KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
by Luigi Vallero
PHOTO: LUIGI VALLERO
Airline: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Flight numbers: KL1596 & KL1631
Sectors: Rome [Roma] Fiumicino (IATA: FCO/ICAO: LIRF) to Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS/EHAM) to Milan [Milano] Malpensa (MXP/LIMC)
Equipment: Boeing 737-300
Departure times: 0635 & 1815
Arrival times: 0850 & 2000
Passenger: Luigi Vallero
At 0530, FCO looked almost ghostly, with few travellers around and all retail outlets closed. This meant that check-in was an extremely quick affair, and within ten minutes of arriving at the terminal I was at gate B01, where another 50 or so passengers had already gathered.
Later that afternoon, check-in was again an extremely quick process, and I had plenty of time to stroll around the pleasant environment of Schiphol, featuring literally dozens of shopping, eating, and entertainment opportunities.
Although no newspapers were available, and the interesting Holland Herald in-flight magazine in the seat pocket was the only reading material offered, passengers were treated to an exceptionally warm welcome by a female flight attendant, acting as purser. The cabin was pleasantly decorated with different hues of blue. After passing the first four rows dedicated to the ‘Europe Select’ business class cabin, with the same six-abreast seating as economy, I reached my window seat, featuring a comfortable contoured back, leatherette headrests, and elegant dark blue and red/orange striped fabric covers. Seat pitch was good.
Sitting behind the emergency exit row, I noticed the care taken by the flight attendants in asking passengers if they felt comfortable sitting there, and then giving instructions on how to operate the exits.
We left the gate seven minutes ahead of schedule, but ATC restrictions caused a hold of almost ten minutes at the threshold of Runway 07. We were finally airborne at 0646.
For the return service, boarding of the less than 50 passengers was completed promptly: again the crew was very pleasant and granted a warm smile and welcome onboard to everybody.
Having been assigned seat 10F, an overwing exit, I was given the safety briefing on how to operate the door, as I had seen being done at the beginning of the morning flight.
Despite everything being ready for an on-time departure, our performance was jeopardized again by ATC, and pushback was delayed by 14 minutes. Taxi time, though, took no more than a few minutes as the runway in use was 24, adjacent to our D pier, and we were airborne by1836.
KLM still considers breakfast an important way to start a day, and shortly after takeoff hot rolls filled with edam cheese were served, followed by a cleverly designed cardboard box containing white yogurt, a bag of cereals and raisins, and a muffin. Hot and cold dinks were also available. All catering items bore both the Délifrance and KLM logos, a smart move to reduce costs by using well known brands.
As the flight progressed over Italy, the Alps and then Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium, we encountered moderate turbulence associated with a strong jetstream.
Descent started at 0830, shortly after passing Brussels [Bruxelles/Brussel], and in the last phases of the flight after a series of intricate manoeuvrings we overflew a wind-swept city of Amsterdam, before letting down on Runway 27 at 0851, and blocking at gate C51 five minutes later.
The return in-flight service, provided by professional and attentive ladies, consisted of a choice of good quality and tasty Bertolli-branded Italian-style tramezzini sandwiches, together with complimentary drinks, followed by the offering of a stroopkoekje Dutch biscuit, served with a choice of hot beverages. Complete flight information was given along the route by a very informative co-pilot, speaking in Dutch, English, and—surprisingly—perfect Italian. After an approach in clouds to a rain-soaked MXP, we landed at 2000 and were at the gate at 2005, five minutes behind schedule.
Two superb flight experiences, with great crews, spotless and comfortable cabin interiors, and innovative and tasty complimentary catering, confirmed that KLM still delivers reliable, dependable, warm and attentive service—even in this cost-conscious world. KLM is, without doubt, a great choice.
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