As I hinted at in my previous post, flying from Manchester where many destinations are one change away whoever you fly with, it’s often as easy to fly with KLM and change in Amsterdam as it is to fly with British Airways and change in Heathrow. My 2020 travel kicked off with a meeting in Amsterdam followed quickly by a meeting at CERN in Geneva. The best option for this turned out to be flying with KLM to Amsterdam, spending a couple of nights there for the first meeting, flying down to Geneva and spending a couple more nights there for the second meeting, before retracing my steps at the end of the week to head home.
Perhaps it was a quirk of the multi-city booking, but even though the flights were cheap and I was in economy, I ended up with a booking class that gave me a choice of seats before check-in (I’ve looked at future bookings, but I’ve not been so lucky with them, it’s £9 to reserve a standard seat and £13 to reserve a seat with extra legroom). As a result, for three of the four sectors I was able to choose a window seat somewhere between rows 7 and 9 (for the final sector I was in row 22), and when I checked in on the app, I ended up with a boarding pass that said “Sky Priority” and boarding zone 2.
KLM leaves from the same terminal at Manchester as British Airways, terminal 3, and security there needs no further discussion. Naturally, no fast-track access, but a lunchtime departure meant the queues were short. I’ve managed to avoid a bag being sent to secondary screening for most of my recent trips, and managed to do it again this time, although there is always that moment when the bag pauses at the junction of the belts and you’re thinking it has been there a couple of seconds too long and is about to be sent behind the barrier.
No KLM status, so therefore I had no lounge access, but at least being an off-peak time there were spare seats in the departure area to settle down and do a bit of work.
Priority boarding worked well and there didn’t appear to be that many passengers that had it. It turned out to be useful as I had a carry-on bag and space in the overhead lockers ended up quite tight. It may be my imagination, but the seats in the 737-700, -800 and -900 of the trip felt a bit narrower than the Airbus 319/320/321 on BA, and on three out of the four legs there was someone in the middle seat whose elbows were well over the armrest, making for very uncomfortable flights as I tried to contort myself around a stranger’s left arm. The other flight was a dream in comparison as a colleague was booked into the B seat, but C ended up as a no-show, so we had the row of three to ourselves. Small things and all that.
For a small charge there is the option of “Economy Comfort” seats — I hadn’t chosen them, but SeatGuru suggests they have a couple of extra inches of leg-room.
Something that KLM still provides is a complimentary drink and a snack. On the various flights I’ve had a cheese sandwich, a wrap, and a slice of cake as the snack; a small cup of water with a foil lid (there’s probably something that can be done there to reduce the use of plastic); plus coffee, tea, or juice for the drink.
Despite Schiphol being their home airport, KLM isn’t exempt from being sent to the Polderbaan for landing, with the ensuing quarter-of-an-hour taxi to the terminal building. On the return journey I had nearly three hours between flights. Fortunately Schiphol is such a vast airport that you can largely wander freely about, it’s possible to find a quiet corner when you need to make a couple of phone calls without disturbing anyone. I’m not sure the same can be said of Heathrow Terminal 5, even with access to a lounge!
One thing that both Geneva and Schiphol have over Manchester Airport is the use of 3D scanners to check your carry-on luggage. With these everything stays inside your bag, and I mean everything — laptops, iPads, bags of liquids, just plonk it in a tray and wait for it to emerge at the other end. The speed of the operators seems to vary quite a bit, but the whole process is so much easier, especially if you’re not used to travelling and forget to pull something out of your bag and place it on a separate tray for scanning. Roll-on the introduction of them to Manchester Airport, please!
The final flight home was the one where I was in row 22. The airport decided to disembark from both the front and the rear doors, but it took some time to get the steps up to the rear doors. Do you want to guess which of the 33 rows was the last one out of the plane?