Airline: KLM Flight #: KL1426 Route: BHX-AMS Class: Economy Seat: 18F Date: Saturday 29th February 2020
Just five days after returning from Dublin, I was back at Birmingham airport to fly to Amsterdam and try another new airline, KLM. KLM is the Dutch flag carrier and in 2019 celebrated its 100th birthday, with the airline being the oldest in continuous operation with the same name. KLM operates up to five return flights a day from its Amsterdam hub to Birmingham and we were booked onto the early afternoon departure, which is generally operated by KLM subsidiary, KLM Cityhopper with one of their Embraer E-jets.
As we arrived at Birmingham International railway station, we had received a text requesting that we checked in our hand luggage due to the flight being busy and so we headed down to check-in to drop these off. This was my first negative experience of Birmingham Airport as after walking to one end of check-in we finally discovered that the KLM desks were at the other end and so after 15 minutes of wandering, we had finally handed over our bags and were on our way to security.
As with the vast majority of economy flights, this one didn’t include lounge access, however as usual I made use of my Dragonpass and we headed to the Aspire Lounge just inside the departure lounge. I’ve already covered this lounge in my Aer Lingus post (here), however this was the first time I had visited the lounge in the middle of the day and I was impressed with the food on offer. I opted for a delicious Pork & Cider dish with rice and some amazing carrot cake for dessert.
The gate was announced about 45 minutes before departure and we headed down to the International Pier which provided great views of the other aircraft on the ramp including a Lufthansa A320 and the Emirates A380. Boarding was initially into an enclosed gate area and then onto the aircraft by boarding groups, with us some of the last to board being in group 5 due to our basic fare tickets. PH-EXC was the aircraft for our flight to Amsterdam and due to the size of the Embraer 190 boarding was via the ramp rather than airbridge which is always a treat for an AvGeek like me.
Boarding was complete five minutes ahead of our departure time at 1340, however shortly after this the captain announced that we were slot restricted and therefore going to experience a 15-minute ground delay due to congestion in Amsterdam. I found the seating onboard the Embraer comfortable and was impressed with the amount of leg (and knee) room for the short flight. We pushed back at 1357, had a quick taxi to Birmingham’s runway 33 and after a short wait for other aircraft took off at 1406.
KLM is one of the European legacy carriers that still offers snacks and drinks for free in economy on its short haul flights and shortly after take-off the crew brought round the trolley to offer this. KLM provide a one size fits all option with us being provided with a cheese spread sandwich, stroop waffle biscuit and cup of water in a cardboard box, with a separate drinks service offering the usual range of hot and soft drinks. Whilst the offering was basic, it is for free and so is more than provided by some airlines, and the one size fits all style makes it much easier for the crew to complete the service on short 45-minute flights such as ours.
After taking off to the north, we made a right turn to the east and headed towards the coast flying over Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk before crossing the coast above the Suffolk town of Southwold. With our route taking us directly across the North Sea towards Amsterdam, we turned to head slightly further north and made landfall in The Netherlands to the south of the town of Alkmaar.
Our arrival into Amsterdam was onto the infamous Polderbaan, Schiphol’s newest runway which requires a long taxi to the airport proper. The approach to the Polderbaan, runway 18R, brought us across the Noordzeekanaal (North Sea Canal), a 16-mile man-made waterway that connects the port of Amsterdam with the North Sea. At the time of construction, the North Lock at the North Sea mouth of the canal was the largest canal lock in the world.
Landing at 1451, just 45-minutes after leaving Birmingham, we had a lengthy 15-minute taxi from the Polderbaan to the area of Schiphol that used to affectionately be known as the ‘Fokker Farm’. This area is the main parking stands for the aircraft of KLM Cityhopper, which prior to the current Embraer fleet, operated a fleet of Dutch made Fokker aircraft.
My first flight with the Dutch flag carrier was short and sweet one and I was impressed. For a short-haul economy product, there was plenty of legroom and whilst the service offering was basic, it was included in the ticket price. As always, departing from Birmingham was painless and arriving at Amsterdam only took time due to the sheer size of the airport (and the 15-minute Polderbaan taxi!) Most importantly the KLM crew were excellent, providing the service efficiently and with smile, despite the short flight time. Whilst excited for the four days in The Netherlands, this flight also left me looking forward to the flight home and more of KLM’s hospitality.
Lounge 0* Seat/Facilities 3* Food 3* Service 5* Punctuality 5* Overall Rating 16/25 (read about my rating system here!)