trip report BRU
economy / NZ
It was time for a visit back to New Zealand , and KL
had a great fare permitting a stop in PVG
on the way ( somewhere we had both always wanted to go ) and HKG
on the way back ( both been there before but have a very good friend who moved there a few months ago .
A bit nervous about the journey as KL
does not have a great reputation , looked forward to NZ
and hoped to upgrade using hubby's airpoints .
First observation long before the actual departure - NZ
line are brilliant - every time my partner spoke to them they provided exactly the sort of prompt friendly service that you would hope an airline would provide their Gold members - the fare was only eligible for standby upgrade but they assured us that both flights were looking good so we kept our fingers crossed .
nice to get the old F50 , I have fond memories of its predecessor the F27 , despite the reputation KLM Cityhopper seem to have built up for unreliability no delays on the short hop from BRU
, just as well since the taxiing at AMS
took nearly as long as the flight and we were right on minimum connect time . Had to run from one end of Schiphol to the other and was annoyed to find that the small shop right by the gate could not sell us water to take on board even though they were in a secure zone airside . Flight reasonably full , first time I have used an overwing airbridge and it was very funny to board right in front of the bulkhead separating the pax cabin from the combi freight section . Fortunate enough to get an aisle seat with a vacant seat next to it , across the aisle hubby was not so fortunate with to very loud and increasingly drunk Russians carrying on loud conversations with lots of sweeping hand gestures . Can someone try to explain to me how the airline from the country with the tallest people in the world manages to have only 31" seat pitch , fortunately I am only 1.72m but you would have to fold the average Dutch person in half to fit them into a KL
economy seat . Movies were pretty crappy , the food was a lot better than I expected ( for the evening meal a very nice spicy chicken ) and the booze servings were even more insanely generous than on LH
( who I had always thought made the most lethal G&Ts on the planet ) I guess it might be because the Dutch are used to drinking their gin straight that they see very little point in diluting the gin with too much tonic . The crew were very friendly and interactive , amazing when you consider how awful customer service is on the whole in the Netherlands . I have to say that both the crew and the catering easily exceeded my ( admittedly low ) expectations . Amazingly I even managed to grab a few hours sleep . Breakfast was an interesting experience , one of the cabin crew explained that KL
were trying a new method of packaging light meals , hard to explain but it was a bit like a recycled egg carton with 4 separate little compartments each with a different snack . Taxiing in at PVG
I noticed an NZ
777 , and thinking ahead another 5 days to when we would be boarding a similar a/c I hoped like hell that our upgrades would clear .
This was my first experience of China ( I dont really count HKG
) and to my surprise the immigration officials were all courteous , helpful and efficient - they even had a set of little buttons you could rate them on ranging from a big grin if you thought they were good right through to a frowning face if you were dissatisfied - I can think of a few airports I would love to see this brought into !
Shanghai itself was really cool , but hey , you are all A.netters and you dont want to hear about that so I wont bore you other than to say cool shopping and really great food . Having taken an hour long taxi ride from the airport to our hotel we decided on the way back to take a taxi to the Maglev station instead ( about 20 minutes from our hotel ) and then take the 7 minute Maglev journey ( top speed 430km/h ) something I would recommend to everyone even though the Maglev station is out in the arse-end of nowhere .
Got to the checkin queue at PVG
, having not heard many Kiwi accents for a while it was a real shock to hear them and I needed much reassurance from hubby ( 'It's alright' , he lied , 'you don't sound anything like that ' ) and then it was time for the moment of truth - yeehah - our upgrades had cleared !!!! no zoo class on this sector . Now I need to explain that my partner travels a lot for work ( hence the gold membership ) but he hadn't been on NZ
for nearly three years so to say that he was pleasantly surprised with the new business class would be an understatement - I almost felt like apologising for his gushiness - you would have thought that he was some hick who never travelled rather than someone who racks up an obscene number of J class miles a year - I swear there was a tear in his eye when he saw the cabin layout - I , of course , being an a.nutter knew what to expect although it was still pretty damned good . At this point I should also mention the crew as I had heard a lot of bad feedback about the Shanghai based crew - I have to say that I couldn't fault them - I assume of course that we got the best cabin crew since we were sitting up front so I can't speak for the ones down the back but the crew we dealt with were efficient , fully fluent in English and best of all had clearly taken some lessons from regular NZ
crew in how to do their job in a friendly human way rather than the robotic menials that you get on some other airlines . While we were waiting ( the 777 was at a remote stand and there where a couple more busses of pax to come ) one of the crew came round to enquire whether I had flown the new Business Premier before , when I said that I hadn't he asked if it was alright if he sat on the ottoman and went through the various functions for me. I then had my 3rd glass of pre take-off bubbly and recline my seat for take-off - yes , you did read that correctly - the safety briefing advised pax in economy and premium economy to ensure their seatbacks were upright and then told Business Premier pax that they could have their seats in any position they liked for taxiing and takeoff . Having had a chance to finally see the new uniform in real life rather than photos I had just made up my mind that it wasn't so bad when hubby leaned across the aisle and said to me "I cannot believe how awful the uniforms are"
I have read a lot about the pros and cons of the new J and I can only say it is 100% successful from my point of view - even though I didn't sleep much on the flight ( the flight left PVG
about 14:00 local time ) it was easily the most comfortable J class I have ever had the good fortune to try - and , as someone who drinks a lot and has a weak bladder I love the unimpeded aisle access . The only negative I would mention is that the tray table is very easy to accidentally release - I hit the button accidentally several times and noticed several other pax doing the same thing , a minor niggle compared to the rest of the experience . Watched a zillion or so different programmes including one that hubby stumbled across while channel surfing with Mary Lambie doing an " Intrepid Journey " in Iran filmed about two weeks after hubby and I had done Intrepids inaugural trip in Iran , it was really weird to lie back in bed between Shanghai and Auckland watching her in Iran meeting people we had met , going into houses we had been to and staying with a nomad tribe we had stayed with .... quite surreal ( even if she did whine a bit much for my liking ) . Was pleased that I had brought my own headphones , I was quite shocked that NZ
did not have noise cancellation headphones - after having gone to all that effort in J it seemed a bit silly to have cheap headsets (OK , I realise that earlier I said only one negative and that now makes two ....sue me ! ) Anyway , all good things must come to an end and before we knew it we were back in good old NZ
for a frantic week catching up with friends and family .
One week later
hard to believe that we were leaving again so quickly , our upgrades had come through again and we boarded the 747 for the AKL
sector - definitely noticed that the 747s are showing their age a bit ( at least this one was ) and compared to the 777 the overhead bins seemed tiny and cramped . I would have to say that on the main deck J cabin I think NZ
needs to sacrifice one J class bed and squeeze in a 3rd toilet instead- two toilets were simply inadequate for a cabin that was not even completely full and I hate to think what it would be like with a full load . Apart from that it was another uneventful flight for all the right reasons - good food , good drink , comfy bed . Arrival at HKG
was one of those dream occassions when everything went right , we were off the plane within about thirty seconds of the door opening and then my bag was the second off the belt closely followed by hubby's , we went through all processing smoothly and arrived at the airport train just as it was about to depart , got straight off the train at Hong Kong station to find no-one ahead of us for a taxi and as a result we found ourselves arriving at our friends apartment about an hour earlier than she had expected .
As usual a stay in Hong Kong means eating too much , drinking too much and shopping too much and you guessed it - we were over our allowance , from my time as a travel agent I always remember complaints about how no one ever gets away with excess luggage in HKG
, and , I having tried to assign our seats online the night before I knew the flight was packed , but the fates smiled on us and we got away with a telling -off ( hubby actually had his wallet out ready to pay the excess baggage and was told that 'on this occassion' we would be let off )
was not as bad as I had been expecting , for a 12 hour nonstop daylight flight in a completely full plane with no seat back TV
it was relatively pleasant , the crew proved to us that AMS
flight had not been a one-off fluke , again they were smiling , pleasant , and very generous with the drinks - we did think it was very funny that one of the crew who was about to head off to the crew rest bunk for a couple of hours asked if he could borrow our copy of the "Gay Times" which we had stuck into the seat back pocket , and no ,before you ask , the pages weren't stuck together when we got it back . To round off the trip with a bit of variety we had an F70 for the AMS
leg another absurdly short hop which was literally taxi for 10minutes , take off , climb for 5 minutes , level off for about 10 minutes and then descend .
Maybe it pays to have lowered expectations but I have to say that never having heard anyone say anything good about KLM I was very pleasantly surprised
[Edited 2007-12-10 12:27:34]