Green Bay, WI, USA
New Delhi, India via Minneapolis & Amsterdam
Domestic 1 Hour, International 8 Hours (each leg)
Departing from a smaller regional airport such as Green Bay avoids many of the hassles of larger metro airports. Wait times are close to nil and ticketing was issued straight through to New Delhi, via Minneapolis and Amsterdam. Friendly faces and a bit of surprised conversation about my final destination, set me in a great mood for the long haul ahead.
Minneapolis was the home city for the now defunct Northwest Airlines, but prior to the merger with Delta, they poured big money into sprucing up their airport lounges. For $50, or complimentary with First or Business class tickets, travelers can spread out on oversized chairs while watching TV. Pick up any number of complimentary newspapers, connect to free WiFi, and grab unlimited beverages along with meal service in-between flights. The lounge in Amsterdam (home city of KLM Airlines) has also recently been upgraded. Clean and quiet toilets can be found inside the lounge. This perk alone pays for itself when you’re needing extra time and space to refresh and recharge.
No problems getting out of Green Bay. Meeting up with my travel partner in Minneapolis also proved to be unproblematic. We arrived within a few minutes of each other from opposite ends of the country and walked to our departing International gate. From here on in, it was smooth sailing through Amsterdam into New Delhi.
Delta for years now has been lax on service and presentation. Their version of business class is my least favorite of the 3 different airlines flown to India (Continental and Air France being the other 2). While amenities are numerous versus sitting in coach, the overall feeling of flying with Delta is that of being yet another irritant in a flight attendant’s daily routine. Smiles are hard to come by, questions are barked out and finding any extraordinary service is rare.
As expected a toiletry bag is supplied to enhance the flight. Personal video players with larger monitors play the most recent movies and TV shows. In flight meals are actually quite decent. For those with special dietary needs you can request a meal during the ticketing process online or over the phone. KLM puts more effort into meal service; portions are generous (not that I eat much) with little touches such as cheese and fresh fruit platters.
Pillows and blankets are within hands reach. The best part is the monstrous amount of leg and elbow room. Fill it up by adjusting your seat into a lay flat bed or spread out belongings to feel relaxed. Bathrooms on Delta are sketchy while KLM crew actually take time to spruce them up during the flight. Even little details such as 4 different kinds of lotion can be found in the KLM bathrooms.
Once we switched to KLM, the overall mood far surpassed that of the previous flight. A professional feeling flowed through the plane as well as sincere interest on behalf of the flight crew. “Hey, I just may fly with you again if you keep this up!” was my feeling. Of course the best part of traveling KLM Business is the long standing tradition of sending their passengers off with a token, ceramic Dutch house.
Years ago these small, handmade blue and white houses were filled with alcohol. But, since 9/11, security checks often left your houses emptied upon baggage retrieval. Now the houses are sealed as always with wax over the chimney but purposely left dry inside. Frequent fliers often bring a list from home of the numbers needed to add to their collection of homes. The collecting of KLM houses is big business. A check on eBay at any time includes several listings of people buying and selling needed or unwanted houses to add to their personal collection.
And then there is me. One house is provided to each passenger. On each flight I have sweet talked the flight crew into letting me pick an extra house after every other passenger has chosen from the tray. And after the other passengers have deplaned, I walk through the cabin and pluck the unwanted or left behind houses off the seats. My collection now stands at 9.
Because my frequent flier program is held with Delta, my options for award travel is limited to a few airlines. My preference would be to patronize Air France over Delta, however in the end they both get you to the same place. Although, KLM does have those collectible houses!