The airline with the best average rating is KLM with 7.4/10.
The average flight time is 1 hours and 54 minutes.More information
With the pandemic in retreat (for now…) my wife and I decided to make up for lost quality time and book a city trip for 2. The destination is Wien (Vienna), a city we love and which offered the opportunity to visit the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna Opera) where I reserved tickets for die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Excited to do something like this again, we booked the tickets and flight in February.
Leading up to our departure, however, it became clear that Schiphol, not unlike other European airports, is unable to handle to increased number of passengers. An un-announced strike, spring holiday and worker shortage led to extreme waiting queues in May, with some people waiting as long as 6,5 hours to get through security.
Ouch. That's not how we avgeeks love to travel, right?
To add insult to injury, we were set to fly on Friday June 24th, but KLM cancelled our flight hours after I checked in, 26 hours prior departure. Not wanting to miss the opera, I opted for a very early flight on Saturday and KLM was quick to rebook us. Fearing long queues ahead of me, we decided to spend the night in the Citizen M hotel at Amsterdam Schiphol - walking distance from the Departures terminal. We arrived on Friday 15.00, had some drinks and food and turned in to bed around 20:15 (8.15pm) - ready to face the madness in Schiphol the next morning.
The Citizen M hotel is actually a perfect location if you need to stay close to the airport: walking distance, quick check-in, rooms that are nice and clean. Unfortunately, our flight cancellation happened so late that I had to spend a fortune on a last-minute room there. The staff told me the hotel has been full for weeks, so I guess I was lucky to even find a room.
Some of you might wonder the current COVID-19 restrictions during this flight. At the time of flight, no restrictions were in place. No face masks were required, no social distancing was required - not on the airport or in the aircraft. No special entry requirements were set by the government of Austria.
Schiphol airport used to be one of my favorite airports in the world. But recently, it changed into a horrible mess thanks to staff shortage. What’s even worse is that people are sometimes impolite or even violent against the staff workers that do work there, creating a very tense and negative atmosphere instead of the relaxed, ‘welcome to the world’ atmosphere it used to be.
Delays are not fun for anyone, but that’s never an excuse to become obnoxious against the people who work there. The staff workers can’t be blamed for the mess and are trying to do the best they can. It’s up to us, as travellers, to treat them with respect and dignity.
Keeping this in mind, we arrived on time. Since our flight was scheduled for 06:50AM, we considered arriving on 03:50 should give us enough time to get past security. So, we set our alarm at 03:00 at the Citizen M hotel Schiphol Airport and arrived in the departure area around 03:30 after a 5 min walk.
Please note: I did not take any pictures during the queuing in the departure terminal. As said, not all people had their happy face on and I wanted to protect everybody's privacy.
Oh dear was it busy already! We encountered a very, very long queue going to security. What was even worse is that none of the KLM checkin desks were open - and we did have a suitcase to check in. After some asking around, I found out the KLM desks wouldn’t open until 04:30 AM making our early arrival extremely pointless. Luckily, the KLM staff did arrive on time and we checked in and dropped our bags around 04:35 AM - only to find out that the Sky Priority lane for security was still closed! Schiphol does this in order to better utilize the sparse security capability.
The KLM Ground Staff was kind enough to call and inform what was going on and told us it wouldn’t open until 5 AM - but there was a priority lane we could use in Terminal 3. So, we set off for Terminal 3 but encountered a very nice security staff member who told us that this plan wouldn’t work, but the regular Sky Priority security lane should be open. So, off we went, again, going back to KLM Sky Priority checkin and upstairs to security. Once upstairs, the boarding pass scanners were still closed and indeed staff told us they wouldn’t open until 5 AM. Some security workers had already let people through, bypassing the scanners, which led to a very uncomfortable discussion between the security staff that manned the scanners whether this was allowed.
Not wanting to be part of this discussion, I looked at my watch and saw that it was already 4:45AM so we figured waiting was better than getting to the back of the regular line, which now had a waiting time of 2hr30m.
Apparently, the staff member reconsidered his earlier 5am remark as more and more people started crowding upstairs and opened the gates with the boarding pass scanners. We went through quickly. Once open, we went straight through security and were done in 10 minutes, bypassing the long queue. I was very relieved the Sky Priority security lane still existed and opened up eventually. Otherwise, we might have missed our flight.
Once through security, I feared a passport control queue but since this was an intra-European flight, there was no security check and we went straight on to the KLM Crown Lounge 25 and settled in for breakfast.
What we needed most was coffee, but all of the five coffee makers we could see were either broken, not yet turned on, or cleaning themselves. So we waited for staff to clean them and made ourselves some cappuccino. The breakfast buffet was limited - only cold cuts, croissants and pain-au-chocolat. Hot items were not yet served. The KLM lounge is not famous for the meal options, but this was limited - even by KLM standards.
We treated ourselves to a light breakfast and a sparkling wine, to celebrate we made it through. All in all, time from arrival to Crown Lounge was about 1hr30m, which included 1 hr waiting for the KLM check-in desks to open up. The lounge was quiet and empty. I decided to check-out the self-service kiosks and found out that I could upgrade myself and my wife to European Business Class for 19.800 miles each. I still have hundreds of thousands of miles I rarely use so I figured, why not, at least we would have a nice breakfast in the aircraft and some more personal space.
So I decided to upgrade and spend the 39.600 miles on a slightly more enjoyable experience, figuring I wouldn’t use the points for anything else anyhow.
Most of my KLM Flying Blue points were earned with business travel. The rule within my company is that those points can only be spend on upgrades - not reward tickets or anything else. The reason behind this rule is that if I were allowed to purchase tickets with those points, the IRS (Belastingdienst) would consider those points as income and, as such, taxable. So my company made a deal with the IRS by issuing a rule that we can only use our frequent flyer points on upgrade or lounge access - not reward tickets. I'm sure not everyone follows this rule, but I do. Of course, I accumulate both private and business points on my account, but about 70% is from business travel. Since business travel is in business class anyway, I can’t use them very often for upgrades.
So, our flight documents for today were upgraded to European Business Class. A slightly better experience than economy.
Some 5 minutes after boarding started, we made our way to the gate with our aircraft: PH-BGC, a Boeing 737-800. Boarding started on-time but we didn't leave on-time. The captain decided to wait for more passengers to show up, as more than half our aircraft was still stuck in security somewhere. So we departed 30 minutes later, around 07:25 instead of 06:50.
We were issued some hand gel and wet wipes, which we used to re-clean our seats just to be sure. For those that don't know, European Business Class is just regular economy seats with the middle seat left empty at the front of the aircraft. Nothing special from a hard-product point of view.
When traveling my son always asks me to bring these toy cars with me and display them everywhere I go. It's kind of a tradition we have now and you can find these cars in several of my FRs!
Pushback at 06:59
It was a clear morning and I had a good window seat, with nothing obstructing my view. So I took the time to do some great spotting at the airport.
KLM Fokker 70 at the sky roof. Not sure if you can visit the plane again. Maybe not due to the chaos at the airport.
PH-BHA B789, the first Dreamliner delivered to KLM
We passed a nice 737-800 taxiing over the airport.
China Airlines A350-900
TUI Boeing 737 Max being towed to its position.
United Boeing 787-8
Take-off from runway 09 the "Buitenveldertbaan" (and I have no clue how to translate that – sorry!! )
07:31 take-off time. You can see we taxied quite a bit over the airport.
The clear day, my window seat and a quiet morning made for some excellent pictures I could make of the scenery in the Netherlands.
Take-off was quick and smooth
The International Golf Course, separated by the highway the A9
View of the Slotervaart neighborhood - one of the suburbs of Amsterdam and the Nieuwe meer (the New Lake).
The zuidas - the financial district of Amsterdam
View from South to North of Amsterdam and how it borders the Ij lake.
The Amsterdam ArenA - home of AFC Ajax. I know next to nothing about soccer, but this landmark is hard to miss.
The City of Naarden, with it's impressive defensive waterworks and positions. To the south of the city, the city of Bussum which has sprawled to Naarden.
The road bridge on the right side of this picture separaters the Gooimeer from the Eemmeer. The landmass at the top of the picture is the beginning of the province of Flevoland which was fully reclaimed from the sea.
We broke through the clouds so I could focus my attention to the service on board this short flight. KLM serves a breakfast in these lovely boxes which are decorated and contain the entire meal
We paired our meal with coffee and orange juice. The middle seat tray table was used for drinks - very convenient!
The meal looked nice: We had salmon and egg salad, fresh fruit, granola and yoghurt. More than I could finish! Below are the pictures of the menu and all the drink choices. Cava at 6am was enough for me - I skipped the alcoholic drinks.
Some details of the breakfast and the packaging. This includes the wooden-shoe-salt-and-pepper-shaker.
We were offered some cool cucumber, spinach and banana drink. I did try it - not my taste
As we flew over Germany, the clouds started to thicken
Around 08:45, we started our descent into Vienna
The legroom situation: enough for me (1m83) but with no room to spare. My wife had more breathing space in her seat.
The Austrian countryside was approaching fast
Touchdown in the rain at 09:02 AM
Deplaning went fast so we went to the baggage carrousel to retrieve our suitcase
Oh dear, I thought I had lost them but they were on our carrousel :)
we made our way outside to meet our taxi driver who took us to the city in 30 minutes.
Overall, my conclusion is:
Schiphol is a mess. If you don't have priority, it's an even bigger mess. Avoid it if you can until they sort this out. On the plus side, the staff is nice, patent and helpful. They really do help you out.
The KLM Crown Lounge was OK, but with the coffee machines out of order and no hot breakfast options, I was sort of bummed out.
The flight was nice and smooth and I was glad I spend some of our miles on the upgrade. The breakfast was nice and the extra legroom welcome. The crew was welcoming and nice - as always
Vienna Airport was smooth, efficient and clean. It reminded me of how travel used to be and - hopefully - soon will be again.
Thanks for reading! Leave a comment or a like - I'd love to know what you think of this FR!