Editor’s (Beth’s) Note: I want to thank my friend Bruce for his always detailed and interesting flight trip reports. They are always welcome and appreciated!
My sales Vice President back in the United States asked if I could take a day off from my current customer in the East of England and be the face of the company for a sales meeting in Amsterdam with a new prospective customer. The current customer is in Norwich, which means that I can use the nearby NWI (Norwich) instead of taking a train/taxi to Stansted STN or London City LCY, both of which are about two to three hours from Norwich. Heathrow and Gatwick were not possible as they are clear on the other side of London and would be close to four hours each way.
The KLM Cityhopper (WN) operates three flights a day from NWI. These are the only scheduled international flights from this airport, which also has flights to other UK cities and seasonal charter flights to warm places like Tenerife and Sharm el Sheikh. The ticket was purchased by our corporate travel agent and I was able to check in 24 hours prior to departure, selecting an exit row. I have no elite status with any SkyTeam carrier.
Norwich is a small airport with four parallel gates in a common waiting area and no jetbridges. In most cases, passengers use the aircraft’s own stairs. For a small airport, I was surprised to see that they have the usual services – a taxi stand, car rental counters and even a currency exchange (where I paid about a 10% commission to convert £52 to €50). In order to access the departure lounge, you must purchase a £5 “airport expansion fee” ticket. Security was simple and efficient, where they noticed that my contact lens solution was 118ml. The limit is 100ml, so it had to go into the trash. This is the same container that flew IAH/FRA and LHR/MUC/LHR, but I knew better than to do any more than a soft and smiling begging that didn’t help.
Boarding was called on time after the inbound was quickly turned. It was an organized and polite cattle call where the gate agent checked boarding passes against passports. We were the only flight at the airport for over an hour.
The Fokker 70 has 17 rows in a 2 left / 3 right with engines in the rear (similar to the MD-80 series). In the exit row, quite lengthy but not very wide. Under seat storage is not permitted and a flight attendant was on hand to ensure compliance and protect the overhead bin for these passengers.
NWI-AMS is only 135 miles with a schedule of 50 minutes though only 25 minutes of actual air time assuming no ATC delay. Even with this, there is a brief beverage and snack service which consists of a small (less than 3 ounces) orange juice box and a packet of sesame-seed covered wheat things. On board, the Fokker 70 seemed quieter than any aircraft I’ve flown recently.
Arriving in AMS, KLM has a large tarmac ramp laid out much like a parking lot for these Fokker 70s. A bus is there to shuttle passengers to the terminal, which took a few minutes. Entry was very simple and I have a new stamp in my passport. Taxis are easy to find (I paid cash) and I was at the hotel 30 minutes after touchdown.
For the return check-in, KL offered me the exit row for €20. No thanks! I was in 4F instead, a standard economy seat. Interestingly, I was able to select CO for my frequent flier number. It will be interesting to see if anything shows up in my account.
I was unable to locate a lounge after I had passed through Dutch exit security (another stamp). A very large departure gate area, gate D6 is used to access all of the regional jets. I grabbed a table and spotted a US passport, striking up a conversation with an Air Force airman and his wife returning from Rome to his base near Leeds UK. AMS security is per-gate and there are full-body imagers for the D6 departures. I declined the scan (I was apparently one of the first to ever do so) and experienced a very lame pat down. I told the guy so in a friendly way, but he didn’t feel it warranted a second patdown.
Following an “all aboard” call, passports and boarding passes were scanned and we boarded another shuttle bus out to the tarmac, where we climbed up into the plane and boarding passes were checked again. I don’t know if KLM elites received any special treatment and I can’t guess how they could have boarded special assist passengers. The non-exit rows are quite short as legroom goes, but we didn’t have a middle seatmate which made it bearable. A very long taxi, nearly 15 minutes from the departure ramp to 36L, where we were first in line and took off immediately. (Take a look at AMS on Google Earth, 36L is way off to the west!) Wheels up, 15 minutes of cruise and then descent. Again, the small juice box and same foil-packaged snack.
Summary: B-. I really prefer jetbridges to shuttle buses, but the KLM Cityhopper has a double dozen of these regional jets and I suppose a parking lot style is more efficient. Service was fine and I thought the drink/snack was appropriate. Comfort is okay, if you’re in the exit or bulkhead, otherwise, not so good. Fare pricing is beyond exorbitant.
Total Trip Cost: £ 491.65 (about $737)
Actual Airfare: £ 396.00
Actual Miles Flown: 298
Yield: £ 1.329 per mile (about $1.99 per mile)
Taxes & Fees: £ 95.65, 19.45% of ticket price