Wednesday, March 2013
Amsterdam (AMS) - Mexico City (MEX)
Scheduled times: 14:35-19:25
Actual times: 14:52-19:44
Flight duration: 11:24 (hrs)
Distance: 5729 miles
World Business Class, seats 1A / 72K
Boeing 747-406 Combi
PH-BFF (s/n 770), named "City of Freetown"
Delivered in 02/1990
1st flight on PH-BFF
18th 747-400 flight
22nd 747 flight
After a fast 20-minute walk, shortly interrupted by passport control, I arrived at the gate entry. There was a long queue at security - however, I could use the fast lane where no other passenger was waiting at this point of time.
I felt truly relieved now and enjoyed taking pictures of the Queen of the Skies which would fly me to Mexico City. The plane turned out to be PH-BFF
, a 23-year-old veteran in the 22-strong 747-400 fleet:
is a combi aircraft with KLM Asia titles, named "City of Freetown"
The plane looked immaculate - well done, KLM!
Once I arrived at the door, I received a very warm welcome by the blonde female purser (probably a senior purser) and another flight attendant. The purser seemed to smile even more after seeing seat number 1A on my boarding pass and pointed the way to the aircraft's nose.
Since I would sit in row 1 on another operator's 747 in less than two months, I decided to ask for an empty seat on the upper deck Business Class section. "The flight is almost fully booked today, but of course we will check for you!"
, she replied enthusiastically. "But it is a very nice seat. Have a look at it!"
, she added, referring to 1A. Well, I must admit, it was indeed a very nice seat:
Even though KLM's 20-inch wide and up to 175 degrees reclinable sleeper seats are dated, I found them very comfortable, at least in upright and lounge position.
Legroom was more than generous:
The famous 747 nose cabinet:
Shortly after I had taken my seat, a friendly male senior flight attendant showed up and offered a pre-departure drink. Once again, I chose orange juice:
There wasn't much to see outside:
The captain made a welcome speech and announced a slight delay due to time-consuming security checks. Well, everything seemed to be fine, but it wasn't. My seat neighbor, a heavily sweating guy in the 40s, had turned his individual air nozzle full blast and once again on that day, cold air was hitting me. When he left again for a short while, I turned his nozzle further towards the aisle. However he immediately adjusted it again after returning. So I kindly asked him if he could turn the air down a bit, but he declined, using an unfriendly tone: "I need air during the flight, I'm hot."
However, just a few moments later, the male flight attendant returned to pick up my empty glass. He smiled and said: "There is an empty window seat on the upper deck for you, so you can switch if you want. But only after takeoff as we are ready to depart."
Very good news!
We left the gate 17 minutes behind schedule and started taxiing to the Polderbaan. Sister ship PH-BFK:
19 minutes after leaving the gate, the four GE engines accelerated the heavy bird - but I found it too quiet in that nose section! And I missed seeing a part of the wing or an engine:
As soon as the seatbelt sign had been switched off, I tried to find out more about the proposed upper deck seat. When I passed the galley, I met the purser and she kindly said: "Do you want to have a look at the other seat? I'll show it to you!"
So we walked upstairs and she led me to the very first row - seat 72K looked perfect to me. The passenger in the aisle seat, a middle-aged guy apparently on a business trip, didn't appear overly happy as he was using the empty seat to store newspapers and other stuff, but I didn't care, to be honest.
The decision was made and I walked back down to grab my belongings. When I returned to the upper deck, another female senior flight attendant immediately offered to store my trolley due to the limited space in the overhead bins. Now it was time to sit back and relax (picture taken after landing)
More than enough legroom once again:
Nuts and drinks were offered after a short while:
Well, if you wonder about the small amount of nuts in the bowl - yes, I admit I started eating before taking a picture. This is a serious issue and I initiated an internal investigation about it.
As lunch would be served shortly, I decided to explore seat features and other stuff later and to have a look at the menu card instead:
I can only praise KLM for introducing sustainable catering - and I like the service timeline on the bottom:
All that sounded quite promising - and I was glad to see that KLM serves MSC
KLM even offers "green" wines:
I find it odd that Heineken was the one and only beer brand on the drink menu - but I was more interested in ginger ale anyway:
In addition to the general menu card, there was a foldout leaflet about the wines, including detailed information about the wineries:
The appetizer was served soon...
...and while the presentation was nice (beautiful porcelain design!), the slice of salmon was too thick for my liking. Everything else was okay, though.
The curried cod was my main course of choice...
...and the whole dish was a big disappointment. Where to start? The fish itself was too dry, the rice was partly undercooked, the vegetables were overcooked and tasteless and the coconut sauce was just bland. That main course was a big failure!
I was hoping that dessert would make up for the disappointment, but the items on the trolley weren't overly exciting. I had some fruit and jasmine rice with mango sorbet - okay, but nothing special:
Finally, I had a decent Earl Grey tea with milk, accompanied by an average chocolate:
Now let's return to the cabin comfort. Did I feel more comfortable on the upper deck? Yes, but only by a small degree. Even though both overhead air nozzles were closed, a permanent stream of cold had been was hitting my head since taking the seat.
It felt like driving with a partly open window - either the air conditioning system was badly designed or it wasn't working properly any more. I was wondering if the situation was better elsewhere on the upper deck.
After a while, I talked to the purser about the problem. According to her, the air conditioning system was being used as usual. She kindly suggested that I could take any other seat at any time, but I really didn't want to switch again and apart from that, the only other originally empty seat had meanwhile been occupied, too.
Later during the flight, the captain slowly passed through the aisle and kept asking passengers if everything was alright - a very nice gesture, by the way. I grasped this opportunity and addressed the problem. The friendly man took the issue seriously and after a short check with his hand, he confirmed my findings. "But there is nothing we can do about it"
, he said with regret. "Boeing built it!"
, he added with a sense of humor. Just like the purser, he offered me to take any other seat if possible. Well, I decided to write a letter of complaint about the air conditioning issue to KLM after returning home.
Shortly after lunch service had been finished, I went for a walk. There are 24 seats on the upper deck:
Snack box filled with so-called "delights":
18 seats can be found in the nose section:
Another cabinet for Business Class passengers:
Laterally installed main galley, with a 3-2 Economy Comfort section being located beyond the middle wall:
Self-service "bar" with a very limited choice of items - these chocolates weren't overly tasty, btw:
Economy Class was packed - and it's interesting to note that I felt a similarly disturbing airflow there:
Time to go back to 72K:
Having to climb over a stranger's legs is not a great experience when flying Business Class, but at least my neighbor kept working on this laptop throughout the flight and didn't lie down at any time, so it wasn't too difficult for me to move in and out. Well, it was about time now to check all features around. My seat fully reclined:
Of course it's better to lie fully flat, but I'm sure I would have been able to sleep in that seat if I had been tired.
The side wall bins are a fantastic feature on the upper deck. You can comfortably place important items on top, e.g. the camera while eating...
...and you can store all your stuff inside without having to leave your seat:
Business Class shopping guide:
Amenity kit by Dutch fashion house Viktor & Rolf
Finally, let's have a look at the IFE system...and yes, these foldout screens are as bulky as they look:
According to KLM, the system offers more than 1000 hours of interactive entertainment, including 80 movies:
Wi-Fi is not available yet fleet wide, but you can still stay in touch with the world if needed:
Even though I prefer menu cards, I find it quite nice to get visual impressions of the food served on board:
That looks very similar to the actual appetizer:
Well, I'm wondering how Richard Ekkebus would have liked the version of his "signature dish" which I received...
I think I should have tried the chocolate tartelette...
Honestly, I had meanwhile lowered my expectations in view of the second meal...
The airshow was my entertainment of choice as usual:
Various snacks were offered between meal times and, believe it or not, I chose crudités with hummus - quite tasty actually:
I kept relaxing in horizontal position during the next few hours and tried to ignore the disturbing airflow. What would a transatlantic Business Class flight be without having ginger ale in style?
The second meal was served about two hours before landing. I ordered the chicken...
...and it turned out to be a good decision. The main course as well as the appetizer and the dessert tasted quite good. It wasn't an excellent meal, but it was good.
I had a glass of Billecart-Salmon Brut
with my meal which couldn't win me over, though:
After the meal, I went for a walk again and met the purser in the main galley. "How are you? Were you able to get some sleep?"
, she asked with a smile and we started chatting for a while. KLM crews never cease to amaze me with their ability to provide a both friendly and professional service with a very personal touch.
Finally, before the plane started descending, a flight attendant passed through the cabin with a tray full of the famous (gin-filled) Delft Blue
miniature houses. No. 20 (Edam Museum
) for me, please:
After an interesting approach over countless lights, we touched down at MEX after a flying time of 11 hours and 24 minutes. During disembarking, I thanked the crew for the good service and then headed to immigration where I had to line up for some 20 minutes.
Once I had picked up my luggage, it was just a short walk to the Hilton (picture taken on the next day)
The lobby looked fine and the staff members were nice as usual, but the floors and the room were worn and in need of renovation - probably my most disappointing Hilton experience ever:
Anyway, all I needed now was a bed to get a few hours of sleep. My next day's PlaneHunting
mission, comprising three flights on three new airlines, would commence in less than eight hours. Story to be continued.
[Edited 2013-09-01 01:40:37]