of the city and onto the motorway, he seemed to morph into a mixture of half taxi driver/half Formula 1 driver. We must have passed just about everything on the road on the way to the airport. It wasn't dangerous driving or anything like that, just a very "efficient" driving approach that got us to the airport in just over 35 minutes or so. I figured he must just be an experienced driver and wasn't in the mood to waste any time - and I also kind of appreciated the expedited ride.
There was not really any conversation along the way, but as we approached the airport the driver said: "... ok, we are almost at the airport, I hope you make it to your flight ok. They explained to me it was urgent, so I hope it works out." I was not sure what to think about the comment, as there was plenty of time for me to make my flight. Apparently though, the information I had told them the day before must have gotten confused by the dispatcher with that of another customer. At any rate, the comment did explain the ”F1 driver” part of his split driving personality. And it worked out fine for me as I was actually at the airport a little earlier than anticipated. I just hope some other customer did not get delayed to long because of the confusion.
The taxi stand/"pit stop" area outside the BLL entrance where my F1 taxi driver dropped me off.
At the Airport (BLL):
I had used the online checkin facility of the KLM website the day before, so as I entered the airport I proceeded straight to the baggage drop off location. Fortunately there were not many people waiting as I arrived, so I was quickly able to drop off my bag and ask the desk agent if she could print a boarding pass for me. She replied "no problem", typed in a few details, tagged by checked bag, and then printed a boarding pass and handed it to me.
Some self service checkin kiosks right inside the entrance.
The baggage drop off queue - not too busy.
There has been some construction recently at BLL. Among other things there have been changes to how the security screening process is done. Previously, after checking in, passengers were directed upstairs where they were then screened before being released airside to an area with shops, restaurants, and access to the boarding gates. In the new arrangement, passengers are now screened downstairs and only proceed upstairs after clearing security. At the moment most of the construction downstairs has been completed, including the new area for screening passengers. Upstairs though is still a little chaotic, but it looks like they should be completing things soon.
Walking towards the new downstairs security screening area.
The passenger traffic was light as I approached the security checkpoint. Normally the screeners at BLL are pretty efficient. I did notice a difference though as I went through the process this time. For some reason they seemed quite interested in (as in fixated upon) any liquids passengers had in their carryon bags. Though the liquids regulation has been around for a while now, I've never seen it enforced so rigorously at BLL before. The lady in front of me had something in one of her bags that apparently looked suspicious. It was, of course, a bottle of some kind of liquid, and upon examination the screener informed her it was too large to be allowed.
At this point I quickly started to do a mental inventory of what was in my carryon bag. I knew I had a couple of liquid items, but wasn't sure of the exact size, especially since this isn't normally an issue at BLL. As my bag was examined the screener did notice something that piqued their interest. I knew it was not my laptop, as I had taken that out already so it could be screened separately, and really wondered what it could possibly be. It turned out to be a plastic baggie with a toothbrush and toothpaste that I normally have along. I had just replaced the toothpaste the day before and had been unable to find one of the small "travel size" tubes. Instead I just grabbed the smallest regular size one I could find. I just knew it was going to be over the limit, but fortunately it just barely qualified. "Yoohoo!!", I get to bring my toothpaste with me! After making it through security I walked around the corner and up the stairs to the departures area.
The new stairway up to the Departures level.
Once upstairs, it became immediately evident that this is where most of the construction at BLL is happening at the moment. Among other things, what was once a nice large open area where passengers could grab a bite to eat or have a drink is currently being remodeled (or maybe transformed into something else?). Hopefully it will all look nice once they are finished. Of course, the most predictable outcome is that once completed, passengers will probably be forced to walk through a duty free/shopping zone maze in order to get to their departure gate, as seems to happen in so many airports these days.
Construction area on the Departures level.
A large construction/remodeling area (behind the temporary walls) that used to offer tables for eating or having a drink.
While wandering around a bit through the construction zone/departure lounge I noticed a scale and decided to check the weight of my carryon, just out of curiosity. It was just a bit heavier than usual - it must be that larger tube of toothpaste!
Hope I'm not over the limit!
At the lounge
Next I decided to get away from the construction zone for a while and head to the lounge. Once I managed to make it past Holger, the ever vigilant guard watching over the stairway to the lounge entrance, I proceeded upward. Note that being in Denmark – and especially at BLL – Holger was, of course, a Lego based lounge guard. Once upstairs the lady at the registration desk gave my credentials a quick look and then welcomed me into the lounge. Having arrived at the airport after the early morning departure rush, and before the next wave of travelers, the lounge was not too crowded.
Holger the Lego-based lounge lizard.
As it was mid morning and I had already done breakfast, I wasn't really that hungry. However, I was in need of some additional caffeine. So the first order of lounge business was a nice cappuccino. Of course, I also grabbed a couple of tasty little chocolates to go along with it. Amusingly, the chocolates that are currently served at the BLL lounge have the most literal (and accurate) product label I think I have ever seen. They are labeled simply as: "Piece of Chocolate". You just got to love such truth in advertising!
A nice cappuccino and two "pieces of chocolate".
One of the seating areas in the lounge.
Another one of the seating areas.
I wandered around the lounge for a bit next. As I mentioned, it was not crowded, so there were plenty of open seats around. And, importantly, the "secret" massage chair was not occupied. Ooops, maybe I should not have mentioned anything about that. No matter though as technically, it isn't really that secret, it is just placed off in one of the corners of the lounge, which is nice as it means that it is often unoccupied. After chilling there for a while, I walked over to the Internet access stations for a bit.
An area with some chairs to relax and stretch out.
The "secret" massage chair.
Some of the drink offerings at the lounge.
Some more drink and snack offerings.
Nice Internet access area.
A nice tool when there is something to check out on the ramp.
Holger’s assistant who carefully watches over happenings inside the lounge.
How exciting, a new type for the BLL lounge!
A quick question: Whatever does one do if you find yourself seated so comfortably in a nice big lounge chair that you just can't motivate yourself to get up and go check the status of your flight on the FIDS? At least one option is to use the mobile version of something like FlightRadar24. I had just installed one on my phone a few days earlier, and it was interesting to use it to track the status of the inbound flight - as well as the other traffic in the area.
After a bit more lounging, and a departure drink or two, I could see that the inbound flight was about to arrive. I slowly packed up and started toward the departure gate. The gate for my flight was 15, which meant I got another tour through the construction site along the way.
Looks like this must be the way to go.
No passports being checked here at the moment.
As I arrived at the gate area I could see boarding had not yet started. So before heading downstairs to the gate area, I walked around a little more to see what there was to check out on ramp, and also maybe get a better view of the expected 738. There wasn't really that much to see, but still it was better than just sitting around and waiting in the holding pen area for the gate to open.
British Airways (Sun Air) waiting on the ramp.
Some Jet Time 733's hanging out together on the apron.
My ride to AMS turned out to be, as expected, a 738. It was PH-BXC, the “Korhoen”.
The only views possible of my plane to AMS.
Once boarding started I walked downstairs to the gate area.
The almost empty holding pen for my flight.
Time to board.
Another quick peek at PH-BXC before we get started.
KLM: KL 1344
Date: 21 Mar
Scheduled departure: 12:10
Scheduled arrival: 13:25
seat: 14A (economy)
I was among the last to board, and quickly found the way to my exit row seat on the awaiting 738 (PH-BXC). The load factor in Y was about 80%, and probably around 50% in J. The cabin crew were courteous and professional as they welcomed passengers onboard. Once most of the passengers had boarded, a couple of crew members stopped by the exit row to brief the passengers seated there, and ensure they could perform the duties that might be required of them. Normally a single member of the crew does the briefing alone, but on this flight a trainee crew member gave the briefing, and was being observed by a more senior crew member, just to make sure he got it right. The trainee did the job fine and we all felt well briefed once he was done.
Nice legroom in the exit row.
Instructions for the exit row on the seat back.
Curiously, the DEF seats of the exit row I was in remained empty as boarding was completed. I wasn't sure why nobody sat there, especially on a relatively full flight. At first I thought the reason might be that there was some kind of additional fee being charged for an exit row, or something along those lines, but I did not encounter any extra charges, or have any other problems selecting an exit row seat when doing online checkin the day before. Hmmm.
The empty DEF portion of the exit row seat.
Once boarding was completed, we pushed back from the gate, quickly taxied to the runway, and then started our take off roll at 12:07, just before the scheduled departure time of 12:10. Once in the air we started a slow bank in order to get pointed towards AMS. Just a short 4 minutes later the seatbelt sign was turned off. A few minutes after that, about 12:16, the service trolleys came out. One Flight Attendant wheeled a trolley to the front of the Y cabin, while the other started serving from the back. Things really do happen at an accelerated pace on these relatively short hops.
On offer today was the choice of a sweet or savory snack item along with a beverage of your choice. It wasn’t anything too fancy, but just about right for the short flight. It is always impressive to see the determined KLM cabin crew manage to get in a complete cabin service on a short duration flight like this one. It may only be a basic service, but at least it is something, and it is nice to see them put in the effort.
Seatbelt sign turned off, just before cabin service started.
View from the rear, with cabin service just underway.
As mentioned before, the DEF portion of the exit row I was seated in was empty once boarding had been completed and remained so as we took off. Looking around I noticed that several of the rows behind me were completely full. I was wondering how long it would be before someone would take advantage of a half empty row of seats offering extra leg room. I was also wondering what the Flight Attendants would do if someone did switch into one of those seats. Again, I was not sure if there were any additional charges of some sort for those seats (though I had not encountered any myself), but if there were, would the Flight Attendants allow someone to switch into that row?
I only had a few minutes to contemplate the question before a lady from a packed section of seats three rows behind got up from her middle seat and switched to the vacant portion of the exit row. I can't say I would blame her as the row she was in before was completely full. At first the Flight Attendants did not seem to take notice, or at least did not seem to care that she had switched seats. Undoubtedly they were keeping quite busy with the ongoing cabin service, so it still wasn't clear if they were cool with the switch. Then, once the initial service was completed, a Flight Attendant did notice and immediately walked to the exit row and began talking with the lady. The Flight Attendant had walked so quickly that I figured it must be bad news for the passenger, and that she would soon be heading back to her original seat. I could not overhear their conversation, but from the Flight Attendant's gestures it soon became apparent that, rather than objecting to the seat switch, she was giving the lady an impromptu exit row briefing. I thought it was nice - both that there was no objection to the switch, and that the Flight Attendant provided a briefing for the new exit row passenger.
Being a short flight, we soon started the descent for AMS. I spent a few minutes just looking out the window to check out the nice scenery on the approach to AMS. Next an information message was provided from the flight deck. Among other things we were given details about the arrival weather conditions. Amusingly, just as I heard the part of the weather briefing about "... winds are calm ...", I also noticed that none of the wind turbines I could see in the countryside were turning. So naturally it brought to mind the age-old question: "were the turbines not turning because it wasn't windy on the ground, or was it not windy on the ground because the turbines weren't turning?". (Note, there are really a lot of wind turbines in Denmark and there are some people who spend *way* too much time contemplating this question.)
After having completed their service run, the flight attendants quickly did a trash collection run. Next, around 12:43, the captain asked the cabin crew to prepare for landing (it really is a short hop kind of flight). The cabin crew was asked to take their seats at 12:50, before landing at 12:56. After landing we had a relatively short taxi to gate C16, arriving at the gate at 13:01. Once docked at the gate, passengers exited in a relatively orderly process. I had no connecting flight on that day, so I wasn't really very rushed. Instead, I had a reservation for the night at a local hotel, so I proceeded to the baggage claim area.
This way out...
Baggage Claim and to the Hotel
Off now to find baggage claim.
Continuing on the way to baggage claim.
Looks like it will be Belt 9 for us today.
Waiting at Belt 9.
After collecting my checked bag off of Belt 9 in the baggage claim area, I proceeded to my hotel for the night. Previously, when making the arrangements for this trip, I had checked several of the airport hotels and had not found much availability for the night. Those places that had availability only offered pricey rates. Then I remembered another possible option, a hotel I had seen mentioned in at least one a.net trip report before, and checked out the Citizen M Hotel at AMS. As it turned out the hotel had availability at a pretty reasonable price, and since it had a relatively favourable review here I decided to give it a try and become a "Citizen" for the night.
Exiting baggage claim, towards Schipol Plaza. Now where was that hotel?
One thing I was not able to determine in advance was exactly how to get to the Citizen M when arriving by air. I thought I had remembered seeing the hotel once before while at AMS, so I hoped that it was possible to just walk there. However, the web site really only offered driving directions, or at least that was all I could find. In the end though, it turned out to be pretty easy. As I exited the baggage claim area and made my way to Schipol Plaza area, just around the exits to the train platforms there were signs that show you the way. In fact, there is a nice covered walkway that takes you right to the hotel.
Looks like the hotel should be around the corner.
And now straight on through the doors.
The nice covered walkway that takes you right to the hotel entrance.
As I arrived at the hotel the staff were friendly and welcoming. The checkin process was very automated so that travelers could easily complete it themselves. However, since it wasn't very busy at the time, before I could even start the automated checkin process, one of the staff came over to take my details and do it for me and to, as she put it, “help me to become a proper Citizen". She was really informative and helpful and in no time at all I was checked in.
As far as space goes, the rooms at the hotel are rather minimalist, but they are nicely appointed and comfortable. It was certainly sufficient for a night’s stay before the continuation flight the next day.
The efficient and interesting room layout at the hotel.
There really isn’t all that much to conclude from this short hop between a regional airport, BLL, and AMS. In fact, I believe it can be easily summed up into just three points:
KLM, once again, did their usual good job on a short hop. They were on time with friendly and professional service. Well done.
If you are transiting through BLL anytime soon, make sure to bring your “hard hat” for the construction zone!
And, finally, will we ever know the real answer to the wind turbine quandary?
Thanks for reading. And, of course, your comments/feedback are most welcome.