Given that I am a cargo pilot for a small cargo airline and we did a shift the day before that brought us over to Birmingham, both me and my colleague expected to fly back to our maintenance hub later today as the aircraft was suppose to go to maintenance for a regular check. However given that the aircraft had more hours left than they suspected it had by today, they decided to bring us home by a regular flight. My colleague went on from London Heathrow to Madrid and I was booked on a flight from BHX to Amsterdam with a price tag of 440 EUR due to the fact it was booked only four hours in advance and the cabin was fully booked.
While I am fully vaccinated, I had yet to clear another obstacle as the UK is considered a very high risk country by the Netherlands and therefore you should have a PCR test and a mandatory quarantine for 10 days (until 22nd september when a vaccination is sufficient). Luckily flight crew is exempted from both regulation, but it always brings somewhat of a hassle with ground personel in the departing airport as they're often not as up to date as they should be. Pretty understandable due to the fact that it changes constantly.
But just to be sure, I decided to do a quick Covid-19 Antigen Lateral Flow test with ExpressTest by Cignpost for 35GBP to have something on standby when it causes some issues. Results are in your email within 40 minutes after test. Staff was however excellent and very friendly.
Unfortunately I also needed to check out early from the Ibis at the airport like any other hotel which is currently fully booked up to the end of the year due to a fact that all delayed events of 2021 are happening in the last few months of the year. I decided to grab a coffee and a toast with Costa Coffee, which is pretty much the starbucks of the UK with better coffee to wait about an hour to check-in.
Eventually made my way to the other side of the terminal where KLM checks in and enjoyed the beautiful weather in the UK for a few more minutes.
Check-in was done from the D gates number 66 to 69 with a few people waiting for the check-in counters to open, which took about five more minutes for someone to appear to proceed with us. I was one of the first to check in due to my status with KLM with the lady behind the counter asking directly though in a friendly manner to my PCR test. I explained her my situation and given my Job that I am exempt for that rule and received my boarding pass with seat 24F.
I probably set a new record given that it took a total of 15 seconds for me to clear security with no single soul in line and after me. Security was as quiet as it could be just like the photo listed below.
While signage isn't the best in Birmingham Airport, you are definitely stuck in a maze of duty free shops before you are airside. The weird thing about Birmingham is that even though you are departing to mainland Europe or Dubai, border police is not required and is pretty much non-existent for departing traffic. They probably have an agreement with the airlines to provide the passenger lists to border control.
While most of the shops were closed, the restaurants and pubs were definitely open and of course the most crowded parts of the airside terminal. I decided to join the herd and do a pub crawl through the many bars that were open.
Started to have somewhat of an early dinner with a nice amber ale of the London Pride with The Giraffe. Probably the most comfortable restaurant of all.
Eventually finished my round with a nice pint of Birra Moretti at The Factory.
About 40 minutes prior to departure, they finally announced the gate and I slowly moved my way towards the gate with a few spotting possibility along as my gate was one of the last ones.
A few aircraft, mostly holiday charters, were being prepared for some better destinations in South Europe
Our gate for today would be 46. Given the lay out of the terminals, it is understandable for the airport to only inform passengers about their gates like 45 minutes prior to departure as seating is very limited and to prevent people to be waiting in front of the gates to crowd such places.
The terminal even allows me to spot that old lady from us (my job) on the other side of the runway resting for the weekend till my colleague will take over. :)
The sheep's herd was already established way before boarding was initiated, but went rather smoothly with respect to zones and status.
I checked in as one of the lasts with the lady asking to my mandatory quarantine declaration of the Netherlands, which I showed to her (Saying I was exempt) before I was able to spot our bird for today's flight. The flight was going to be performed by PH-EZA, which is a 12,9 year old bird (Date of Flight) who has solely seen service for KLM Cityhopper and can carry up to 100 passengers and is equipped with two GE CF34 engines.
Welcomed by the flight attendant in a polite way, yet not so cordially as I am used to I proceeded to my seat in the aft part of the cabin. It took no more than a single minute after my boarding that we were already pushing back for an on-time departure to Amsterdam. Cabin was full with no single seat free. 4/4 in J & 96/96 in Y.
It took no more than five minutes after pushback for us to be departing from Runway 33 towards Amsterdam during a beautiful sunset which gave us some beautiful views of the English countryside.
Sunset disappeared a few seconds later when we passed through the clouds.
Legroom isn't the best on the older E-jets of KLM, yet I would say is survivable for a flight of 1 hour. The seat however is ok in terms of width and has a large table to store your items or read a magazine like the Holland Herald, which is KLM's magazine and still publishes it unlike many other airlines. Not the most entertaining stories for this month's edition as it seems to only focus on environmental issues and art.
Cabin crew came around to hand us some snacks. Snacks were already finished by most people before they came back to serve us a drink. Still think it was better to provide them when the drinks were served, but they've probably had their reasons.
Eventually I asked the cabin crew for a bottle of wine, which seems to be updated comparing it to my last time when I drank wine with them. It's a Shiraz of Cape by Julien Schaal (Same company tho) with the year unknown. I found this one to be better in taste than the previous.
View of the cabin in-flight.
After a few sips of the wine, cabin crew came already around to clean up the cabin as the cockpit informed cabin crew that they were already in descent to Amsterdam and to prepare the cabin for approach, but I decided to enjoy my wine with the sunset who'se decided to return.
We seemed to be making a longer approach than usual at a much lower altitude than I am used to, but it was probably quite busy in approach as KLM is one of the only airlines that somehow provides a intercontinental network by morning and even shifts in pandemic times unlike LH and BA who canceled a lot of intercontinental connections.
Amsterdam decided that we should land on 18R, which of course is the most furthest runway from terminal and would require us to have a long taxi ride to our parking bay.
The old Fokker bay which eventually turned in the Embraer bay.
Instead of overcrowding us in two busses like my previous flight on their E190jet, they decided to add an additional bus to this aircraft which definitely improved room and disembarking went at speedy pace. I took one final shot of the aircraft that brought us over. The E-Jet is still one of my preferred aircraft for regional routes. Comfortable, quiet and a 2-2 config.
Compared to Birmingham, Amsterdam was very lively with lots of travellers, though admitting that most of them were connecting to other flights resulting in a quiet passport control.
Belt 8 was being used for our flight and it took a single minute for my luggage to appear and to be on my way to home.
Thanks for stopping by!
A short hop over the pond to mainland Europe with KLM. Cabin crew was polite and friendly, tho not as cordial as I'm used to with KLM, the complimentary snack and drink service is appreciated and it was a comfortable ride. Flight was full, so it's a good sign of recovery.