As some of you know, I’m a motoring journalist who also loves aviation. Truth be told I would like to write a lot more trip reports than I do, because I do end up taking some fascinating journeys, but it is what it is. But because I don’t write often enough, I’ve written a lot here so I’ll split this into two parts.
So, this was a trip organised to drive the new BMW i8 Roadster around the island of Mallorca, before that we would have two days of driving the 2018 facelift of the Mini, the Convertible and the 3-door Cooper S variants. I can’t complain too much about the job! A week in Mallorca driving around would be fun.
Usually the German car companies book us on Lufthansa, for obvious reasons, but this time a combination of cost and connections meant that we were flying on KLM via Amsterdam Schiphol. And our leg from Amsterdam to Palma de Mallorca would be on Transavia. Some colleagues who were coming later flew on Air Europa via BCN or MAD. Although Transavia is a low-cost holiday carrier, I always prefer fewer connections on such trips because there is less chance of baggage shenanigans, but as we discovered later these are not completely eliminated.
STD: 0345IST ATD:0412IST
STA: 0835CEST ATA: 0825CEST
Boeing 787-9 PH-BHC
Seat: 7K World Business Class
The KLM flight from Delhi departs at an extremely weird time in my opinion, but then again the LH Munich flight and the BA flight by leaving earlier arrive very early into the destination, which is great if you are flying onwards, particularly in Europe but not always the best idea to be standing outside Munich airport at 6AM in the morning. Anyway, the way we were ticketed gave us a four hour layover at AMS and we were not sure about lounge access given we were flying Transavia next. I had a Priority Pass card and most of my colleagues were *A Gold, but we were going into a Skyteam hub. I’d planned a visit to the viewing terrace in case I needed to kill a lot of time.
Late Night Departures from DEL
Another problem with these middle-of-the-night departures is that it puts me in an awkward sport with leaving home and the pick-up driver. I don’t want to leave too late as I’ll be keeping my wife up unnecessarily and the driver too. So I left home before midnight, and was an the airport very early at 0015. Check-in was a breeze at the AF/KL SkyPriority counters and my suitcase was checked in all the way to PMI with the requisite priority tags. I don’t have a SkyTeam card, but because Jet Airways associates with a lot of SkyTeam carriers and I believe will hook up with SkyTeam sooner or later, I decided to collect the miles on my 9W card.
A few months ago, the immigration authorities had stopped the dedicated counters for first and business class passengers but after a furious backlash they had relented. This had happened because Delhi’s growth had caught everyone off-guard and the Home Ministry run bureau just didn’t have enough officers, either for Delhi or the other airports where international travel was booming. That had been resolved, and despite the guys behind the counters asking a lot of questions of everyone this evening, I was done with check-in, immigration and security half an hour after walking into the airport. Damn, just three hours to kill now, but I killed fifteen minutes by buying some duty-free for my arrival. Delhi Duty-Free is omnipresent at the airport but you can find some nice spirits and some good deals occasionally. For example, they have a 5% discount for pre-booking. I tend to pick up standard stuff from duty-free and this time it was a Patron and a Jodhpur Gin.
Then going to the pharmacy trying to pick up a medicine I had forgotten to pack I ran into a friend who was taking the Mahan Air flight to Tehran. I had taken the same flight in 2016 on a geriatric A300, and like me my friend was also a aviation geek and was looking forward to the Iranian visit. He had visited North Korea last year and flown some pretty cool planes there, and I must say I’m pretty jealous. We shared a coffee and a smoke so by the time I got to lounge, it was just about 90 minutes to boarding. KL uses the ‘Allways’ lounge at Level 3 of Lounges ‘B’ at Delhi which while one of the smaller lounges at DEL is quite nice in terms of seating and decor. Food and drinks though are again quite ordinary. Low-grade Kingfisher beer and cheap Indian sparkling wine beside food that had been reheated so often it was dry to the touch. But in that respect they’re the same as the other third-party lounges at Delhi.
Nice Lounge but slim pickings when it comes to drinks
KL872 was using Gate 10 that night, which is one of the last gates on the northern international pier at Delhi’s Terminal 3. Quite a hoof indeed. I was travelling with four other journalist colleagues and a BMW India communications team-member who was chaperoning us (albeit in economy) I had chosen 7K for this flight, which had a pretty full Business CLass, which I would say was 28/30 seats. KLM uses a ‘Diamond’ layout in a 1-2-1 arrangement on the 787-9 with the seats facing inward. I had last flown KLM 872 in March 2015 on a 747-400, which they still use in the winter schedule but the Dreamliner’s seating was far superior to that of the 747, each seat being quite private and with direct aisle access. The twin-seat arrangement is superior for couples, but I liked KLM’s seat the instant I saw it.
7K was the right-hand window seat on the second-last row of World Business Class, the seat in between me and the galley at the back was appreciated. The seat had a nice fluffly pillow and a light blanket placed already. KLM does not provide bedding. The seat has a lovely storage area up top where the headphones were kept. The storage area has a cute little mirror, which is actually quite useful in the sense you don’t to visit the washroom to see how haggard you look (or not). This little cupboard is good enough for things like your phones, passport and glasses while keeping them very accessible. I had also brought along by GoPro to record a bit of the flight and everything fit quite nicely inside. There were two charging slots - one USB and one plug point on the window-side, not the best placement but not one that required calisthenics either. Avoid 5A/K if you want windows, the seat layout usually means that every window seat ends up with 1 ½ windows, but row 5 is missing the big window (row 3 has two useable windows, which I took on my return)
Loved the concept
Closed so you don't have to see my ugly mug!
Given a choice of water, OJ or champagne, I chose the Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve, which is not a bad champagne at all, although the Thai flight my wife and I took in March served Vueve Cliquot in (regional) Business Class and that is a high-end bubbly. I didn’t really want to eat but I had wired myself with three coffees in the last couple of hours so I was up and accepted the menu. We were all handed a Jan Tamininiau amenity kit, which felt a bit sparse. I don’t quite recall the amenity bag I got on my KLM flight three years ago, but that felt a lot more premium than this. I did change my socks though and fired up the IFE. The screen is quite large and pops out of the seat, and while it should be stowed for takeoff and landing, the cabin crew didn’t really stop anyone. The small controller with a screen of its own can be used to see previews or, as I did, have the flight map running while you are watching something else. Before take-off I caught a couple of episodes of Big Bang Theory and noted that pushback and takeoff from Runway 28 were not heavily delayed but then again 4AM is a relatively light time for the airport. And while this isn’t my first flight on a 787 (I’ve flown AI 787’s several times and on BA too - this was however my first GENx powered 787-9) I have to admit it is just so much quieter than a 777 at takeoff even if you are way forward of the engine.
Once airborne I switched to Blue Planet, watching the second episode of the series about the deep seas. Fascinating stuff!While watching, the crew came along to serve dinner although it was nearing 5AM India Time, there was an Indian Chicken or a Western Fish+Pasta dish, I chose the latter along with a ‘Flying Dutchman’ cocktail which turned out to be too sweet for my taste. The food was alright, I quite liked the small appetisers and the apple crumble. The main felt a bit under-seasoned and the fish a bit overdone. Anyway, after dinner I tried to get some sleep.
Amenity Kit, meh!
It was around 5.45 India Time when I dozed off. KLM’s seat is quite long, great given that the Dutch are the tallest race on earth but some of the seat hinges are in weird places for my height, something that bedding would have solved. But I was dead-tired and dozed-off somewhere over Afghanistan. At this point, it was not clear what track we would take, but I slept decently for a bit over three hours and we had just crossed Moscow on this very northern track we had taken tonight. The cabin was still dark when I woke up with about two and a half hours of flying time still left and I used this opportunity to freshen up in the toilet. There were some Zenology toiletries inside, including a facial mist, which I used - those do help.
Waking up somewhere here...
Nice touch in the loo!
The 787 though does what the marketing men says it would, that is the pressure onboard being at a lower altitude than other aircraft does make you feel fresher. I might have finally taught myself how to sleep on flights but I’m not that great at it. Now that I was up, I asked for some coffee and decided to watch a movie setting for the Pixar movie Coco which I had missed when it released in India, and I’m glad I chose that.
Breakfast came around after 45 minutes or so, but before that the mood lights changed so as to wake people up. I chose the yogurt and granola for breakfast, knowing that I would eat eggs once on the ground. Service was a bit confused to be honest and a couple of people, including a colleague got their granola packets a twenty minutes later. Not that it was the most exciting breakfast both LH and BA while serving boring breakfasts do better on business class meals. Plus, given the departure time, KLM ought to make first meal lighter and this meal heavier because I would hate to head out and work after a meal like this, especially if I had skipped the dinner like most people did.
Approaching AMS 18C
Initial descent from 38,000 feet started over northern Germany, although much of the descent happened very quickly and we emerged over the Dutch plains approaching runway 18C. We were landing alongside a company 737 approaching the distant 18R (the Polderbaan) and I was lucky to catch that all on my video. After landing the taxi to the F-Gates took some time, and alongside the tens of KL tails, there were several Delta, China Southern and Jet Airways tails. Heck, I have not seen so many 9W 777’s at one place in India - 9W moved their European scissor hub to AMS from BRU last year. After landing, we moved towards the F-gates and deplaned.
Landing Video - AMS 18C - https://youtu.be/Y7bDg01kdIw
With four hours for our 1245 departure to PMI, we passed security and immigration quickly and a colleague and I went to the Toy store to look at Aircraft models, both of us picking the DC-3 (mine was wonky, lacking engine covers as I discovered when I opened it back in Delhi… Grrrr). The rest of my colleagues went upstairs to the KLM Crown Lounge for the Schengen area and we were allowed to enter on the basis of our DEL-AMS boarding cards. Despite being a Sunday, the lounge was fairly busy but I still managed to use the toilets and grab some food and a smoke before sitting down to work for a couple of hours while I also uploaded some videos. The Crown Lounge might have slim offerings on food and drinks - unless you’re a Bols Genever fan (which I am) but there was enough food and drink to enjoy a Sunday morning brunch at a lounge. Well, it could have been worse.
Lots of Bols in the Lounge
STD: 1245 ATD 1250
STA: 1510 ATA 1500
Boeing 737-7K2 PH-XRX
By the time we got to the gate boarding had just started and we got into queue and since I had a small backpack, I got space overhead to store it. I got 7F on the right-hand side and the stewardess requested it I could move back to row 8, but I noticed row 8 on the 737-700 didn’t have a window so politely declined (judge me if you want). I had pre-booked the window through the travel agency and frankly, I really can’t do without windows but particularly hate window row seats without windows! As a result of this, the middle seat next to me remained empty. Score!
Takeoff Video - AMS 18L - https://youtu.be/KCHqNluGff0
Pushback was quick and the captain came on the intercom and gave us a ton of info, we would be flying fairly high and it would be very cloudy all the way from Central France till Barcelona and he was right. Again I attached my GoPro and recorded our takeoff from runway 18L. It was a fairly uneventful European hop, feeling peckish I got the sandwich (Bacon and Egg) and Coke (Zero) deal for Euro 7.50, not too bad for a LCC. The rest of the journey until we made it to the Med was spent on my headphones.
It cleared up outside after we hit the sea and started our descent into Mallorca/Majorca. I looked down on the Serra de Tramuntana, the beautiful mountain range across the northern edge of the island. The tallest peaks are over 1400m high, and the roads through the mountains are famous, which I why I agreed to this trip to drive here. After crossing the mountains, the plane lined up with runway 24R before making an abrupt turn to the parallel 24L. Even so, the finals were very long and crossed virtually the entire island before coming down smoothly. All in all a decent flight, although a very, very long walk to the baggage belt. I discovered that PMI is in peak season Spain’s third-busiest airport after MAD and BCN. There were several other charter and LCC aircraft parked, some former Air Berlin planes with LaudaMotion titles among them and in a sign of things to come, there were several cycle boxes onboard the planes as well.
Landing Video - PMI 24L - https://youtu.be/QPOc9CNz_l0
The ramp at PMI
Luggage collection is when the drama began. Thankfully, one of our party realised that since we had not passed customs at AMS our suitcases would come in the customs belt instead of the regular belt. Which took forever and when a couple of us collected our luggage and headed out (I wanted to buy a bottle of water to have my medicines) we thought the others would be out shortly. When they did not make it, we learned that one os us, the lady from BMW India had not gotten her luggage. That took some time to get a receipt of missing baggage and then it turned out that our pick-up bus had not made it either. So after almost 90 minutes after landing we finally boarded some taxis to our hotel.
Stay in Sa Cabana Spa and Mini Drive
Our first two nights were to be spent at Sa Cabana Hotel and Spa in the village of Consell, near the town of Inca in Mallorca, a good half an hour from the airport. It was past five in the evening when we got there but as a result of Spain’s weird time-zone the sun was still really high up. My room was a lovely large room on the second floor of this lovely little resort with only 20-odd rooms. Dinner was scheduled for seven so I took the opportunity to take in the view from the swimming pool, which was very cold incidentally and then stepped out for a beer and watch a bit of the MotoGP race. I crashed rather early as we were going to drive the next day.
Toe-Fie! The water was freezing though
The view from my room
To get the cars we were going to drive, we headed to the premium parking lot at PMI and my riving partner insisted that we take the convertible the first day itself. After all, we were to drive through the mountains and it was sunny and 24C outside. Perfect ‘topless’ weather for a car. Mallorca has its own numbering system for roads, our route would be Ma-1 to Andtrax then the beautiful Ma-10 through the mountains till Lluc and finally Ma-13 from Inca back to our hotel. We were to swap cars the next day. Speed limits in Mallorca are 90kmph through most regional roads, 70kmph near built-up areas 30-60kmph in towns and 120kmph on highways. The Spanish have always been a bit ‘relaxed’ about limits but you know what, 90 is really fast through some of the roads we drove on. The island and the Tramuntana mountains are really popular with cyclists and honestly, you could not ‘attack’ a corner on the hills because you didn’t know if you see a cyclist. Some would suppose that I would get frustrated with them, but coming from India where heck, it is really bad on the roads, I was fairly chilled out and enjoyed the drive through the mountains, the few empty stretches made my day.
New taillight design on the Mini
New dashboard backlit insert - can be customised (too much Union Jack all over a very German car)
At the Gorg Blau
Gato (Almond Cake and Almond Ice-Cream) at Sa Cabana
The next day, we swapped onto the 3-door hardtop and drove to the other side of the island, the eastern/southern coast, the less hilly side and very scenic in its own right. Driving through small roads (again with tons of cyclists) and stopped for lunch at a great restaurant in Porte Cristo, a sort of town that I would like to stay at if I visit Mallorca again. We eventually got back to the Airport, returned our cars and left for our next hotel and the drive of the i8 Roadster. But I will get to that in the next part. The Mini's we drove were just slight modifications of the existing 3rd-gen R56 Mini, major changes include a little bit more power on the base 'One' models and more customisation options. LED Matrix headlights are finally offered and if you take those up you get 'Union Jack' shaped taillights which I thought were really cool.
My review of the Mini is here - http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/ ... -life.html
and another one herehttps://auto.ndtv.com/reviews/2018-face ... ew-1843980
Part - 2 sometime during the week, I promise!