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Travel

KLM100- Memories of a Frequent Flyer

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I’ve been a frequent flyer jetting around Europe since August 2014. Whilst British Airways is my main airline with a good 55 flights logged, followed by budget Ryanair with another 24 flights- my third most flown is Dutch flag carrier KLM. 

I have flown KLM and its KLM Cityhopper subsidiary 16 times since March 2015, when I took the first of many rides with them. I’ve flown them across Europe, to/from the United States and on my first trip to the Caribbean. On October 7th 2019, KLM becomes the first airline to celebrate their 100th Birthday, still operating under their original name.

I’ve had a Flying Blue account since early 2015, and it was my first Frequent Flyer program, I’ve done flights with Air France, Garuda Indonesia, Delta Airlines and China Airlines to gain miles and qualifying flights, but KLM is my favourite from the Skyteam pack and I’ve done more Skyteam flights with them than any of the others.

Earlier in 2019, I did an article on the 100 years of KLM, but on this special day- I wanted to look at some of my favourite KLM moments from my touring days! So without further ado, let’s have a look back over the last few years!

“Pelikaan” My First KLM Flight

My first trip on KLM got off to a slight rocky start.

I had booked a flight from London Heathrow to Amsterdam Schipol on my first proper Aviation holiday to Holland. I was due to fly on a KLM Cityhopper Fokker F70, a type of aircraft that was flying its twilight years for the airline, however on the evening of March 28th 2015- things went off….

The UK and Netherlands (among other countries) were hit by storms that caused a back log and shake up of the airlines and their schedules. My Fokker was cancelled by KLM, mainly as it couldn’t leave Amsterdam. Given how small some of these regional jets are, I don’t blame KLM for taking such drastic action! Safety has to be the number one priority for all airlines after all!

We went to Terminal 4 at London Heathrow any way and spoke to the Customer Service, I told the person my situation and a gentleman representing KLM overheard and called me and my dad to the business class check in desk and explained we were able to be transferred to another delayed flight that evening which had available seats, which was an amazing thing to hear!

In no time at all, we were rebooked onto KLM 1028, a Boeing 737-700 registered PH-BPG and named “Pelikaan”, despite the situation- I was allocated a window seat with my dad next to me- a huge thumbs up moment!

We boarded the KLM 737 and the plane departed just gone 21:00pm UK time. The aircraft didn’t have an empty seat on that flight. The crew handed out snack packs and drinks. The flight being only 50 minutes there wasn’t much else to report once we were underway. 

Arriving into Amsterdam Schipol, I was allowed a flight deck visit (despite the plane being 2 hours late). I had a quick talk with the co-pilot who was understandably tired and glad to have his chaotic day over. I thanked the crew for a nice flight and that concluded my first flight!

A huge thank you is owed to the ground staff at LHR for handling the situation and being able to transfer me & my dad to another KLM flight that night. It pretty much saved the rest of the 3 day trip!

 

The Fokker Files

I’m a huge fan of “T-Tail” aircraft. I love the sleek design of them. Whether it be the Boeing 727, McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 family, Embraer E-120 “Brasilia”, BAC 1-11 or Fokker regional jets (F28, F70, F100). But by 2016 in Europe, the Fokker F70 from KLM was my only main source of regular flights on a T-tail airliner.

My 2015 trip was a flop with the Fokker, but I wasn’t put off!

May 2016 I had a plan to secure a Fokker F70. Earlier in the year, KLM had launched daily flights with the Fokker F70 from Southampton Airport in the South of England. The airline was bringing in brand new Embraer E-190 and E-175 jets into the KLM Cityhopper fleet and the 25 year old Fokker F70 fleet was on their way to new homes in Australia and Africa, like the previous Fokker F50 fleet in 2010 and Fokker F100 fleet in 2011.

I bought a return trip for another 3 days to Amsterdam, but instead of London Heathrow, which was only 20 minutes drive from me, I chose a new airport for my growing log- Southampton Eastleigh, an airport which in 1936 had the honour of hosting the first flight of the iconic British aircraft, Supermarine Spitfire.

Parking up and transiting to the Terminal, me and my dad sat up in the air side Costa Coffee shop in the airport, which has a great view of the runway. Observing the multiple Flybe Dash 8 movements, a Munich bound BMI Regional Embraer E-135 and a Blue Island ATR on a Jersey service- my KLM Cityhopper Fokker F70 arrived in the guise of PH-KZK. This was to be my first Fokker F70!

The plane boarded like all the other flights at SOU- Open! I love an open board/disembarkation regardless of the weather. Great opportunity when taking a few holiday photographs. The seats I selected were in Row 9 over the wing. It felt odd looking at a wing with no engine, given I’d been flying a lot of Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 at this point.

The clean and fresh looking cabin had blue leather seating in a 2-3 abreast configuration. Very similar design seen on the McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 and preserved BAC 1-11, which have a similar fuselage design.

We took off on time, and headed off across the East of England, avoiding London as best we could and across the North Sea towards the Netherlands. The crew did a snack service, unlike my previous flight- this service offered a lunchbox with a sandwich, stroopwaffle, water and I asked for a can of cola as well. Wasn’t a lot, but I enjoyed it!

We landed at Amsterdam about 10 minutes behind schedule, due to holding for arrival into Amsterdam. Proceeding to park on the remote stand with all the other KLM Cityhopper aircraft and some French HOP! regional jets. Despite the bus service, I managed to bag a quick flight deck visit and photograph to mark my first KLM Fokker F70 flight!

I ended up by October 28th 2017 logging up 6 flights on the KLM Fokker F70. Getting two flights on PH-KZK, and a flight on PH-KZE, PH-KLZ and the last flight I ever did…

 

End of an Era- Farewell Fokker!

Having operated Dutch built Fokker aircraft for the last 97 years, KLM finally said goodbye to Fokker in October 2017, 21 years since the company went bankrupt.

The Embraer E-175/190 fleet had taken over, given that KLM couldn’t get new Fokker planes, they had to look elsewhere in the mid-2000’s.

Given flying on KLM1070 from LHR to AMS and returning the next day was coming in at £460 return, I thought I wouldn’t see the last KLM Fokker F70 in action, however as luck would have it, I checked a day trip flying out on a Boeing 737 in the morning and returning on the in-bound KLM1079….. £90 return!

It is fair to say, at that price- I wasn’t going to sit this out! We’ll look at my outbound flight later, let’s focus on the Fokker for now!

 

I was ready to come home, I had gone to the Amsterdam Hard Rock Cafe and toasted the final Fokker flight with an “Electric Blues” cocktail for good luck. I was wearing a white t-shirt which I had printed on a special design, making this a unique one off t-shirt just for the event. I had also brought along three felt tip pens- red, orange and blue.

As was normal with UK bound KLM Cityhopper flights, we bussed from the D6 gates to the aircraft, which fittingly was PH-KZU painted up in the Anthony Fokker livery, A tribute to the Dutch Aviation pioneer. getting to the aircraft there was a flock of media personal from the Dutch media, Schipol media team and KLM media team- all filming and photographing for the final service of the Fokker F70.

It was a big moment in Dutch Aviation history and I was pleased to be a very small part of it. If you watch the official Schipol video of the final flight- you can actually see me very briefly.

We boarded the plane and there was a clear 50-50 divide from the passengers. Half of them being Fokker F70 fans here for the final flight, the other half normal passengers oblivious to what is happening.

There were six crew instead of four on this flight. The three pilots included the Chief Captain of the Fokker 70 fleet, a veteran British captain who was on his final flight and a Dutch First Officer who was going to be transferring to the Boeing 777 fleet. Like wise all three Stewardesses had important links: the lead cabin crew member was the chief cabin crew for the F70 fleet, the second crew member was a stewardess on the first Fokker F70 flight to LHR back in 1993 and the third flight attendant was the last cabin crew member signed off on the Fokker fleet.

After a speech regarding the occasion, the captain and the crew took off and the plane began its 50 minute flight to London Heathrow, which was KLM’s first route and the first route the F70 flew in 1993.  After enjoying a refreshingly cold can of Heineken, I went around the cabin crew with my pens asking them to sign my shirt, all three ladies agreed, also leaving messages relating to the Fokker retirement. The Chief Captain came out to speak to the passengers, and he also willingly obliged to sign my shirt.

Briefly circulating above London, we finally touched down and for once I (along with most the other passengers) gave a round of applause. The flight had lasted about 55 minutes. Parking at London Heathrow’s Terminal 4, I visited the flight deck quickly for one last view of the F70 flight deck. The co-pilot was conversing with another Dutch F70 enthusiast, but I got a signature on my shirt from the co-pilot.

Exiting the plane (which was on a jet-way) I met the captain of the flight and he gladly signed my shirt, I bid him and the crew a safe journey home as well as wishing him an enjoyable retirement, and getting a picture with one of the cabin crew before ending my trip.

It was a shame to see such a lovely aircraft retire, but all things must go on. Two Fokker F100 remain in Holland in KLM colours offering a piece of history to look back and admire!

Pelikaan Reunion- Taking Care of Business!

On my way from London Heathrow to Amsterdam to enjoy the Fokker Retirement, I took the KLM flight KL1000 which departs LHR at 06:00am. To my surprise I found myself reunited with “Pelikaan”, the Boeing 737-700 which had done my first KLM flight three and a half years previously.

On top of this, just a week earlier I had invested £66 to upgrade to Business Class on this flight. I had flown with Swiss Avro RJ100 and LATAM Boeing 787 in 2017 in Business Class upgrades, and I was interested in trying KLM’s product to compare. I had done a few flights already, but none had been cheap, it was an impulse and I regret nothing to this day!

Getting to Terminal 4, I made a dash for the SKYTEAM Lounge for just after 4am. I desperately wanted to try the lounge out! As it was early morning, I was the only person in the lounge for a while. I took the opportunity to do a little bit of discreet filming for my video, and I enjoyed a complimentary shower.

Probably a controversial decision, but I decided to make the most of a bottle of vodka left out. A quadruple shot’s worth plus some orange juice alongside my breakfast- enjoyable! Even though it was 04:30am…..

I left the lounge around 05:20am, to get to the Gate ready to board. I had priority boarding, flying business class, so I was one of the first on the plane.

I settled into my reserved seat of 4F. The legroom was better than the economy seats behind me, despite being the exact same seats across the entire aircraft. Lucky for me, no one occupied the isle seat (4D) and as 4E is blocked off, I got the entire row to myself! A huge bonus in my book!

Being 6am in the morning, the flight took off on time and we didn’t have a long taxi or wait. So in roughly 10 minutes of pushing back from T4, we were rolling down the runway and taking off!

The service that morning was a full continental cold breakfast. More substantial and upmarket compare to the small sandwich they give you in economy. The breakfast included: three Dutch cheeses, ham, a vanilla yogurt, a small fruit bowl, croissant, bread roll with  butter and strawberry jam available and a choice of tea or coffee. It was lovely and filling for the short flight at hand, and easy for the crew to prepare.

We arrived in Amsterdam just after 9am, it was a bit of a windy approach with the autumn in the Northern parts of Europe often kicking up strong gusts. But we landed all good on the first go! After a short taxi to the gates, I exited via a quick visit to the flight deck, a very surreal feeling of Deja Vu. Going in an seeing the captain’s seat I had sat in 3 years previously after the stormy flight right in front of me!

 

Going Long Haul- Flying the Queen of the Skies!

I made my first trip to America in January 2018, I had plenty of options for flights. But I settled on flying KLM long haul and starting off with a flight to Los Angeles. Especially as it offered me a chance to fly on my first Boeing 747-400!

I positioned up to Oslo, Norway on January 20th, then flew the following day to Amsterdam on a Boeing 737-700, I departed the aircraft at Amsterdam Schipol and found my Gate which was occupied by a massive 28 year old KLM Boeing 747-400M in the form of PH-BFH “City of Hong Kong”. Another interesting note is that this Boeing 747-400 is a rare “Combi” model.

Getting on board the mighty Boeing 747, I took my seat in Seat 22K, next to the engines of the mighty aircraft, and in the cabin to my left, there was the office area for the purser on the flight.

The flight pushed back about 20 minutes later than scheduled, and then proceeded a pro-longed taxi to the Polderbaan before taking off some 40 minutes after our scheduled departure time.

It was a clear day as we left Amsterdam. We headed towards the North of England and then proceeded towards Iceland and Greenland on our way across to Los Angeles.

The initial snack service was a pack of almonds with a drink (in my case Orange Juice). Followed an hour later by the main meal service, which I chose the meatballs option which came with a standard side of: a salad, water, bread roll, chocolate mouse and a choice of beverage, which I picked Heineken- why wouldn’t you on a KLM flight?

The IFE Screen was clearly older than some of the other long haul aircraft I had flown in the months before this flight, but it worked fine and I enjoyed following the map, watching Undercover Boss USA, Bones, Family Guy amongst other provided options.

Midway through the flight I got up to stretch my legs and have a wonder around the cabin for some pictures, I do intend to get one last Boeing 747-400 flight with KLM- but just in case things don’t go to plan, I thought now seemed a good time to explore. Grabbing pictures of the galley, from the back of the plane and sneakily a shot of the upper deck from the back of the cabin, not wanting to disturb the business class passengers.

Two more services came on the flight which included an ice-cream about 4 hours from arrival then about 2 hours from arrival, the second meal service which consisted of a margarita pizza, salad, desert and a water. 

After cruising across Northern Canada and various US states that include: Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and finally California. We began our decent into Los Angeles. This flight lasted about 10 hours and 30 minutes in the air, making it my longest direct flight to date in both distance and time airborne. 

All in all I was extremely happy with the KLM long haul product. Food was a decently good quality for an economy flight, the entertainment featured a great selection, the seat on the Boeing 747 was comfortable, the legroom was fantastic- though I did get a seat with improved legroom. I left the aircraft feeling positive about flying KLM again long-haul in the future, and I sure came back for more!

 

KLM100 & TMD22 at SXM

I wanted to go to Sint Maarten for a very long time. My 22nd birthday was coming around, and it seemed like a good time to get it done. Especially since KLM was turning 100 years old in 2019- it seemed a good reason to do so.

So I booked a week long multi-city trip covering Sint Maarten, Miami and New York. With SXM taking up 4 of the 8 days I would be travelling.

I flew out to Amsterdam on February 9th 2019, I decided on a day in AMS because the flight was leaving at 9:05am on February 10th and taking an evening flight seemed like a waste of a good opportunity to visit one of my favourite cities.

Unfortunately for me, KLM had retired the Boeing 747-400 from the Sint Maarten route in March 2016, so my ride would be on a more modern, but not so charismatic, Airbus A330-300, the only Airbus product in the KLM fleet, and quite frankly a plane that in my view doesn’t fit in with the fleet. Non the less, despite my lack of enthusiasm on the A330- I do like the fact its has two-abreast seating at the window, instead of three.

The Airbus A330-300, which was PH-AOD delivered in June 2006, had a modernised cabin as it had been revamped the previous year. The seats were comfortable and covered in a dark blue fabric which was great given that KLM had fitted them with the modern industry standard slimline seats. The IFE Screen was the modern type seen on similar aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 777-300/787 Dreamliner. Legroom was still plenty for me personally.

The aircraft departed on time and contained a good 80-85% capacity on this nine hour flight to the Caribbean. Though the plane would then carry on to another Dutch Caribbean island, Curaçao, before flying back to Amsterdam.

The food service was very much the same as the KLM 747 the previous year, showing a level of consistency. I had the meatball option again, which this time came with a leaf salad, almond cake and this time crackers & cheese. Later on in the flight an ice cream was offered, but this time in a cone rather than a pot like last time and the lunch before arrival was a margarita pizza, a rice salad and a toffee pudding. 

The IFE was still able to provide a good selection of the latest films and tv shows. I really enjoyed seeing Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time, and what a way to be introduced to such a film. I found an episode of the British reality show “Hotel Inspector” in the mix, which I found an odd find for KLM, but I enjoyed the watch!

We arrived on time into Sint Maarten, passing over Maho Beach- the main reason for my trip, and landed. After parking up, I quickly visited the flight deck and thanked the pilots for the awesome flight before disembarking the aircraft on a remote stand, something I was quite happy about, getting a decent picture of my big blue A330 in the Caribbean sunlight!

Despite the works going on at SXM Airport due to the Hurricane damage from Irma in 2017, I was able to get through immigration and get to Maho beach in time to see the aircraft depart Sint Maarten for Curaçao.

 

Birthday Dreams

Coming to the end of my trip to Amsterdam, Sint Maarten, Miami and New York- I crammed a lot in one week! I ended the trip on my birthday flying on KLM’s newest fleet addition: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner!

The Dreamliner seating was the same as the Airbus A330, albeit in a 3 abreast configuration on the Dreamliner by the window. One notable difference was the inclusion of the cup holder on the bottom of the tray table, which was absent on the Airbus A330. The Dreamliner also had a solid table, where as the A330 had a folding  tray table.

The in flight entertainment was the same as the out bound flight, and I still had options to try, despite watching a few different options on the outbound flight. Family Guy and Undercover Boss USA (updated from the 747 episode) started me off that flight.

As it was an overnight red-eye flight, we departed after dark and most the flight was at night, making photography and filming difficult. But it was a comfortable flight and I got some sleep on the aircraft.

The meal on the flight was the same as the A330/747 flights, but I jazzed up my meal by having the vegetarian pasta option which came a salad, chocolate cake, crackers and cheese. The breakfast given out to us as we came up to the British isles, included a cheese sandwich, strawberry yogurt, water with a choice of beverage.

We arrived early into Amsterdam, about quarter to five in the morning, so it was still dark as the dawn had yet to rise. It had a benefit of allowing us to land without holding, leading a straight run into Amsterdam.

I managed to grab a quick flight deck visit, which is something KLM pilots always seem ok with. I love how KLM crews are usually avgeek friendly and a lot of them are aviation enthusiasts themselves. 

 

All in all a lot of good memories and experiences built up over the years flying on KLM- Royal Dutch Airlines. Its a big milestone for them to reach their 100th Anniversary and I am hoping to gain many more flights with them across the world!

 

Tyler McDowell
Tyler McDowell is Travel Radar Media's UK Based Travel Writer, focusing on the latest airline and route news, loyalty, trip reviews and fleet profiles. Tyler has long loved aviation, beginning writing and photographing at the age of 16.

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