This is my first trip report since July (when I recounted a trip down to Colombia from Miami), and my second overall. To give a little bit of background information, I am currently studying in the United Kingdom as part of New York University’s program in London. Ironically, my first semester at NYU was to be spent away from New York (I am actually a sophomore, having transferred from Villanova University). Over the past month I’ve had a chance to acquaint myself with the wonderful city of London. This is truly one of the capitals of the world, culturally, financially, and in any other form. London is simply smashing, and I’m rather glad that NYU decided, in all its wisdom, to send me here first.
Early in September, I saw an opportunity to leave England behind me for a weekend and head into the Continent. After conferring with a couple of friends and my roommate, I managed to convince them to fly to Amsterdam for a few days late in the month. I had been to the Netherlands once before and found it to be absolutely fascinating. I looked through the best options for traveling and decided that flying into AMS
was our best option (rather than taking a combination of Eurostar and Thalys trains [such good trains, but too expensive], or flying FR
into Eindhoven and taking a train the rest of the way [our time in Amsterdam would be worth more than our money saved with Ryanair, I felt]). A cheap but lengthy 12-hour bus ride didn’t even warrant a closer look for me.
Logically, the choice came down to BA
across the North Sea. Whilst I am a fan of OneWorld and British Airways had served me well across the Pond on the way over, I have always admired KLM from afar (especially their color scheme, which is one of my favourites out there). A quick check on KLM’s website revealed a particularly enticing deal: a morning outbound flight on one of their A330-200s, and an inbound flight in the early evening on a 737-900. As I had never flown on the 739 or any kind of A330, I couldn’t say no! Although the fare seemed kind of pricey for a pair of one-hour flights (111 GBP, or about 225 bloody US Dollars…), this one was a no-brainer. When you think about it, I managed to down three birds with one stone: a new airline, a pair of new aircraft types, and to an airport that perennially receives accolades for excellence. Win-win-win!
28 September 2007
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Flight 1008
Departing: London Heathrow Airport (LHR
) at 10:05
Arriving: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS
) at 12:25 (Amsterdam is one hour ahead of London)
Aircraft: A330-200 (PH-AOK “Radhuspladsen – Kobenhamn”)
Following a long, long ride on the Tube from central-east London (Holborn to T4
on the Picadilly Line), my two roommates, another friend, and I stumbled into the labyrinth known as Heathrow. I’d heard a lot of things regarding this monstrosity of an airport: a dump, can’t wait until T5
opens, not enough gates to go around, and such. With that said, I was amazed by this complex. My hometown airport of MIA
sees plenty of international flights, but doesn’t even begin to compare to the mélange of airlines gracing LHR
with their presence. Sure it’s big, but its one of the few airports of its kind (that I’ve come across, at least).
Fortunately for us, checking in was a cinch, as we had little baggage with us. Ignoring the outlandish comments of my roommate (“It’s a one-hour flight! Who cares?!"; he hates to fly), I had opted to check-in the day before so that I could choose my seat (its all about getting a window!). In this case, good fortune stayed with me, as I managed to land a combination bulkhead/exit row seat. After consulting seatguru.com, I concluded that this particular seat had a window as well, and proceeded to snatch it up.
One of AC
's new 773ERs lifting off
A somewhat blurry shot of a BA
As we walked to the gate, I came across our bird. Unbeknownst to others, I immediately recognized the A330 by its registration (PH-AOK) as the newest 332 in the KLM fleet. Whilst my travel companions were unfazed by this bit of news, I could already tell it was going to be a good day.
The boarding process, which began promptly, was a bit of a free-for-all, with little regard to the frequent flyers. Fortunately, I wasn’t one, so I didn’t mind in the least. I walked in and quickly found my extremely clean and blue seat, 30K. Simply put, SeatGuru does not lie: I had clearly chosen the best Y-Class seat in the house. I had a window to my right and more legroom than I knew what to do with in front of me. Ahead of me, a screen was playing a surprisingly entertaining welcome video, which showed KLM in action throughout the years set to catchy music (I particularly liked watching old DC-3s take off to the Buena Vista Social Club’s rendition of “Clocks”) Bliss!
A bit from the boarding video
The view from the window as we sat on the ramp
A flight attendant was standing to my left, greeting passengers. She saw me pull out the PTV from in between seats and let me know that the AVOD system wouldn’t be switched on for the flight. This turned out to be more than enough of a segway for me to strike up a conversation with this beautiful, young, Dutch flight attendant, and we soon began conversing about her amazing job and my status as a poor, starving college student. A few minutes before we pushed back, she had to go off and administer to her duties, but she would fortunately return later.
Throughout much of this, the seat next to me remained unoccupied. Soon, however, my seatmate showed up. Fortunately, he turned out to be more interesting than most people I sit next to, being another fairly young person from Brisbane, Australia. He happened to have two copies of The Economist and a propensity to share, which I was most grateful for. In between articles, we soon began to chat about anything from the War to the ongoing Rugby World Cup.
The taxi to the runway was fairly quick. We only had to wait for a departing AA
772 before we lined up and rocketed off the runway. The skies around the city were characteristically cloudy (and would be for the whole flight over, as it were). The flight attendant in the jump seat across from me (alas, not the gourgeous one…) had her hands full as she told passengers to stay in their seats until we leveled off. Fortunately, we topped off at only 21,000 feet, enabling others to quickly queue up for the loo.
One of AA
's 772ERs gunning it down the runway
A view of the cloudy (but pretty) scenery below
An attempt to stare through the door's porthole, with mixed success
The cabin crew quickly began to serve us a selection of biscuits and crackers, along with a drink. I was overjoyed, as this was far more than a US airline would normally give on such a short flight. Even, though it was only about 11:00 I figured, What the hell?, and got a Heineken. I set to snapping pictures of the view out the window with my handheld, whilst my Australian companion took a quick nap and flipped on his iPod.
More impressive cloud action as the sun starts to break through
My personal record for "Most Legroom in Economy" was shattered on this day!
About to begin our descent into the Low Countries
US airlines, take note! Of course, this wouldnt have been possible in the States for me!
As we began our descent into Holland, I was delighted to find my wonderful flight attendant back in the jump seat across from me. We immediately picked up the conversation where we left off, and I continued to learn a bit more about the lifestyle of a flight attendant. She told me that she worked the A332 and was slated to travel to Tehran, Entebbe, and Atlanta within the next couple of weeks. By the end of the year, she hoped to make the move up to the Triple Seven. We were about to begin our final approach into AMS
when I asked her, offhandedly, if KLM allowed passengers to visit the flight deck. After the initial confusion (she thought I meant during the flight), she graciously put the call in and got the OK
from the flight crew as we touched down at Schiphol.
A few minutes out of AMS
Tons of flat green space below us!
After we pulled up into the gate, the flight attendant told me to stick around while everyone else deplaned; I was more than happy to oblige. After just about everyone had cleared out, I began to make my way towards the front, snapping some photos of the near-empty cabin. After exchanging handshakes with the crew, I slipped into the world’s greatest office and was invited to settle into the First Officer’s seat. I have to say, I resisted the urge to kick the rudder pedals as I marveled at the intricacies of the flight deck of this monster Airbus. The captain offered to take a picture of me, which pretty much made this trip worth it even before I got to Amsterdam! I walked off, profoundly grateful for KLM’s hospitality and good nature. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me until afterwards to get the flight attendant’s name, or to give her my phone number (in case KL
again!). Shame, really, as we seemed to hit it off…
The Seat of Seats
A quick shot of PH
's Y-Class cabin
KLM really brought out the 5-year old in me on this trip...
The ensuing weekend in Amsterdam was an absolute blast. As I had been to the city once before (albeit for only a couple of days), I sort of knew what to expect. Fortunately, my roommates were open to the idea of renting bicycles for a couple of days, which is the best way to explore such a bike-friendly city. Admittedly, most American tourists in my demographic seem to go to Amsterdam with the coffee shops and the Red Light District in mind (admittedly, both are worth checking out, of course), but I’ve always felt that the city’s wonderful identity lies mainly elsewhere. The Dutch are, to say the least, absolutely wonderful, and the charming canal streets and world-class museums make Amsterdam one of my favorite cities that I’ve visited. In particular, I found the Van Gogh museum to be absolutely fantastic!
A few pictures:
A view down Prisengracht, about a block away from the Anne Frank House
Riding bikes whilst searching for some windmills
A view of the Van Gogh Museum; I cannot emphasize enough how great an experience this museum is!
Even with the lousy weather all weekend, we managed to make the most of it.
After a few days of freewheeling fun, it was time to head back to London and school. We got to Centraal Station in the early afternoon for the quick hop to Schiphol. While our flight wasn’t for several more hours, I had a bit of an ulterior motive in getting there early: the famed observation deck! The experience was amazing, and a definite must for any aviation aficionado at AMS
. The sheer scope of the deck (which seemed to cover the floor area of most of the main terminal) gave us a huge field of view. In between the various blue 747s and 777s, I managed to pick out the 739 that was to take us back to Heathrow.
The entrance to Schiphol Airport
-BQC "Chinchen-Itza;" Catchy name, but my favourite remains "Galapagos Islands!"
Our ride home, caught in between a KL
738 and an Aer Lingus A320; boy, it's long for a 737!
30 September 2007
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Flight 1027
Departing: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS
) at 19:05
Arriving: London Heathrow Airport (LHR
) at 19:25
Aircraft: 737-900 (PH-BXT “Sea Tern”)
The flight was, from what I heard, actually overbooked. The KLM service personnel began asking for a volunteer to stay behind until next morning. I have to admit, the idea sounded very appealing (it also seemed like a way to make an easy 150 Euros!), but I had an economics class the following day that I could not afford to miss. Boarding proceeded smoothly (again, though, in the same free-for-all fashion) and after a friendly greeting from a (once again, gorgeous!) flight attendant, I settled into seat 9F, right next to the starboard CFM-56. After a short delay (in which several passengers had forgotten to collect their duty-free items), we were ready to roll.
Our taxi to the runway was relatively long but went smoothly, and we soon lined up and were pushed back into our seats as the flight crew firewalled the engines. I quickly set to my routine of snapping pictures of the view outside. We leveled out at a relatively low altitude over the North Sea, as was the case on the outbound flight. KLM impressed me once again as the cabin crew handed out sandwiches and drinks for the one-hour flight. Not long after, we were already descending into the skies above London. I had half-jokingly wagered to my roommate that the flight wouldn’t be an hour, and that Heathrow would put us in a holding pattern before landing. It was no contest; in retrospect, I really should have put money on the bet. After a slight delay of about fifteen minutes, we lined up with the runway and touched down smoothly in the early darkness. After another twenty minutes spent taxiing, we were on our way to customs and immigration. After another stamp in my passport, we were back on the Tube for the long ride to our flat.
Climbing out of AMS
, with Amsterdam to our right
A lovely end to our trip; sunset over the North Sea at 20,000 feet
Originally, I simply saw my flights to and from AMS
as a nice way to get to the main destination of Amsterdam. One week later however, my first experience with KLM continues to stand out as one of the many highlights of the trip. From the onset, KL
was a joy to fly with. From its charismatic and attractive crew to its clean and new aircraft, to its wonderful hub at Schiphol, I was quite blown away by the airline. If I had the chance to do my trip from Miami to London again, I’d have definitely thrown KLM into the mix at some point. At the same time, Amsterdam was simply wonderful, an absolute joy. Based on five days total in Amsterdam and two flights on KLM, I have now become enamored of the Netherlands. Well done, KLM!
P.S.- This is the umpteenth time that preparing for my flight (i.e. using SeatGuru, going for a short flight on a widebody, choosing my seat early on, coming in with an open mind) has paid off dividends. Caring about how you fly really does result in a more remarkable flying experience!
Hoped you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading, and feel free to add any comments or ask any questions!
(Note: Edited for Spelling)
[Edited 2007-10-11 07:27:17]
[Edited 2007-10-11 07:32:05]