On Monday I took a small group of people to Detroit (we’re still there at time of writing) – we all paid our own way, and because they’re millennials who seem to think anything other than the cheapest seat is almost a sin, and airlines are something you just have to put up with to get where you’re going, they all chose economy, while I chose Delta One, because if you can, you should.
This isn’t about my journey – it’s about one in the group who was prepared to write-up the experience, and he’s a seasoned flyer on European short-haul.
The flight began at check in 24 hours before……so over to Will Ruffan:
Normal practice is to check in on code share flights with the airline you booked the tickets through and whose flight code appears in their app.
Universally this isn’t the case with Delta and KLM. None of us were allowed to check in with the Delta app. It said we had to check in with KLM. You cannot load a Delta ticket code into the KLM app, but you can through their main website on a Mac. If you’re wondering why we booked through Delta and not KLM – if you go via Delta’s website you can use your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club number and collect their miles – otherwise you have to use AF-KLM’s Flying Blue which is no good to anyone in our group.
However it wouldn’t let that happen either for check in despite identifying the correct flight, requiring we check in at the airport only. Not a good start.
Next morning we arrive at Birmingham International Airport at the Air France KLM desk, check in was automated, but there is no automated luggage drop. 40 minutes later somebody eventually turned up and Miss Grumpy checked our bags.
The KLM flight was the usual E190, PH-EZU this time, a fairly new aircraft. It’s barely much over an hour to Amsterdam. Bussed in from the remote aprons, the gate number on the boarding cards D1, was already changed to E2 – a totally different part of the airport, and being a US flight we had to go through transit and security again – with just a 1 hour window it took far too long.
There was no need to worry!
Boarding was delayed due to “aircraft security checks” (it had flown in from Minneapolis three hours before), and didn’t start until 40 minutes after it was supposed to have finished.
While the ground staff tried to keep us informed they could only tell us what they knew, a seemingly endless 5 minutes more, then another, then another.
When it came to boarding I do appreciate that Sky Priority and premium passengers (that’s me, the Editor, he added smugly) get to board first, but it was a little frustrating that we had to wait for ALL OF THEM when they were not ready. Many had wandered off back to their lounge! There were periods of up to five minutes where the gate staff were not boarding anyone at all, as we all stood there in irritated anticipation. Definitely not German efficiency, never had anything like with Lufthansa, BA or Virgin Atlantic.
Economy seats on N821NW – seat 40H
Actually, and too my surprise not too bad, there is plenty of leg room and I didn’t feel squeezed into a seat like on the Virgin Atlantic A333 in standard economy, although it is a bit of a battle for the middle arm rest. My biggest complaint is cleanliness – or should I say a total lack of! There was chewing gum sticking the safety card together, the seat base had gum on it, the tray was full of crumbs and dried something or other, it was quite messy, smeared screen, just rough really.
Initially my screen didn’t work and I had to flag down a flight attendant as the call button is only available as part of the touchscreen. Then was told, in no uncertain terms that it was my fault and I had broken the system! After waiting 10 minutes I asked another crew member, who was totally helpful unlike his colleague, and he reset the system, everything was fine.
There is a fantastic range of movies available but not the most intuitive interface. Featured movies are easy to find but it took a few attempts to figure out how to get to the full listings. Screen quality is great and the USB charger is really handy although it’s not the fastest charge.
There is complimentary WiFi on board but only really enough for messaging apps unless you pay more, but that more than you get with most airlines, and I was happy texting hello messages from over Greenland! Getting into the WiFi system however is a ridiculously complex process and needs urgent streamlining. It also didn’t help that the pilot announced the system was live, and then didn’t turn it on for half an hour afterwards.
Already had one incident mentioned above where I had to ask twice to get my screen fixed having been accused of breaking it. It does appear, after observing the crew, to be a 50/50 split between friendly helpful crew and people who got out of bed the wrong way. I did think of Pam Ann’s act as they walked down the aisle barking “Trash!?” at every passenger.
Some crew didn’t seem very fluent in English and also came across as more than a little a little hostile. A lady opposite my aisle asked some questions about the food and was told “that’s why we give you a menu”. And that was it, no further explanation was given. When you need to be certain about what’s in food, as some people do, that’s a bit short. You’d never have been spoken to like that on Virgin Atlantic, no matter what seat you were in.
You’d better like almonds as both snack packs predominantly featured them, one pack roasted and salted the other with raisins. For my main meal I had chicken risotto and while that was flavourful it was a seriously sloppy, just really glad I had my napkin, it was so full of liquid.
Disembarkation – at Detroit Wayne County was pandemonium. Crew did nothing at all to manage it, indeed seemed more bothered about getting off and picking up their own luggage. I haven’t seen that much pushing and shoving on a flight anywhere I’ve ever been before. Dutch passengers seemed to be in a race and some of the American’s, best described as somewhat above average in weight, were making life a misery trying to push past – zero patience from anyone. Crew should have managed it, but were nowhere to be seen.
Wondering what the flight back on an A359 Friday will be like – I’m right at the back in a window seat!
Outbound flight, if I had to score it 5/10. The crew, the food and the attitude, never mind the lack of cleanliness, really let it down. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience overall.