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Gosh it was good to get back on a plane (my wife reminds me it has only been two weeks)! No, seriously, those of us with the “flying bug” long to be up in the air. It really is fun. The view, the experience – and as a blogger – the information you learn is truly priceless.
Rather than a trip to Istanbul, I should call this a visit to as many Skyteam clubs/lounges as possible in 2 days as that is where I spent all my time (when not up in the air). I got a bunch of feedback as to visiting this place and that place and I do appreciate the ideas and look forward to many of these locations. But for the most part, when I am “on a fun run”, I am there to fly. Fly fly fly. Just like a jet, if I am on the ground, I am wasting time; this is time I could be earning MQM’s.
This outbound broke down this way. I flew out of MDW-MSP-CDG-IST-AMS. All of this in one 24hr period; quite literally I did not stop flying for 1 full day I as left Chicago at noon and did not stop flying until 7 PM the next day Amsterdam time that equates to noon in Chicago. Technically I started my return the same day as my outbound did “end” in IST but, for some reason I will not try to understand, I got the IST-AMS boarding pass when I checked in at MDW. This meant I did not have to “enter” Istanbul at all but could stay gate side and go right to the Millennium lounge. Then, thanks to a seat change, I had all my return boarding passes in had for my return home the next day. Sweet and perfect and most efficient.
I began the trip with a drive from SBN to MDW. While SBN is less that 45 min away for me, MDW is only about a 2 hr ride. I also have AZO & FWA about 1.25 hrs away and GRR also a 2 hr ride. ORD, takes about 2.5 hrs so I try to avoid it if I can. The downside of MDW over ORD is that there is no Skyclub in MDW. Also, TSA Pre is only now-n-then in MDW. I did get shuffled, with a big group, over to the TSA Pre area, but other than avoiding the nude-iscope, all else was standard operating procedure.
As you saw from the video clip of the drive in, the weather was not great. Snow, sleet and just nasty. So, it was de-icing before flight. The nice part was it was right at the gate and reasonably quick.
5 days before the trip I got my favorite e-mail that “your upgrade has been approved” so my first hop up to MSP was in 1st. A great way to start a trip to set the mood.
I love 1A on a CRJ700/900 as there is no one to lean back into you. The day before departure I am in 1D. The aircraft was switched to a Embrear but 1A opened up there as well (at least I did not get downgraded since there were now 3 less 1st class seats)!
There was no food on this flight so I grabbed a sub and did enjoy a nice beer (thank you Delta for adding Blue Moon)! The FA was less than top notch. I asked for a bag of chips (have done this before and they always grab one for me real quick) but this one was the “just wait” kind and would not bring it till after drinks round 2 when the basket came out. Fine, I can wait. Then, she spent the rest of the flight reading her book. OK?!?
So I arrive at MSP and it is a nice airport. There are more xpress spas than golf balls at a driving rage. But, that was not my focus. It was off to the club to see if there was a chance that my flight was oversold to CDG (plus I wanted time in the club).
The club, in the back, has a “quiet area” that has big nice recliner seats (you have to pull them back from the wall a bit). If you want some comfort and rest, this is the place to sneak off to.
The MSP lounge is nice size and is full service. but has a nice layout and even when full does not seem as packed as I am sure it is.
I checked with the agents in the club as one of the perks of an oversold INT flight is this: as a medallion, you have a chance at an “Op-Up”. That is, and operation upgrade from coach to 1st due to coach being oversold. Anther perk of an oversold flight and a bump is the offers can become very nice size. But, neither of these happened and coach flew with 3 seats open and 1st class 50% empty.
I had the best seat, IMO, on an A330-200 with unlimited leg room with no seat in front of me. Of all the priorities for me, leg room is “A-Number-One”!
I did have “dinner”; it was just OK and the service in EC (Economy Comfort) was what have come to expect on a Delta coach flight. The AVOD, also what seems to be the “new norm”, had to be restarted 3x times so watching a movie with dinner was a waste of time!
I gave up and tried to sleep as much as I could on the flight (be aware for the extra leg room, you will get a few bumps as people walk by). We arrived on time for the most part in CDG and I was off to my next gate.
I am not a huge fan of CDG. But to be fair, it had been a few years since I was there last (as AMS is just so much better). The new people movers security side work and flow is much better, but the core layout is as bad as ever. The lounge I found was fine and the offerings were good. The desk agent in the lounge then said the words I was so hoping to hear – my flight was 100% full – and they were taking volunteers! Sweet.
This could mean a nice size voucher in EUROS’s that I could spend on Delta. Plus, I could reroute direct to AMS, and still get flight credit for the two legs I did not fly, due to the bump. Worst case, even missing credit, the trip would end up free (since I only paid $396 after spending a $150 ETV to buy the ticket in the first place). But, it did not happen. So off to IST on an Air France A319 – window seat at least (as is standard no free medallion upgrades in Europe even if seats are wide open in 1st).
Flying in over Istanbul was amazing. What a densely packed city with more mosques and spires sticking up than CVS & Walgreens at home! The airport is smaller than I expected and definitely has a “cold war” feel to it over most others I have been in.
I had just about 2 hrs before my next flight off to AMS. I had been told by a reader that the Millennium lounge, clearly posted as a Delta lounge, would not allow access without a KLM pass. That pass would have to be procured at the KLM desk on the other side of securely. I had neither time nor effort to do this.
So, I pushed on and walked in with my boarding pass and my Platinum Delta Skymiles card (one of the reasons to travel with it). I got “looks”. Oh’ Great. They had to call down to KLM. Great. They asked if they could photo copy my pass and my card. I said sure – heck they could photo copy all my BP’s if they wanted! It took about 2 min but access granted, as they should have, and I had about 1 hr to call home on Skype and have a snack and a drink.
For a small lounge, it was nice. There was free wifi with good speed. There were drinks and food. Even some small sandwiches and the like. Fresh fruit and more. Overall a very nice club (once you got in that is).
Then, as mentioned before, off to the gate to fix my seats as both the seats picked on Delta.com for this flight, AND the seat picked on KLM.com, did NOT hold and I was stuck way back in coach middle seat (not the way to end day one of 24hrs of non-stop flying)! I got middle seat EXIT. Better but still not good when business seats were OPEN and coach was very full. I did try to access the flight on the Fly Delta app from the lounge and it seemed to think the KLM flight was one for Delta from Little Rock AR!
The last leg was a fun chance to compare AF to KLM. They are both unique airlines and very different. I sat next to a Flying Blue Platinum, also in coach exit. After the “hot snack” I asked the FA serving coach for brandy or a cognac and I was emphatically told that this short hop (3+ hrs) did NOT have that on board. Then, about 15 min later, the head purser comes by, and said to me and my seat mate, I see you are both Platinum’s. We say yes, and she asks if there is anything else she can do for us. I ask, could I have a brandy or a cognac. I am told, of course, at once, and comes to me in a real glass as well. Hummm….
This brings me to the how strange KLM can be. They stick to rules now and then and other times will say just about anything to you. When I later landed and went to go into the KLM Crown lounge, for a drink before going to my hotel for the night, I was denied access. This, as a Delta Platinum, who had started my return itinerary to the USA, with valid connection international boarding pass, inside 24hrs before my trip, was told to go pound sand! I was sleepy and did not fight it – it just was not worth it. I have tweeted to @KLM and am working with them. I have to say, a year ago, a tweet to KLM was like tossing a bottle into the ocean. Now, KLM seems to be aware of Twitter and I will be sure to post how this ends up.
I set off on the short walk to the SPG Sheraton AMS airport. Thus ends 24hrs of travel. Thursday, I will cover my hotel stay and the return trip home! – René
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