Background: It had been four and a half years since I been in Sweden, and so much had changed during that time that I felt like a trip back was long overdue. Going as a family was going to be difficult, as the cost of all four of us flying over there would be astronomical, and also finding a time where we all had ample vacation time was going to be difficult. I had been floating the idea of possibly going myself, but as college started back up again, I began looking at it more seriously, especially since I finally had the money to do it and extended family to stay with in both Gothenburg and Stockholm (thus keeping the costs down on my part).
So then I had to decide where to fly into. I was looking at flights from IAD to both GOT and ARN, but since it was winter, my options were somewhat limited as opposed to when I’ve gone in the summer. SK had always been a good bet for us, but I wasn’t super impressed with their service the last time we flew them, so I ruled them out. Other options included LH, UA, BA, and KL, and KL stood out to me because they flew their brand new 787-9 to IAD, and we had positive experiences with them in the past. By the end of September I had all but made my mind up that I would go, and one day I found a round trip fare on KL for just $530 (!!!). Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to book that, so it was all set!
At the Airport: I got dropped off at IAD at around 2:45, which seemed to be good timing because as soon as I was done checking in, the main terminal began to get busy with the European rush. After checking in, I exchanged a bunch of money for Swedish kronor (which included some Hong Kong dollars my dad had left over from a recent trip of his) and headed through security, which took 10 minutes at most. Despite having to work for back pay because of the US government shutdown, the TSA agents I encountered weren’t in a terrible mood, and I even thanked them for being there. I then took the AirTrain to Terminal A/B, got some Chipotle to eat, and looked around before heading to the gate.
Main terminal/AirTrain was all lit up for the holidays
Flights out of IAD that afternoon
BA 744 getting set for the journey back to LHR
SAA A330 bound for ACC and JNB (it used to just be DKR, but now they fly to JNB via DSS (the new airport there) and ACC
VS A330, also LHR-bound
CA 77W to PEK
My Dreamliner (sorry about the reflection of the light from the terminal)
I went to the gate around half an hour before boarding, and it had all the makings of a full flight that evening. It was also then that I got my first look at the plane, and while I couldn’t see the whole thing, my level of excitement went up a bit. One thing that was different from the last time I flew KL was that boarding was now done by zones and not by seat number, which would’ve worked better for me, but on this night I was in the very last zone (despite being in row 21A, right in the front of economy), and when we got on the plane it was very disorganized. I made it to 21A, and I was next to this older Dutch couple. The seat pitch was okay, but the width of the seat was a bit too narrow for my liking. Nonetheless, I was impressed by the cabin as a whole, especially the mood lighting. The safety video was done, set in a Delft artwork/pottery studio, and they made special note of what to do if a device plugged into the in-seat power supply overheats. After a quick taxi, we were airborne at 5:51, just a few minutes behind schedule.
Cabin as soon as I boarded
Dreamliner has the best wings, in my opinion
Knees are touching the seat in front of me
Safety video had a nice Dutch flavor to it
EI 757, seen in the domestic part of terminal B (since it uses preclearance in DUB it’s essentially a domestic flight)
Almost right away after takeoff, the purser got on the PA system and announced that in the Netherlands, the clock had struck midnight and 2019 had arrived! After the announcements in both Dutch and English, everyone applauded, and it was a really nice moment. But we weren’t done celebrating quite yet! The flight attendants then brought out cups of champagne for everyone, and seeing as how I had just turned 21 (and thus was legally allowed to drink in the States), I decided to have some. The only downside of that, however, was that the dinner service was delayed, leaving less time to just relax. When dinner did arrive, we had two choices; beef with rice, or a vegetarian pasta option. I chose the beef, and while it tasted alright, the portion size left a lot to be desired. Along with it, we had a Greek salad (which was really good) and a chocolate brownie, which was really small. I remember the portion sizes being larger from my last trip on KL, but that was almost 10 years prior.
Flight attendant passing out champagne to everyone
Had actually never drank any alcohol before this moment
Entree: this was slightly bigger than my passport
Very good Greek salad
Throughout the whole flight, I took advantage of the vast IFE selection, which was enhanced by the crystal-clear and very responsive touch-screen. I first watched a 2018 World Cup highlight reel, and then during dinner I watched this Swedish film called Trädgårdsgatan, with English subtitles. The moving map was also super detailed, unlike the one on SK the last time I flew to Sweden. After those movies, I tried to relax for a while and sleep, but I found it hard to sleep in that space, so I just played around with the airshow for a while. About 90 minutes before landing, the flight attendants came by with the breakfast service, and in it on this day was some yogurt, a tomato/mozzarella sandwich, and mineral water. I ate the sandwich and drank the water, but left the yogurt alone. I’d be having a big breakfast during my layover in Amsterdam, so I wasn’t too disappointed with the breakfast service.
IFE home screen
Very detailed airshow
Cabin mood lighting
Breakfast service; I could’ve had five of those sandwiches, they were that good
At around 6:00 Amsterdam time (and right as the clock struck midnight back home), we began our approach into Schiphol, making a sharp turn along the Dutch coast and cutting south. We touched down just after 6:30, but since it was a Polderbaan taxi, it took us 15 minutes to arrive at gate E2, where de-boarding was painless.
One last look at the Dreamliner
Post-flight: Schiphol is one of the few airports I’ve been to where there’s no partition or anything separating arriving and departing passengers off of flights from outside the EU, so we were dumped right into the terminal. Since I had a five hour connection, I decided to take the train into Amsterdam, so I got in line for immigration, which took about 10 minutes, and I was processed through by an officer who was 1000 times more professional than his counterparts in the US. After that I bought a ticket and took the train downtown for some breakfast before my next flight to Gothenburg.
Instead of being partitioned off from departing passengers, we were dumped right into the terminal
All the booths were in use, hence the short wait time
Schiphol Plaza area; a shopping mall within the airport
Platform for the train downtown; takes around 15 minutes
Washington - IAD
Amsterdam - AMS
In some ways the KL hard product on the 787 was rock-solid, like with the IFE and mood-lighting, but in other ways it left a lot to be desired (and even regressed from when I flew the A330 on the same route in 2009), especially the small dinner portions, speed of service, and lack of water runs during the night. That being said, the crew was very friendly, and the New Years’ celebration we had onboard is something I won’t forget for a long time. So overall, KL did a good job with this flight.
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