Wednesday, March 07, 2007

flying (to the) dutch, man

After a harried morning at work, I arrived at SFO with time to spare to take KLM flight 606 to Amsterdam. It's a code share flight with Northwest Airlines, and I had signed up for flight status notification at the Northwest web site. Having used United's EasyUpdate service for many years, I thought NWA's service would be similar.


Two hours before the flight was due to leave (and I was already in queue to go through security), I got the following email in my box from

Flight information is not available for NW flight 8606 scheduled to depart at 3:20 pm on March 6 and arrive in AMS at 10:55 am.

Luckily, the flight information notice, or lack thereof, was the low point of my experience flying KLM to Amsterdam. Flight 606 is a ten-hour nonstop flight aboard a McDonell Douglas MD-11. Depending on which flyer forum you visit, the MD-11 is either the last of a graceful line of three-engine long range aircraft, or it's a dying breed that should be parked in the deserts of Arizona without further delay.

Aside from lacking power ports at any seat on the aircraft, I found the aircraft to be rather comfortably appointed and unless I was looking really really close, I couldn't tell the aircraft hadn't been delivered in just the last couple years (in reality, the last MD-11 was delivered to KLM in 1997).

I'd been assigned seat 6G, an aisle seat, in the World Business Class section, and this sums up the experience:

  • the seat has 150 degree tilt, so is much more comfortable than coach, but in no way a comfortable position for sleeping
  • it has its own video monitor, so you're able to choose among 7 movies and 7 television program packages that run on a 2 hour loop
  • you can learn a surprising amount of useful Dutch by reading the captions to a spoken-english movie
  • shortly after boarding, you're given a convenience bag (with eye blocker, cabin socks, etc), noise-canceling headphones and breakfast menu to make your selections for the next "morning"
  • within the first two hours of flight, dinner is served, cleared and the shades are down and lights lowered to facilitate sleeping (or learning Dutch-by-caption for those of us who are restless)
  • the food was decent fare and the coffee and wine were actually quite good
  • the attending crew are polite and efficient at their tasks
  • the parting "gift" for the business class folks is a miniature model of Old Dutch Houses filled with "the famous Dutch young jenever, distilled by Bols Distilleries." Nice gift for me (at the hotel) and the girls (emptied for home)

In all, quite the pleasant transatlantic experience and I wouldn't hesitate to fly them again (after I return home Sunday, natch)

My Schiphol airport experience can be summed up in one word so far: smoky. What a difference from the clean-air US airports.


Kris said...

So, traveling avec wife, or sans?

Hope the rest of your trips is as nice as your flight.

Daniela said...

How many rolls of toilet paper did they stock in the business class restroom?? :-)