Rather than writing down the full word details of my flights, I'll just go full on avgeek and put forward the details. One thing I would like to clarify, there were four different PNRs associated with this trip. FAR-MSP-ORD-MSP-FAR (DL) was one, ORD-AMS-DEL/BOM-BLR-CDG-ORD) (KL, AF, 9W, DL) was a multi city booking on Air France's website, while DEL-CCU-BOM (AI) was another multi city booking, and CCU-CMB-CCU (MJ) was another.
As always ladies and gentlemen, starting off with the video trip report for this flight, which can be found right here:
PH-BFE resting it out at the gate, before being towed away for the rest of the day. She'd fly to Hong Kong in the evening as KL887.
Despite the highs of the first flight, I was dreading my 5.5 hour transit at Schiphol, for some reason. I went through the website, and sure, there was a lot to do! I sat around for a bit, updating the social media. A bit of that later, I headed for breakfast… Ah long line. Never mind! I quietly sat amongst the passengers on KL441, the A330 flight to Doha and Muscat.
After that, I headed towards the main terminal itself. The sound of construction, the ripped open roof and the hoards of people that were around made for a very claustrophobic scene. I made my way back through the E concourse found someplace to lie down uncomfortably on. A sticky situation kicked when I found out that I probably won't be able to get connected in New Delhi (to inform my parents) at all. I did some spotting - while KLM's blue does look lovely, it got a bit too overwhelming for me and I nearly forgot what non-KLM planes looked like :P
Some spotting pictures from Amsterdam:
Highlights included a lowlight of PH-BFE being towed away when I could've gotten a decent shot of her in daylight. Xiamen Air 787, China Southern A330 (never got a photograph of both :roll:), Deltas here and there, a couple of United, China Airlines A340… I finally decided to have a sandwich. It was 1130.
PH-BFL, 'City of Lima', had been pulled into Gate E8 for my flight. A 24.1 year old birdie who was built in Everett, WA. She had flown in from Toronto (Canada) the same morning, around the time I landed from Chicago O'Hare. So much for City of Johannesburg and City of Hong Kong (although they both were combis anyway, so I was skeptical). A long line had already formed and boarding was not even called yet! Taking pictures of PH-BFL was tricky. The sun created a horrible backlight while the windows at Schiphol were no where close to clean. Finally, I get to see a 747 that will fly my flight up close and personal, and here I was with (unfortunately) the crappiest of views. My luck was rotten :( If there was anything that could cheer me up, it was perhaps the site of KLM's Beagle dog that assists in lost and found. Alas, it wasn't around :(
Boarding was called for all the important SkyPriority people, but that was basically boarding for everyone.. The wifi was causing a lot of trouble and it was no better even just before boarding (considering the fact that Delhi gives wifi access for 45 minutes and my sim card didn't run beyond the USA). It as all a very messy situation all around. Easily over 400 passengers on the day's Boeing 747-400, I joined the line a little bit later on. A Dutch agent came around seeing passports and boarding, greeting everyone by saying 'Namaskar' (a greeting) and 'Shukriya' (thank you) in the end. Lovely touch!
The China Southern A330 was pushed back right in front of my eyes and all I could do was watch. :( Amsterdam's aerobridges look like the lower hull of a cruise ship with pothole windows. Boarding was slow, unsurprisingly. However, that didn't deter the senior purser from looking at my (Boeing) shirt and saying - that's a great shirt, I love it!
The plane was jampacked, no surprises there. However, the number of Indian people (or people of Indian origin) surprised me! Pretty much everyone I saw onboard were Indians, and of course there was me. Finding space for my third extra bag took a while, but I found a spot with relative ease. Took my seat 40K, and just admired the size of the huge 747 wing, while also admiring the beauty of KLM's livery on an A330-200 parked close by (well, that was pushed back too, sadly :( ). The flight attendants were quite cheerful and answered to all passenger requests.
Time went by, the Captain came over the PA system to give some quick details of the flight (that the short flight would last 6hr45min) and that a fifteen minute delay would occur because of offloading a passenger. Just like on board PH-BFE, hearing the announcements were very very tricky. I just about heard whatever was said. An automated announcement was also made in Hindi - always a nice touch!
Pushback at 1301 hours, slowly all 4 GE CF6 engines were brought into life. We were pushed back basically on to a different bay, since there was also a Delta A330-200 that had to be pushed back (which, also, on to a different bay). The huge flaps were extended, of course, not to the full extent. Amazing, 24 year old plane and no sound in flaps, so I call bullsh*! on the A380's loud whiny flap sounds. ;)
Taxiing was at a decent pace as we taxied by many of the concourses. Lined up with runway 24 'Kaagbaan' which was followed by a gradual and graceful take off, 747 style (something that I am qualified to say now :P ). A few rather sweet banks later, a southeast course was set for New Delhi.
I took a nice quick twenty minute siesta while I pulled the window shade down since the rays came in straight through. I opened my eyes to see the lovely air hostesses start the drinks service. I started off proceedings with a white wine. The towel service followed with the nice and warm (From Holland with Love branded KLM merchandise) towels to refresh ourselves, which felt real good.
The lunch service was next. The options shocked me a little: international veg pasta or Indian makhani. Seriously? That's all? :( Did they run out of non-veg or were two veg options the only stuff loaded? I suspect it was the former, since the service briefing about the flight on KLM's site suggested that lunch would consist of two choices. Either way, the choices did make me a bit sad.
(I do apologize for not taking a picture with the covers off, you can have a look at that in the video report! :)
The food itself was pretty alright. I mean, the salad was pretty disappointing and I left it after a spoonful. The main course pasta was reasonable. Nice and warm with a decent amount of flavor. The bun was a bit cold, but still tasty. Dessert was a winner - a vanilla soufflé oliebollen and some chocolate sauce. To be honest, the Indian option looked way better in my opinion. An Indian salad with rice and dal makhani, and the same smelt amazing! Add to that, a rasmalai dessert. I didn’t make the right choice this time :(
The trays were collected and hot beverages offered. Some more tea and an Amarula is what I had. As I got my meal, it was turning into a tricky situation because a lovely sunset was occurring outside. I had to keep my camera in a very awkward position in order to get decent images of the sunset. Far from an ideal situation, but that’s how it was I guess! We started a climb from 33000 feet to 35000 feet.
Still some time to go!
What followed was some sleep…or lack of it? It was pretty disturbed, not because of anything, perhaps just that sleeping on a plane is something that I can rarely do. Excitement? Or simply no comfort? Probably a bit of both. Calculated averages show that the sleep sessions were only 11-12 minutes. After a while, I gave up on sleeping :P The person in 40J was mostly asleep. The nice man in 40H pointed that he had placed my headset in my seat pocket (I found it just before the drinks), which was really nice of him! Anyway, Mr. 40H decided to get up and go to the loo, that’s when I decided to walk around and do some exploring (cue - photography :P ) of the lovely 747. I really liked the blue wallpapers on the bulkheads which had the KLM logo on it. It looked gorgeous. The plane itself, I realized, was one of the best looking ones in the sky. Being a 747 itself adds a lot of value, and then the lovely KLM blue. Even my non aviation friends agreed the plane had a pretty color! With the realization of being on a justifiably long Boeing 747 flight (since my first two flights on the B747 were short, TPE-HKG and HYD-BOM, I went back to my seat.
Some pictures from the quick walk around.
Stairway to heaven? :)
I saw the time remaining countdown go down, which was a tad slow. But that’s okay, I was onboard Boeing 747! I spent most of my time on the flight information section. I did get a bit scared when it showed Altitude 0 feet many a times! But that was nothing to worry about as the lovely big Boeing gracefully flew smoothly in the night skies over Russia.
An apple juice downed, it was time for some more sleep. I was drifting in and out of it when the second hot towel service began. The nice flight attendant saw me waking up and headed back down the aisle to give me a hot towel. Its these little things that change a flight from a good one to a great one!
Wait wait what is our altitude?!
This only meant that meal service was up next and that the flight was in its final stages. Postcards and customs declaration forms were handed out, while the duty free sales commenced as well. The service started with the usual distribution of pre-ordered meals.
We climed to 36000 feet. The meal itself was on a tray which was nice! A hot snack would be served to us. Of course, a common main course for all, that being a veggie roll (burrito?) for all. Three out of four vegetarian meals on board KLM, which was wonderful. Not. Anyway, the starter this time around was a much better fare as it was a nice potato salad in mayonnaise sauce. The roll was pretty average in my opinion, lacking a bit of flavor. It was nice and warm though. Fresh fruits were there with dessert. I had a gin and sprite to go with it. The combination was kinda nice, but it won't be done till I have a G&T! I sipped my way through that.
The stint over Afghanistan and Pakistan felt a bit long as we also climbed up all the way to 39000 feet. Lights were dimmed but not all the way as we entered the final stages of the flight. The crew kept checking on the passengers by taking trays of juice and all to the passengers. The Captain came on the PA system to give us details of our arrival into New Delhi. We would reach twenty minutes before time and dock at Gate B15.
Slowly but surely the Flying Dutchman 'Lima' came closer to Earth. And seriously, this approach was more impressive than the A380 approaches I've experienced. The flaps extending all the way was awesome! Loud sounds of a ship mooring towards the docks were made as we made a smooth decent into New Delhi. Quite literally, the Flying Dutchman! The Boeing 747 is a true work of art.
A very very smooth landing was made onto Runway 28 on a slightly foggy night. 0039 hours, my 747 experiences were nearing its end. Taxiing was long, however the senior purser wished us happy holidays, a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year, which is always a nice touch! We slowly taxied into our gate, there were other impressive Boeings, including Air India's 777-300ER and a 787-8 Dream)liner.
All four engines cut out, it naturally took quite some time for all passengers to get off the plane. I had to be one of the last because killing time was always on the agenda, not helped by the early arrival of the flight. I thanked the crew for a wonderful flight, as they looked forward to welcoming me on board future KLM flights, wishing me a happy new year and the like. Good stuff, KLM crew! I headed out via the long forward galley and also taking a peek at the Business Class.
PH-BFL would be turned around and flown back to base Amsterdam, where it would spend an entire day before flying over to Willemstad, Curaçao.
The walk to immigration itself was not too long (but not short either), I slowed myself down because I saw no point in clearing immigration so quickly. It was a good twenty minutes there, while the bags took some time to arrive as well. Of course, I was a bit anxious because the longer a suitcase takes to arrive, the more you feel it hasn't made it to you. When I finally saw my bag, I saw quite a few others come in from the USA, on various other flights from the USA to Amsterdam, and then on to New Delhi.
I headed out to the Plaza Premium lounge to get in and relax a bit. That never happened because it was all full :( The Aalways lounge had a decent seating area with refreshments and wifi…but none of my cards worked. The nice man gave me his number for Docomo WiFi's one time password, and I had 45 minutes of reasonable Internet connectivity. And with that, the end of my experiences with KLM came to an end, while still in awe of the Boeing 747 in its entirety. I was counting down to a completely different generation of Boeing - the 787 Dream)liner was next!
Amsterdam - AMS
New Delhi - DEL
While this flight wasn't as good as the Chicago-Amsterdam flight, I would not take anything away from KLM because this was yet another fantastic flight. The ground staff in Amsterdam did a fine job in keeping a check on the difficult passengers (I cannot hide the fact that us Indians do not know much about zone wise boarding :( ), while being professional. Add to that, a decent set of flight crew who looked after the passenger's needs very well. The one downer about this flight was the lack of a non-vegetarian meal service: is this a normal thing on EU-India flights? However, I was happy the second meal service was a full meal, and not just the wrap. The seat was pretty alright, as was the IFE - exactly the same as on PH-BFE :D
I'm struggling to find positive feelings for Amsterdam. It was one of the most uncomfortable transit times in an airport. Being the peak season did not help matters, there was no place to sit. Add to that, the renovations and lack of services at Concourse E (where most of the intercontinental flights depart from). WiFi was pretty bad, too.
This was my first arrival into Delhi, the T3 is a fine gateway in to India.
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