25 May 2011

Archive - NWI-South Africa, On KL, SA, MN

This report is covering the trip we did at Christmas, NWI-AMS-JNB-CPT-DUR-JNB-AMS-NWI, on KL, SA and Kalula. This was also my first experience flying with a baby - he was 7 months old at the time. We went to spend Christmas with my wife's family in Durban, with a few days in Pretoria and Cape Town beforehand.

Fokker 70

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Photo © Mary Fraser

We arrived at NWI at 5am for our 6am flight, to find the check in desks deserted and a queue forming.


This is normal, for such a small airport, so we joined the queue to wait our turn. Eventually we arrived at the desk and checked in. We couldn't check in online, as I'd bought the baby's ticket separately, and he was issued with a paper ticket. It'd bought our tickets before he was born, and KL wouldn't accept a date of birth in the future! We picked up our boarding passes, said goodbye to our luggae and headed to the security desk. We had 3 pieces of (large) hand luggage (still within regulation size though), a pushchair, and the baby to carry through, as well as having a laptop in one of the bags. Needless to say, we seemed to hold up the queue for the single X-ray machine for a few minutes, for which we apologised, but then we were through into the departure lounge. At NWI it's just one large room with seats, a cafe and a shop, and the door to the business lounge (that was deserted). And loos of course. Anyway, it wasn't long before we boarded, first of course, and managed to make our way to the plane. We left the pushchair at the foot of the steps, and boarded. Eventually we managed to pack our things into the overhead bins, and the stewardess came up to give us the seatbelt extension and baby life jacket. My wife held the baby, whilst I had the lifejacket in the seat pocket. Those things really do limit legroom, which is not plentiful on the F70! The load was quite light, less than 50%, of which most of whom were connecting to elsewhere. Service consisted of a pack of biscuit bites and an orange juice - there is no choice. No sooner than all had been handed out that rubbish was collected again, and we started circling. Not long later, we flattened out and came in to land at AMS, on the famous Polderbaan, and spent the best part of 15 mins taxiing to the apron where the aircraft stopped. This area is used extensively by bus boarding, so we waited until last to grab all our stuff and baby, and descend. The pushchair was waiting for us, so I unfolded it and headed to the bus. However, the bus was packed, so I re-folded it and we just had to carry Matthew (the baby!). On arrival at the terminal, we were deposited at ground level, from where we rose in a lift to the main level, in the main departures area airside. I prefer this, no segregation between arriving and departing passengers. There is a security chech at each gate though. As we had an hour or two before our next flight, we sought out the baby lounge. AMS has a great lounge for parents with babies, with individual pods containing a wooden cot, some seats and space for bags, all surrounded by thick curtains and with mood lighting and soft music. In the corner of the lounge there are some bath-shaped sinks, and nappy changing mats. After a short rest for Matty to have a nap, during which I went off to find my wife some food (a pack of ham at the deli shop), we headed to the gate.

Boeing 777

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Photo © Co Van Den Heuvel

We made it to the security screening, where we were ushered through with the minimum of fuss. Much easier than at NWI! Boarding was about to start, so we went straight to the front just as boarding was called for people with children and those requiring assistence, and premium passengers. We headed down the jetway and left the pushchair by the aircraft door. On entering, we turned right and were seated at the first row, right by the bulkhead, as we'd requested the bassinet seats to that Matty could sleep (or at least try to).

We had the middle seats so unfortunately couldn't see out of the window The 3rd middle seat was taken by a Dutch lady who lived in Johannesburg - she had kids of her own so was ok about us having a potential screaming baby there! It also seemed like the first few rows had more legroom than the rest - are these sold as "premium economy" perhaps? The meals and service were identical though. There was a blanket and pillow on the seat, and the crew came around with earphones. Again, we were given the baby life jacket and a seatbelt extension. Also worth mentioning was the service by the stewardess of our section, Marlene. She went above and beyond what is necessary. She chatted with my wife, and even had a woolen finger puppet that she lent us to amuse Matty for a while! She gave us the children's activity kit, but it was aimed more at children slightly older, with games and puzzles, and Matty was at the age where he just wants to eat everything! So we kept it and gave it to the daughter of the friends in Cape Town that we visited. Takeoff was uneventful, the 777's engines giving a powerful takeoff. The cabin was almost full - I didn't see a single empty seat. Drinks and nuts were handed out, then after an hour or two lunch was served. I can't remember what exactly, but was probably chicken and rice. My wife's gluten free meal was meat and potatoes. All in all, quite tasty for an airline meal. Later on, ice creams were handed out, and there was a constant delivery of water and juice by the crew. After a while, I got up and went for a walk, down to the very back of the aircraft where I took some photos of the Sahara desert.

At the rear galley, a trolley was set up with drinks, snacks and sweets that you could take. I took a couple of cokes and some chewey sweets for myself and my wife. Around the Congo, Matty was starting to get agitated. It was his normal bedtime, so we'd "bathed" him in the bathroom sink (there really isn't much room to change a nappy there, and the one toilet's changing table was quite a bad design, with a ridge running where the back of his head should be). We then put him in a sling, a kind of material that straps him to the parent. It was my turn, so I "wore" him to try to get him to sleep whilst my wife watched Pelham 123 on the little TV. 2 hours of standing and swaying, and he still wouldn't sleep, still had his eyes open and gentle moaning - no screaming, thankfully! The pre-arrival snack was handed out, a warm sandwich (a cold salad for my GF wife), which I managed to eat whilst still standing up. By now it was dark, and we eventually started the descent. As JNB is quit ehigh up anyway, there wasn't much difference in air pressure, so Matty didn't cry so much. We had a bottle of water ready for him to such, but he was quite content with his dummy! We landed, and taxied in to the pier, and docked at the very far end, furthest from the main terminal. We passed through immigration, picked up our bags, and found my brother in law, who took us to his house in Pretoria for a couple of days.

Airbus 340

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Photo © Carlo - FZI Photography

After a pleasant few days with them, during which for our Chirstmas present they babysat Matthew (along with their own baby, Emma) so we could go out to the theatre (Cinderella on Ice, at the Montecasino Theatre in Johannesburg), it was time to head on. Tam's brother had to work, so his wife dropped off their baby at her mum's, and took us to the airport. I'd booked this flight specifically as it is the once daily A340 that SAA use to Cape Town - the rest of the day the hourly flights are mainly A319s or B737s. We checked in ok, and headed to the domestic departures. It was a bus boarding gate, which I was anticipating, with a huge crowd - after all, the capacity is double that of a "normal" flight. We eventually got onto the 3rd bus, there was no preboarding for people with children, and headed out. Anyone familiar with JNB will know the area to the left of the International terminal where the European airlines leave their aircraft resting for the day before the overnight return to Europe - the SAA 343 that was to take us to CPT was there amongst them. There was only one set of steps, and a huge crowd bunched around, all trying to get on first.


Eventually it thinned out into a queue and we boarded, after having left the pushchair at the bottom of the steps. We had row 47, which turned out to be only 2 rows behind business (I had thought it would be right at the back).


Eventually we filled up with passengers, and took off about 45 mins late. The captain said that we would make up some time, which we did, landing only 25 mins late overall. The big plane took off slowly, not so much power on lift off, I'm guessing as there was no need as the fuel load would be quite light for this short hop. There was some mild turbulance on takeoff and climb, but it fizzled out at cruise. Never having flown the JNB-CPT route before, I was pleasantly surprised when a meal was served - a hot meal at that. I cannot remember what it was, but as my wife's special meal arrived first, she ate it quickly whilst I held Matty. Then it was my turn. He was even given an infant meal - two jars of baby food and a carton of juice! Pity he's not ready yet for juice, and being lactose intolerant could not eat the baby custard, but the thought was nice. After a further drinks run, we settled into the flight. It passed pretty much uneventfully, and we started the descent into CPT. I saw Table Mountain from the window, along with the city and Robben Island. We only had 2 days there, so we were unable to visit most of the sights, so plenty of reason to return! On landing, we pulled up alongside a Turkish Airlines A330, so again a long walk to baggage reclaim. The main terminal is all very nice and new, except the domestic arrivals - clearly too small for the number of passengers. We got our baggage and headed to the car rental office, where we picked up a small car (Hyundai Atos - not a good car!) for the stay. Our time in CPT was very pleasant, we stayed with friends near Fishhoek and saw the penguins at Boulders, Camps Bay and the V&A Waterfront. Table Mountain was cloudy so there was no point in going up. All too soon our time was over and we headed to the airport for our next flight.

Airbus 319

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Photo © Gary Shephard - LightSketch Photography

After leaving the car at the car rental returns office, we headed into the terminal. There was still building work going on outside, but inside it was all new and shiny. Matty needed changing, so my wife took him to the bathroom, and I used a roll of cling film to manually wrap the cases to deter thieves. We'd done this on the other flights, and it was much cheaper than the "official" wrappers, charging R50 per bag! It's more of a visual deterrant, but it seems to work. This done, we went and checked in. The banks of desks for domestic departures were arranged by destination, so all Durban and Port Elizabeth flights operated by SAA used the same desks - all JNB flights another bank of desks. We soon dropped off our luggage, including this time a baby car seat that we'd borrowed in Pretoria to use in the rental car (we had a spare that my wife had took out before, but it was in Durban and we needed one for the rental car in Cape Town, and the car rental firm would charge R400 to rent one - I'd seen online that you can buy one new for R350!) We headed to departures and passed through security easily - no worries about liquids here. Previously at NWI we'd had to taste most of the bottles of water that we'd brought for Matty, though they didn't ask us to open the sealed jars of baby food. We found the gate, and then I decided to buy a vuvuzela. I'd been looking out for one, but had only seen beaded ones at tourist shops. I guess it's the sort of thing you'd find being sold at traffic lights, but the sports shop in the airport was the first lace I saw that sold them. R40 later, it was mine! I used to play trumpet when at school, so actually it is easy to play. I then needed some food, as my wife had brought some snacks to eat, but it was a challenge finding a cafe or any food outlet in domestic departures. In the end, the only one was a Mugg and Bean cafe downstairs at the bus gates, where I bought a muffin and a juice. Again, when the flight was called for boarding, there was no preboarding for passengers with children, unfortunately. Also, we had been allocated seats that were separate from each other. We eventually boarded, and explained to the stewardess. She said that after takeoff, she would look to see if anything could be done. As it happened, once airborne, she came back and said that there was a pair of seats towards the front (we were on the last 3 rows) so we moved to sit together, to make it easier to share baby duty. Take off was quick, and
the load must have been close to 98%. This time, instead of a hot meal, we were given drinks and a chicken wrap, which was very tasty. My wife had a rice cracker with chicken and lettuce, but she couldn't eat it due to Matty's dairy intolerance. It seems that airline special meals allow you to choose "gluten free" and "dairy free" but not "gluten and dairy free". There must be some people with both? The flight passed quickly, and we soon came in to land. This time, on descent, nothing we could do would calm Matty, he cried the whole way down. We have him water, gripe water, dummy, made him suck our fingers, everything. Eventually on landing he relaxed, and we went to take our luggage and meet my wife's parents (who arrived late so we were waiting outside when they pulled up). We stayed with them in Pinetown, and had a lovely Christmas.

Boeing 737

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Photo © Gary Shephard - LightSketch Photography

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare, checked in and had a traditional drink with the in-laws before passing through security. This will have been our last ever time at the old DUR, after the new airport opens later this year. The terminal was really crowded, so the extra space will be a bonus. We then had to rush through, saying our goodbyes very quickly, as the flight was boarding. We made it through, and went straight through the gate and walked out to the aircraft. This time, the crew did not offer a seatbelt extension for the baby - apparently they are unsafe, so we were advised how to hold him in case there was a brace situation. Apart from that, the flight was uneventful. Kulula operate a BOB system, but we didn't buy anything. We landed, took our baggage, and went for our traditional Spur meal before heading to the International terminal to check in. We met my wife's uncle who joined us for food, but no others of her friends could make it. One of the Gautrain trains was parked on the track a little way out from the station, but as it was dark we didn't really get to see much, other than the row of lights. This train system will be much beneficial to the people of Gauteng, giving a link from the airport to the main centres - even my brother in law's house will be near the station in Centurion, so they can use it to get to the airport.

Boeing 777

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Photo © Markus Adank

The flight was originally due to depart an hour earlier, at 23.45, but the times were pushed back to 0.45 the next day. However, we didn't notice for about a month after this that the computer had rebooked us onto the flight at 0.45 that same morning - as in, 23 hours earlier. A quick call to KLM reservations resolved this - a good job as we would have missed it otherwise. Then we were informed that our original AMS-NWI flight had been cancelled, so we had 6 hours
at AMS instead of 2. Anyway, checked in, passed security and passport control, and went to the gate. Before checkin, there was a checkpoint where our hold luggage was weighed. Apparently it was a few KGs too heavy, which it wasn't as we'd weighed it before leaving the house. After moving the luggage lable, the attendent said that it was ok. Hmm. So the label weighed about 6kg? I don't think so! Then thanks to Matty's paper ticket, we spent easily 20 minutes at the
desk whilst the CSA tried to work out how to do it, calling supervisors and everything. Eventually it was ok - or so we thought. She took the ticket and filed it at the desk somewhere. Before boarding commenced, everyone sitting in the gate area seats had to get up and leave, it was cordoned off, and they checked everyone's passports again. Perhaps checking for Schengen visas? My wife and baby are dual nationals, so had to show their British passports, despite having used their SA passports to pass immigration. Then, whilst waiting, some names were called, mine included. I wondered if we'd been given an upgrade, but I quickly discounted this as we had the baby! It turns out that they needed the paper ticket to be attached to the boarding pass - of course, it was still at checkin. I told the agent this, they phoned down, and somehow agreed what to do. We, meanwhile, waited with the others (U/Ms and another couple with
a baby).


Eventually we boarded, and we had the exact same seats as before. There was an American chap next to us, travelling onwards to Chicago, who asked the steward if it was possible to upgrade to business onboard. He was quoted EUR4000, so he declined, especially as the legroom in the front row of this cabin was fantastic. Maybe he wasn't worried about being next to the baby! The time of the flight wasn't ideal, as it was much later than his normal bedtime, we'd got him to sleep for an hour or so in the terminal but after all the passport commotion he soon woke up. We managed to get him to sleep again after takeoff, at which point a meal was served - Chinese chicken and noodles for me, I forget what the GF option was. Matty then slept quite well in the bassinet, and us in the normal seats. Again, the flight was almost full. Before landing, breakfast was served, but unfortunately I can't remember what it was - something with egg I think, for both of us. Again on landing, Matty cried and cried. Out of the 7 flights, this was the 2nd that he was upset for either takeoff or landing. We landed, and pulled in at the gate. (it turns out another A.netter was spotting on the terrace, and took a photo of the exact plane at the gate... Lufthansa Business: JFK-FRA/KL: AMS-JFK. Roadtrip! (by JFKMan Jan 10 2010 in Trip Reports) ).


We then had quite some time before our next flight. We went back to the baby lounge, where Matty slept and slept. My wife stayed with him and dozed as well, whilst I went to get her some food (McDonald's meal, without the bun. Everytime I have to explain that she's alllergic to bread!). I also bought some waffles for me (they turned out to be not as good as one I'd bought a couple of months before from a vending machine on Eindhoven station) and some Delft Christmas baubles.

Fokker 70

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Photo © Ruud Brinks

Another A.netter has a report of another AMS-NWI flight, so take a look at his pictures
2010 Starts:- 2 New Aircraft Types (by BA319-131 Jan 29 2010 in Trip Reports)

We went downstairs, where the bus gates are, and I was asked if I minded using the new body scanner. I was fine with it, and to all those worrying that "it sees you naked", it's not you naked, more of a cartoon outline of a figure, with markings of where on your person the metal items are. The gate area filled up, but Matty started smelling - so it was my turn to change him, just as boarding started. Passengers with children were invited to preboard, but we couldn't as I was in the bathroom with a dirty baby! Eventually he was clean again, by this time the first bus had filled and deposited its passengers at the aircraft, and we got on the 2nd bus. We waited for a while, there were maybe 5 passengers and some flight crew who started chatting with us. They turned out to be crew based in NWI but going home as passengers on this flight - one of them was doing another return NWI-AMS-NWI that evening, the other was finished for the day. They also mentioned the cancelled midday flight, and that it was the one that used to be operated by the F50, which KLM no longer has. Anyway, we got to the F70 and boarded, it was another uneventful short flight, cramped because of the baby lifejacket. We landed smoothly, passed passport control easily, picked up our luggage and took a taxi from outside home.

There are some more pics of SA here:
Feel free to request my friendship to view them if you can't already!

One more picture, from a recent STN-MUC-STN work trip:


At STN on the return, a Windows fail

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