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Waiting patiently in the departure lounge prior to boarding our KLM service from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam, I felt a little like a zombie. My eyes still glazed over from the minimal sleep on the previous nights service from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur - I was far from looking forward to the 12 hour 40 minute flight to Amsterdam.
Then something happened that turned my thinking on a dime. The flight crew! As they walked through security and passed my row of seats in the terminal lounge, they all smiled, and they greeted every single person they walked passed with a "hello" or "good morning" - From the Pilot to the Cabin crew. One approach, one impression, and one result - All the passengers started smiling.
Maybe this is normal for KLM? I'm not sure, as today is my first flight with the airline - What I do know is that from that moment in the preflight lounge onwards, I experienced one of the best examples of customer service on a long haul flight (if not THE best). The crew were amazing, the food was comforting and tasty, and the newly styled slimline seating first rate - adding to the flights charms, is the fact that today's KL812 service is only 70% full and I was granted 3 seats to myself in the Premium Economy section.
The IFE was packed with current movies releases and TV shows from around the globe to help the time pass quickly, and the cabin crew were extremely attentive to your needs and more than happy to stop by for some friendly banter.
With 3 hours of the flight to go, somewhere just south of a Moscow, the Captain showed up with a cart and served drinks to the entire aircraft - Yes that's right, the Captain of the flight. (Again, this might be par for the course on a KLM flight but this was a first for me!)
The flight arrived in Amsterdam on time, and the same smiles that greeted us over 13 hours ago were there to wish us farewell. For me, this experience makes KLM well worth an Asian stoppover, to catch them onwards to Europe.
They do lots of the little things right, adding up to some wonderful service.
Author: James Lusher
Flight: KL812 KUL-AMS 17/06/2017
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A flying adventure around NSW onboard a Saab 340B with REX Airlines... Sure! Why not?
Destination, Sydney... Yes, Sydney! First we would be travelling an hour and a half to Mildura, then 30 minutes up to Broken Hill and 2 hours back to Sydney.
Departure time was just after 12pm and the weather in Sydney was sunny, 32 degrees with light winds from the south. A forecast cool change was due into the harbour city about 5pm that evening with expected thunderstorms around that time but thankfully we weren't due back till around 6:30pm.
The aircraft for our flight was VH-ZXF (pictured above). A pre-loved aircraft sporting a wonderful hybrid livery that first flew with Mesaba Airlines back in 1997. Configured as most Saab 340's are with 1-2 seating configuration - 34 passengers and 3 crew at maximum capacity. The pilot's were brilliant, keeping the passengers informed all the way, and the sole flight attendant was fantastic, leaving you with no questions that she knew what she was doing.
The flight departed on time and after a couple of decades of flying in large commercial aircraft, the buzz, prop noise, vibration and inflight sensitivity of the Saab 340B brought a huge smile to my dial. "This is Flying" I audibly said to myself as we took off, and I could immediately see why the pilot's love this aircraft.
Weather on route to Mildura was 50/50.. The first 50% of the flight was gorgeous, with a 14,000ft elevation and clear skies. The last 50% of the journey saw us flying smack into the cool change, with low cloud and a 60knt headwind on the nose. The inclement weather brought about several altitude changes as the pilot's looked to find some air that was 'a little less in our faces', but alas, this was not to be and we arrived in Mildura roughly 20 minutes behind schedule.
Service on the flight was a Carmen's muesli bar and water. Spartan, but I heard no complaints.
After a very brief stop at the deserted Mildura Airport, we were in the air again and flying below the cloud base. Granted the sightseeing wasn't the best due to the weather, but flying this short route leaves you with no doubting that you're in Australia!
Before I knew it, the aircraft was descending into Broken Hill and this seemed to be the main destination for the passengers onboard. Only 6 people disembarked in Mildura, and now the remaining 17 people left the aircraft.
Our scheduled time on the ground was a mere 20 minutes as the aircraft re-fuled for the final sector back to Sydney. However the weather back home was playing havoc with the airport and our flight was pushed out by a further 25 minutes. This allowed me the time to speak with the Captain of our flight and take a brief look around the aircraft and airport.
What I never expected to see (and shame on me as i've lived in the outback before) was the flight crew assisting the checking in of the passengers for the return flight! Broken Hill airport had only 2 staff on hand to assist, One with the boarding process, and the other to remove the luggage and refuel the aircraft. But that's life in a small town.. And this was a nice reminder of simpler ways of life.
After the brief delay, our 2 hour flight back home to Sydney was pushed along nicely by the same winds that hindered our initial progress West! The aircraft was carrying only 12 passengers on this leg so it felt less cramped than previously and this time I was cheeky enough to ask for a second muesli bar! To which the flight attendant smiled and returned replied "of course!" - Why hadn't I asked for another on the first flight... Ha!
I recall feeling a little sleepy on this final sector. Perhaps the hum of the Saab 340 and gentle rocking of the turbulence aided my need to check my eyelids for cracks.. I woke up just as we overflew Sydney airport and realised we had made up all the time lost through the day.
I couldn't speak highly enough of the crew, and the experience of my afternoon at altitude. Regional Express operate into distant and remote parts of the country that are unforgiving by nature. Even with the recent spate of events that cast a temproray shadow on the airline, I would have no hesitation is selecting them for my next regional flights because I had so much fun! I saw so much of our beautiful state and I met a professional and extremely friendly crew who made my day even better then expected.
Setting The Scene
I have always looked forward from my economy seat with huge volumes of envy (as I'm sure we all do). Pondering what amazing meal was being served, how much better it would feel to lay flat whilst watching a movie and how well rested I would feel at the end of the flight.
I'm 6 foot 1 inch, not huge by any means, but tall enough to feel the spatial lacking of the economy class seat pitch and leg room. Hence, stepping into the beautiful Cathay Pacific's Business Class cabin was a dream come true.
For me, the Business Class experience, and the difference between it, and Economy Class comes down into 3 main features, Comfort, Customer Service & Overall Feel.
Space is something you become immediately aware of. From the moment you walk through the front door, you notice the light, spacious isle's in the large 1-2-1 configured cabin. Space means everything when you are travelling long distances, and due to the seating arrangement, you are barely aware of your fellow passengers which only adds to the comfort levels and feeling of relaxation.
The seats themselves are plush, and so wide and comfortable that you have little choice but to relax. With a simple flick of a button, you can alter the seat from sitting upright, to being fully flat inside of 1 minute. There's also 3 other adjuster buttons to mix and match the seat to suit your exact needs. For the 9 hour flight (SYD-HKG) I remained in a semi-flat state for at-least three quarters of the journey, and left the aircraft feeling fresh and ready to go! It was everything I'd ever hoped for.
The personal touch is something the Cathay Pacific crew are brilliant at. From your initial check in, to your entry into the aircraft, you are greeted with a welcoming smile and to be personally greeted by name and then shown to my seat, really set the tone for my CX110 flight from Sydney to Hong Kong. Does it get much better? Yes it does! Within minutes of sitting down, and after rapidly pawing at the seat options and IFE controller, you are presented with a beautiful array of drinks. Juices, Champagne, Water or anything you would like. I chose to enjoy the Oriental Breeze, a beautiful mix of Plum tea, cranberry juice, lemon juice, rose tea and honey. It's an absolute winner! Every interaction with the warm and friendly crew begins with your name "Mr Lusher, Would you like..." and it's always a done in a very personal manner, not automated or robotic by any means.
Throughout this flight, we were presented with endless array of world class food and beverage options. Every course was well thought out, and perfectly prepared, to the point where I exited the aircraft vowing to take a break from food for a day - I was full to the brim and overwhelmed with the attention to detail and outstanding service Cathay Pacific had provided.
As mentioned at the outset, this was my first experience in Business Class. I have read dozens and dozens of reviews about Cathay Pacific, and other airlines, but nothing could prepare me for the outstanding door to door service that was to come. I cannot recommend Cathay highly enough. Their product is first rate. Their service was world class, and as I was to discover, this is not limited to 40,000 feet in the air. I'll soon be posting a review regarding the Cathay Pacific Lounges located in Hong Kong Airport where excellence is taken a step further!
Have you flown Business Class with Cathay Pacific before? I'd love to hear your stories - Comment below!
Reviewer: James Lusher
How often in life do you find two things that you love so dearly, wrapped up in the one parcel?
For me, it's plane spotting and quality travel accommodation.. Seems that i'm asking a lot, right? Wrong!
Rydges Sydney Airport Hotel meets both of these interests seamlessly. Located just a 2 minute walk from Sydney International airport terminal, this modern and stylish hotel accommodates the needs of all travellers, from those on a budget, to those looking for spacious rooms with a little extra quality. The "SOLD" moment for me as a self confessed Avgeek, comes when you get to enjoy the viewing deck located on the 9th floor of the hotel, providing unobstructed views over the Airport and city skyline in the distance.
This large hotel has 318 rooms in total, a restaurant and sports bar, a gym, plus a range of conference rooms. With free WIFI throughout the hotel and 24 hour services available, this hotel is perfect for any business or leisure travellers looking to relax prior to, or after a flight - Or in my case, for the love of aviation!
Each room makes you feel as welcome as the next - With generous space, ample comfort, stylish decor and a quietness that belies its location, only 181 steps from the airports international terminal. Rydges signature Dream Bed is unbelievably comfortable, as you might expect with that name. To top that off, there's also a pillow menu to give you all the chances on Earth, to get a perfect nights sleep - Just what the doctor ordered before or after a long haul flight. There is a large walk in shower, with rainmaker shower-head and toiletries from Sanctum. The mini bar is well stocked with drinks, and there are plenty of treats to tempt. The large flat screen TV offers 60+ channels of local and international language programming for your enjoyment - IF you can tear yourself away from the amazing view from your amply sized window.
The Touch & Go Sports Bar offers a comfortable place to enjoy your lunch, a quiet coffee or an icy cold beer at the bar. There's multiple screens with varied sporting channels going to keep you entertained. During the day, there are various meals available for a low $10 and soft drinks for $2 - (I must recommend the Pulled Pork Burger.. It's a cracker!) In the evening, you can select from a range of Modern Australian dishes at the in-house Blackwattle Restaurant, with mains starting from approximately $30. This is also the location for the wide variety of delicious foods at the Buffet Breakfast each morning.
I've stayed at this hotel on 3 occasions now, and it's obvious to me that business is booming! Although you never feel crowded or confined in the spacious lobby, bar or restaurant, Rydges seems to be operating at high capacity each day, whilst keeping a relaxed and happy vibe - (As one might expect when the clients are mostly overseas or local guests about to embark on, or disembark from a holiday.) Even as an escape for my wife and I, the comfy Dream Beds, great food and tons of entertainment (of the aircraft kind) keep us wanting to go back time and time again.
Reviewer: James Lusher
Rydges Sydney Airport Hotel - 8 Arrivals Court, Sydney International Airport. (02)93132500