CHECK-IN Conveniently my meeting that day was at Amsterdam Schiphol itself, which meant I had plenty of time before my 1325 flight back to Heathrow on KL1017. As I’d checked-in online I already had my boarding pass printed out, so I walked straight through to the first “airside” gate. For those who’ve never been through Amsterdam Schiphol, once past the check-in stage there is an airside retail area that you’ll need a boarding card to enter. There is no security bag-scan at this stage, unlike Gatwick and Heathrow, for example, where there is a check-in hall separated from the airside/departure gate area by a centralised security zone. At Schiphol, bags are scanned at the gates which would seem a more efficient way of doing things, though it could spread airport resources thinly if security personnel have to move from gate to gate.
BOARDING Even though I had some spare time, I went straight to Gate D12 as quickly as possible to get on with some work on the laptop. Unfortunately there was no free wifi for the normal punters. A screen by the gate said it would open at 1235 with boarding ten minutes later. True to its word, the security gate opened on time and I found myself in another holding area while airport staff checked their passenger lists and sorted a few problems. At 1245, when boarding was supposed to begin, children and priority passengers were let through to the final waiting area and supposedly straight onto the plane, but when I got through I found a long and very much static queue. After a few minutes an announcement revealed that a technical problem with the plane had been found and that we had a new boarding time of 1345 while it was sorted and the work certified. The flight eventually took off just after 1400, so in the end the flight was delayed by around 30 minutes.
THE SEAT The seats on this 127-seat B737-300 are in a 3-3 configuration (ABC-DEF). To see a seatplan, click here.
As I had checked-in online the previous day, I was able to choose an emergency exit row seat. On this B737-300, KLM does not class the this row of seats as “preferred” and so does not charge extra, unlike on the B737-800 which I flew on from LHR-AMS (to see the review click here).
My seat, 10D, was an aisle seat though I wish I could have gone for one of the window seats (10A or 10F). The seat itself was slightly older than on the –800, but it felt slightly wider, probably because it was also the designated disabled seat with a movable aisle-side armrest. There was no IFE and only an in-flight magazine, but this was only a 45-minute flight.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Any on row 10, they’ve tonnes of legroom which is understandable as it’s an emergency exit row. As mentioned earlier, do note that KLM sometimes charges extra for these seats but this is clearly explained when checking-in online.
If I’d had the option I would have gone for seats 10A or 10F, the row’s window seats. This is because row 9 only has four seats (9A and 9F non-existent) to make a clear path to the exit, which means 10A and 10F have a vast amount of legroom. (The chap in 10F was so tall he looked like he needed his seat for medical reasons.)
THE FLIGHT The flight was happily in the air and on its way by 1415. Fifteen minutes later we were offered drinks, including alcohol, and then the same sandwiches that I’d had on an earlier KLM flight (one cheese and one ham). It should be noted that there was no separate vegetarian option, the two sandwiches were packaged together (but in separate compartments). The vegetarian lady behind me had to make do with only one sandwich, though the cabin crew kindly offered her seconds. I probably should have offered to relieve her of her ham sandwiches, purely out of politeness, of course. As on the B737-800 there was no IFE, but the flight was short and I passed the time happily reading.
ARRIVAL At about 1400 (UK time), the captain announced that we had been asked to circle Heathrow by its controllers, because of congestion. After ten minutes of this we began our descent, and we were on the ground by 1515. As I had an aisle seat in the front half of the plane I was able to disembark relatively quickly. There was a slight queue at immigration, but I spent the short time laughing at people trying to use the Iris system with mixed results.
VERDICT It was a shame about the delay, which was compounded by the lateness of my outbound flight earlier in the day. Technical problems do arise and I was happy to wait while it was properly fixed and checked. Otherwise the service was fine and I was very happy with my seat.
PRICE Heathrow-Amsterdam return, mid-week in January from KLM’s website, starts at £171.