Sunday, March 30, 2014

BusinessFlyer KL671: AMS - YUL on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines' Boeing 747.

Travel date: February 2014
Flight: KL671
Route: Amsterdam/Schiphol (AMS/EHAM) - Montreal/Trudeau (YUL/CYUL)
Carrier: Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (KL/KLM) d.b.a. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 747-406/M PH-BFT 'City of Tokyo'
Class: World Business Class (Business)
Direct distance: 5,519km (3,430 miles)
Flight time: 6 hours 58 minutes
Boeing 747-406/M PH-BFT 'City of Tokyo' at Schiphol's Gate E17. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

As a SkyTeam Elite Plus member, having access to the SkyPriority check-in lanes at Schiphol Airport (AMS/EHAM) was a big advantage. Amsterdam being the hub for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL/KLM), there were ample check-in counters, and I was immediately served. Staff told me that I might be upgraded to World Business Class since the economy cabin was overbooked. I proceeded to immigration, where a priority lane was available and again there was no line. After immigration awaits Schiphol’s seductive ‘See Buy Fly’ terminal shopping complex, which has a range of stores from top-end brand shops to gift shops and bookstores to even a division of the Rijksmuseum.
KLM Crown Lounge at Schiphol. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

I strolled over to the KLM Crown Lounge, located on the second floor, where I was informed that I indeed had received a complementary upgrade. With a spacious, quiet atmosphere, the lounge offered a variety of free newspapers to major magazines, as well as a good range of foods; for that day was Massaman curry, fried chicken, fried rice, cheese, soup, along with snacks and a variety of drinks.
My seat for the next seven hours. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

At 1430, I traveled to Gate E17, about halfway down the corridor of the E wing, and noticed that the ship had been switched from a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 to a Boeing 747-400M (Combi). I was looking forward to flying on the Long Beach-born tri-jet, but I tried to tell myself the complementary upgrade to business was in exchange for that. The aircraft was B747-406/M PH-BFT ‘City of Tokyo’, delivered back in May 15, 1997, and one of 15 'Combi' Jumbos the airline currently operates. Schiphol carries out security checks at each gate instead of the immigrations area, and they had already begun with a very long line, but again, SkyPriority made it relatively hassle-free.
Appetizer for the first meal. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Boarding began at 1500, starting with groups with handicapped persons and infants, followed by World Business Class and SkyTeam Elite Plus passengers. KLM’s B747-400Ms seat 14 World Business Class seats on the upper deck, 18 at the front of the main deck, as well as 36 Economy Comfort, and 197 Economy seats, for a total of 275. My seat on flight KL671 was at the front, and as I was seated, a welcome drink was served, from a choice of water, orange juice, or champagne. As time passed 1525, the flight’s departure time, the crew announced that we would be 15 minutes late due to some paperwork. Was it due to a last-minute ship change?
Entering England from near Sunderland. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

At 1544, the door was finally closed, and two minutes later, the aircraft was pushed back. We headed to Runway 24 ‘Kaagbaan’, named after the Kagerplassen which lies at the end of the runway, for a takeoff at 1557 CET. How quiet it can be at the front end of the ‘Queen of the Skies’! Our aircraft banked to the left, then to the right over to North Sea, where we could see a Brocken phenomenon for a short time. Eight minutes later the seat-belt signs were turned off, and the flight attendants started preparing for in-flight service.
Our main course for the first meal; a Dutch treat. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

About 20 minutes into the flight, they started out with a mix of nuts along with a drink of our choice. I chose apple juice, which was very good. As the crew was getting ready, we crossed into Great Britain below us, south of Sunderland, about 35 minutes into the flight. As we were passing through Scotland, just south of Glasgow, we started encountering some rough air.
Dessert: pomegranate gateau. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Meal service, produced by Michelin award winner chef Sergio Herman, was started about 70 minutes into the flight. First came the appetizer, which was smoked salmon and an apple and fennel cream garnished with citrus jelly and served with wasabi yuzu vinegarette. This became my favorite for this flight; everything on the plate seemed to harmonize with each other on the taste buds. The wine selection for tonight was Malbec, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. As we were served, light turbulence continued to bother our dining, and the seat-belt signs had to be left on.
The General Electric CF6-80C2 engines. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Half a hour after the appetizer came the main meal; I selected the braised beef tartlet accompanied by mustard sauce, Oud Sluis-style lentils, and pumpkin mash, baby potatoes, and sauteed mushrooms. It came along with a pickled vegetable salad and warmed bread buns. The seat-belt lights were finally turned off about 40 minutes after we started dining, and at that time the flight attendants were ready to serve dessert. Passing south off the coast of Iceland, I chose pomegranate gateau, and had it with black tea. I did take some time to savor the cake, but the crew seemed to have forgotten that I still had a plate with me and didn’t come until I asked them to take it away.
Front cabin of our Boeing 747-400M. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

About 30 minutes later, the cabin lights were dimmed and everyone started to doze off. About three hours into the flight came the Captain’s welcome announcement, and soon after followed duty free sales. Half a hour later, we were able to see Greenland and its icebergs which seemed to have wandered from the coast. After clouds came in and started obstructing our view, I decided to take a nap.
Greenland and its icebergs. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

About one hour and a half hours later, or two hours before arrival time, we were served a light second meal, which consisted of a marrowfat pea salad accompanied by falafel and piccalilli cream. It came with a choice of chicken pie or a basil pie served with tomato and mozzarella cheese, and finished with raspberry cheese cake with vanilla sauce. As I became full and the flight attendants collected my tray, they came around handing out 'KLM Dutch House' blue delft houses, a Dutch specialty. KLM currently offers 94 different houses, and I chose Number 25, named 'Gouda'.
Our second meal. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Soon after, about half an hour before landing, our Captain announced that we had started our descent into Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport (YUL/CYUL). Flying along the St. Lawrence River, snow-covered houses started to appear below followed by the skyline of Montreal city, and we touched down on Runway 24R at 1655 EDT, completing an almost seven-hour flight. Montreal is six hours behind Amsterdam. We taxied to Gate 55 for an on-time arrival at 1700. We were off the aircraft in minutes, but with some other European flights arriving in as well, it took another 25 minutes or so to get through immigrations, which isn't too bad in North America.
Canada's vast snow-covered land. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Having Elite Plus membership allowed me to breeze through what otherwise could have been a very stressful part of traveling. I only needed to line up at gate security, and in the end I was upgraded to business class. KLM offers efficient and consistent service, but its business class pales in comparison to top-class Asian airlines as well as the 'Big Three' in the Middle East. Except for the appetizer of the first meal, the flight left me with no particular impression; neither good nor bad. The two cabin crew serving our section were helpful, but present only when it was time to serve something, and for one of them I wasn't able to see a smile throughout the flight. The current World Business Class seats are showing their age, and KLM is in the process of refurbishing them, but if the flight attendants were smiling a little more and observant, walking around the cabin to see what each passengers is doing and think what the customer may need, it might help even more.

No comments:

Post a Comment