Welcome to this photo Flight Report of my recent flight from Amsterdam to Bonaire in the Caribbean. I hope my readers will find this FR interesting, since the product I'm reporting on, is the one I've reported on many times before: KLM's World Business Class onboard their 773 metal. Since this flight took place during the pandemic, I hope to add some interesting new viewpoints and observations from a service perspective. I hope you enjoy this FR!
Back in February 2021, my wife and I decided that this year, we would go on summer holiday as opposed to last year. Since my wife and I both work in a sector that was heavily involved in the COVID-19 outbreak (my wife for instance works in healthcare), we decided in 2020 not to go on summer holiday, both because of work and because of our own believe that traveling would not be the best idea during a pandemic. This turned out to be a mistake for both of us. Not having any holiday meant we nearly overworked ourselves which means we desperately needed a break this year.
So in March we decided to book, to have something to look forward to. We chose Bonaire because I really wanted to fly again (that's the avgeek inside me), and we estimated that both the island and us would be fully vaccinated by the time we'd go. Did you know that Bonaire is actually a Dutch municipality within the Caribbean? There is a hilarious, but quite accurate, video that explains how this works, which you can find here:
I looked at various KLM airfares but eventually settled on AMS-BON routing. I could have saved some money by choosing BRU as departure airport but at the time, I was unsure if adding an extra country to our itinerary would complicate traveling from a COVID-standpoint, so I chose the safe option and bought 4 tickets in C at a really reasonable price from KLM's website. KLM also had a good deal on the tickets if you would test positive, so the safeguards provided by the ticket sealed the deal for me.
Routing is quite simple:
9AUG: AMS-BON B773 KLM C seats 1A,1C,1D,1G
23AUG: BON-AMS to follow
Traveling with kids in C is always a controversial point. However, my children have often flown and behave really well. I can safely say that no other passengers were inconvenienced because of my children. Furthermore, there were at least 6 other kids in this section, as BON is a popular family vacation spot.
As you can see, I lost the windows-seat privilege to my daughter. That's OK, I hope I can raise her as an avgeek as well :)
I checked in online, but the app warned me that I couldn't get a boarding pass until I arrived at the airport and all appropriate documents for entry into Bonaire were checked.
"No boarding pass available.
Sorry, we cannot deliver a boarding pass because we need to check the appropriate documents at the airport first. Check KLM traveldoc to review what documents are necessary".
KLM offers a service called Traveldoc which details what entry documents are required. I found that this service is outdated and it is better to check the entry requirements at the website of the country you're going to.
We left home early and headed for Schiphol airport by car. I reserved a spot in the Schiphol P3 Long Term Parking hoping I could charge my card there, but to my surprise, there were only 20 charging stations and they were all occupied.
What a contrast to the Efteling theme park, where I had been recently, which had 200 (!) charging stations while welcoming much less guests per day. I think Schiphol needs to do some upgrading on this point. Luckily my car (Nissan Leaf) still had a 60% charge so I was not worried about driving home after getting back.
A new feature was that it was possible to checkin your luggage from the car park. This was definitely something new, and done to limit the amount of queues in the main departure area. It also meant we didn't have to lug around our luggage so I was pleased with this new feature and I hope they will keep this.
We made our way to the the elevator and took the bus to the main place. I take pictures of where I park my car, not to forget where I parked.
Once in the plaza, we went to the Sky Priority checkin-area and went upstairs to the security check. What I really like about Schiphol is that you don't need to take out anything of your hand-carried luggage anymore. Security was quick. Passport control, on the other hand, took forever with only 4 counter open and a long queue op people. Social distancing in the queue was not adhered to, but inside the terminal building masks were mandatory.
Once security was successfully navigated, we entered airside which was buzzing with life. It was good to see so many passengers return, even though I estimate it was only about 40% of the pre-pandemic traffic.
KLM Crown Lounge 52
We made our way to the KLM Crown Lounge 52. The giant wall of Delft Blue Houses is always a great view, and I photograph it every time.
The lounge was not very busy, even though the majority of KLM/SkyTeam flights leave around noon. No doubt a result of the pandemic, but a welcome change nonetheless. We settled into a corner of the lounge, removed our masks and went to get some food. Where there used to be multiple self-service food points, there is now one central place where you can get some food which is served. I did not take any pictures there, not wanting to invade upon the privacy of other people. There are still coffee machines throughout the lounge where you can get some coffee and I found one point where a bartender could pour me glass of Cava. Unfortunately, still no Champagne with KLM ;)
Time to read up on some FRs!
The regular entrance is closed off to direct the flow of traffic.
The number of departures on EHAM seems unchanged.
As said, the lounge was very quiet. That was a welcome change.
Time to go and head for our flight!
We arrived at gate F9 shortly after boarding had begun. There was almost no queue at the Sky Priority lane which was nice. We got on board quickly and settled in.
We took a left turn, as we were assigned seats 1A, 1C, 1D and 1G.
Our Aircraft today is PH-BVN, which has WiFi on board. More on that later.
Some minor changes in the service where noticeable when getting on board. The amenity kit was placed upon the seats, instead of handed out. I noticed it was the same kit used during my last flight almost 2 years ago, so it didn't get the yearly update. We did get a welcome drink, but not with the usual warm nuts or cheese. The blanket and pillow were the same as I've seen many times before. A bottle of Spa water was replaced in the seat, where in the past, the FAs would hand it out during the flight. Finally, KLM provided one (1) package of wet wipes, insufficient if you ask me.
I settled into my non-window seat, having to forfeit it to my daughter and got to work with the IFE.
As you can see, the divider screen is still there and provides some privacy from your neighbor. However, when your neighbor is your daughter, they make communication a bit harder. I'm not a fan of these mainly because their immobile.
The power station is adequate. The headphone jack for the "noise reduction" headset KLM provides can be plugged in here. Usually I take my own, but I decided not to do so this time since I was already hauling around a lot of stuff. This turned out to be a bad decision since KLMs casques are really, really bad. I guess it's my own fault.
Sidenote: I've had a pair of Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones for years which are fantastic, but during the stay-at-home and work-from-home time I used them so much, I probably need to replace them soon.
KLM could have done a better job cleaning the aircraft. There are crumbs everywhere. Luckily, I brought some hand sanitizer and cleaned most surfaces myself.
Sidenote: My daughter misplaced her pens, phone and some other items several times. They wound up somewhere between the seat, meaning I had to crouch and look under them. This is not an experience I can recommend. I think I saw breadcrumbs there left years ago.
The footrests are an integral part if you turn your seat into a bed, but some are quite small while others, like this one, are of sufficient width to rest your feet while sleeping. I've never found any rhyme & reason to this layout: Why are some only 15cm wide, while others are not?
There is a convenient reading light in the seat, and an overhead light that can be used as well. There are no individual air ducts.
Time to charge!
The menu was delivered and the stewardess asked us to select a meal straight away. Not a problem! Let's browse through the menu
I love this detail
The dinner page. Looks like the hamburger is still on the menu. I'm not sad to see it go when it does. More on my selections later.
The drinks did receive an update. There is a new Bols Negroni Cocktail. My wife says it tastes like a sweeter version of Campari. I didn't try it though.
I'm more a wine person and tried both the Dutch wine and the Rhône wine. Unsurprisingly, the French wine is far better in my opinion, but I like that they try to offer new choices as well.
This is all the view I'm going to have today
The safety movie is as usual, but the FA's added an additional warning, to take of your face mask before putting on the oxygen mask in case of cabin depressurization.
The screen is nice and large and has a good viewing angle. The flight safety movie remains unchanged. Departure is on-time, nice!
This is my typical setup: Movie on the IFE, moving map on the handset.
I see my family getting settled in as well. If we had had the option, I'd haven chosen two additional seats near a window as well.
I decided to purchase WiFi for the entire flight for €18. I found the performance to be not great. I've had far better connectivity on US carriers.
The speed was good enough, but the latency of 738 ms is far too slow to do anything that is responsive.
I kicked off my VPN. I always wonder how the aircraft providers know what I do when surfing the web. My package said explicitly that it was only for browsing and not streaming, but how else can they know except for looking at the traffic from my phone? Ofcourse, the bandwidth limits what you can do as well, but I sometimes fear the provider looks at the content and metadata as well. For this reason, I always use a VPN when connecting to a public network.
Flying over the UK. Looks like FL340 for now.
The table was set for lunch. The FA asked me to extend the table myself instead of doing it for me. I didn't mind, but only report on this since it's a noticeable change from earlier C-flights with KLM.
My daughter chose the soup, which she really enjoyed. Notice how the breadroll isn't heated and distributed from a basket, but is now prepackaged. The breadroll was soft and mushy. I missed my warm breadroll.
I chose the Tartare which was excellent. I was really happy with my choice.
Plastic wooden clogs as pepper and salt shakers. Those who have read my reports before know I don't like them ;)
The butter was nice, I like this way of presentation to keep it presentable and safe.
The main course were the oriental dishes which were excellent as well. I was happy to see that the food was enjoyable. I found that food on KLM flights is some sort of a hit-or-miss situation. Definitely a hit this time for me.
Note the tinfoil I had to remove myself.
The cheese was my final choice for lunch. Good cheeses, paired with coffee and baileys. As you can see, KLM serves the food with the tin foil and plastic protection still attached - which is is also a change from service before the pandemic.
The Delft Blue Chocolate was still present and served with coffee, but each individually packaged this time.
The contents of the amenity kit remain unchanged. I was kind of hoping there would be hand sanitizer in there as well, but there wasn't. Luckily, I brought my own.
Time to relax. I binge-watched Young Sheldon on the way over. The IFE collection appeared a bit more limited, but had enough movies and TV shows to enjoy yourself.
I asked the FA for another cup of tea and she did. The tea was good.
Sidenote: The orange smudge is on the camera, not in the water ;)
The seat in fully flat configuration easily fits tall people when sleeping. I didn't sleep though as this wasn't a red-eye flight.
The light snack was served. The "broodje Kroket" was typical Dutch and really good, but I wonder if none-Dutch guests would appreciate fried, breaded, mystery meat bread-roll?
The endless Atlantic Ocean
Two hours before landing, the hot snack was served. I chose the empanadas, which was quite good.
Another noticeable difference was the hot apple pie, which was now a cold and plastic-y apple pie. Not an improvement, but I understand why they did it like this.
My daughter had the hamburger but decided it wasn't any good. I agree with her.
This looks sad to be honest…
Passing the upper Caribbean.
I quickly grabbed my phone when the stewardess came around for the Delft Blue houses. I chose the four houses for my family, much to the dismay of my kids. But hey, if I pay for the tickets, I chose the houses.
We arrived on-time on Bonaire. Landing was quite nice and we headed for immigration. As required by Bonaire regulations, my daughter had to do a antigen test upon arrival since she isn't fully vaccinated (yet). My son didn't have such a requirement, neither did we since we are both fully vaccinated. The test results came after 17 minutes and she tested negative, meaning we could go ahead and enjoy our vacation!!
So did flying change during the pandemic? Yes, it did, but I'm pleased to report that flying still is very enjoyable. The mask requirement on board is honestly not that bad. I forgot I even wore them, so did my wife, but we both wear masks at work for extended periods of time as well, so maybe we're the abnormality. I set an alarm clock to change them every 3 hours since a mask gets saturated over time.
The food on board was a hit, with some negatives here and there: I didn't like all the pre-packaged food, but the experience overall was much like what I experience pre-pandemic. KLM food never has been outstanding, but I never found it terrible either. This hasn't changed. However, the bread and apple pie were not that great and I hope KLM finds an alternative for it in the future.
The amenity kit is the same as was used two years ago. This didn't bother me. I did miss the hand sanitizer in the kit.
The cleanliness of the cabin was disappointing, especially considering we're in a pandemic.
The cabin crew was great, as ever.