Check-in at VNO was quick and easy. VNO does not have dedicated counter space for any one airline. Rather, overhead monitors display which check-in counter is for which airline at that time, and signage can be moved around.
After I had checked my bag and gotten through security, I wandered through a large section of duty free items before finding the lounge. The lounge was mostly empty, and I didn’t have much time. The lounge featured a self-service bar, with some wine, Lithuanian herbal liqueurs, and other spirits.
Beverages and breakfast pastries. A nice spread for this boutique lounge. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson
There was a also a fancy coffee machine. At this early in the morning, I was not in the mood for alcohol but coffee was a must have. Specifically, coffee with two cubes of sugar.
An airBaltic A220 pulls up to the gate at AMS. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson
The advertisement on the jet bridge read “Uncharted Territory,” as an airBaltic Airbus 220-300 pulled in at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport (AMS) in December of 2019. This was the plane that would be taking me into territory that was personally uncharted for me. First, I was flying to Vilnius (VNO), the capital of Lithuania, where I had never been. Second, it was a type of aircraft that I had never flown on before. Third, it was also on an airline that I had never flown before, airBaltic.
To Lithuania In Economy Class on airBaltic’s A220
The boarding lanes prior to boarding. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson
The boarding process at AMS involved lining up by fare class purchased, as displayed by overheard monitors. I lined up in the economy line, scanned my boarding pass, and walked down the jetway, towards uncharted territory. As I boarded the plane, I was struck by how spacious the cabin felt. At 6’2″, there was plenty of space for me to stand up.
The seats were arranged in a 3-2 configuration, similar to old McDonnell Douglas models. The windows were larger than those in preceding narrow body aircraft models. This allowed enough natural light into the cabin that the overhead lighting almost made no difference. The interior was mostly a light gray with neon green accents. Between the amount of natural light and the color scheme, the cabin gave off the feeling that you were almost in a modern day office.
I made my way past the first two rows, which were in the business class cabin, to row 14. Seat 14F was on my left, the side with three seats in the row. As it is an exit row seat, my bags had to go in the overhead bin rather than beneath the seat in front of me. AirBaltic equipped their A220s with Airbus’ Airspace bins, ensuring plenty of room for everyone’s carryon luggage. I put my bags in the bin and sat down.
KLM 737-900 (PH-BXT) at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, ready to take us to Prague, with a 737-700 (PH-BGW) taxiing behind
Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij is not exactly a household name in most of the world, but its initials “KLM” and sky blue branding and livery are easily recognizable. I had a quick visit to Amsterdam before moving on to Prague this past spring, so flying on the national carrier of The Netherlands out of its homebase was the most obvious choice.
As I’ve pointed out numerous times, the European concept of business class (some better service, but the same seat as in economy, just with the middle seat blocked) is never worth it on personal trips, especially for a short flight blocked for 90 minutes gate-to-gate. Addtionally, flying KLM (being a member of SkyTeam) meant flying outside my alliance, so no priority anything nor lounge access.
There are many airline take off videos out there, but not too many that are able to catch a take off head on. Blog reader SpeedbirdHD got this video of a KLM Boeing 747-400 (PH-BFO) taking off from Amsterdam (AMS).
“We will stop the route AMS-MIA per summer 2012 (as of March 25 2012),” KLM spokesperson explained to AirlineReporter.com. “With the start of a fourth daily frequency Atlanta-Amsterdam, we have a good indirect alternative within the Joint Venture with Delta.”
It is always sad to see a classic tri-holer pull out of a market. Sure, for an average passenger, I would imagine they would rather fly on one of KLM’s newer A330s, but for us aviation enthusiasts, the MD-11 is the classic bird of choice.
KLM is still operating 10 of the MD-11s in commercial service and seven in their cargo fleet (as of March 2011). They are the only airline in the world still running the MD-11 on scheduled passenger service.
When asked if there were any solid plans on replacing the MD-11, the airline stated, “KLM is continuously monitoring her fleet development, and at this moment KLM has no exact dates as yet to retire the MD-11.”
KLM still regularly flies the MD-11 to San Fransisco and Vancouver, so enjoy spotting them in North America while they are still around. With fuel prices continuing to rise, it is unclear how much longer we will be seeing the blue MD-11s.