A Travellerspoint blog

September 2018

KLM

sunny 13 °C
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Schiphol Transfer

Schiphol Transfer

Going back to the 90s when my business life involved a lot of travel around Europe, KLM was one of my favourite airlines.

No more.

I had three dreadful experiences with them just in this month’s trip to Toulouse.

On the outward leg, I queued an hour to drop off my bag at Edinburgh Airport having arrived 2 hours prior to departure and having checked in online. They had no separated check in and bag drop queues, so those who had not checked in online were mixed in with those who had.

Even then, the airline knows how many passengers will be on the flight and how many will have bags to check in. They know how many passengers will have to be dealt with at the check in desks.

It was an utter shambles.

Amsterdam Schiphol

Amsterdam Schiphol

On the return journey the flight from Amsterdam landed at Edinburgh, parked at the gate, and then we had to wait a full 20 minutes for steps to arrive to get us off the plane. I mean, was our arrival a surprise?

It gets worse.

My suitcase did not arrive at the baggage reclaim. I filed my PIR at KLM’s baggage handling about 16:00 and went home. At 18:00 I got a text advising my suitcase was in Edinburgh and would be delivered to me “soon”.

KLM Coms

KLM Coms

After some intervening lies and incredibly poor attempts at “service” from KLM, my suitcase was finally delivered at 11:00 two days after that - 41 hours after it reached Edinburgh Airport. My home is a 30 minute drive from the airport.

Suitcase History

Suitcase History

I judge service businesses by how they deal with things when they go wrong - accepting that even in the most efficient of operations things will go wrong from time to time. If an airline has misplaced a passenger’s bag, it then becomes a damage limitation exercise.

KLM failed badly.

As an aside, like most airlines these days KLM makes you pay extra if you want to take a checked in bag with you, so the passenger is entitled to expect better just from that perspective alone.

In the interest of fairness, all four flights were very pleasant, 3 out of 4 were on time (the other one was just a few minutes late) and check in at Toulouse for the return flights was perfect.

Toulouse Blagnac

Toulouse Blagnac

Sadly, KLM has joined British Airways and Ryanair in the “only as a last resort” category.

Posted by IainT 09:10 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland edinburgh klm airlines Comments (0)

Albi

sunny 23 °C
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Tarn

Tarn

One of the pleasures of spending some time in Toulouse is the ability to take day trips into the surrounding areas. The choice is impressive.

Today I had an excursion to Albi, 50 miles (80 km) by road to the northwest. I took the train, but both amount to an hour of travel in each direction.

Toulouse

Toulouse

The trains leave from SNCF’s Toulouse Matabiau station, on the northern edge of the city centre and on the Canal du Midi. Mine were operated by TER Occitanie - regional trains as opposed to (for example) intercity or TGV.

I paid €14.40 each way, but I suspect I could have saved money by booking in advance. The trains were modern and comfortable - on time too.

Remember to composter (validate, in English) your ticket before boarding by means of one of the yellow boxes on the station concourse.

Old Albi

Old Albi

Albi is a gorgeous town of about 50,000 people straddling the River Tarn. It is full of history.

Cathedral

Cathedral

I had visited the cathedral previously, so this trip was about the Musée de Toulouse-Lautrec, housed in the Palace de la Berbie.

Musée

Musée

It was well worth the journey and the €9 entrance fee.

Posted by IainT 13:35 Archived in France Tagged art trains france transport toulouse albi Comments (0)

St Cyprien

sunny 25 °C
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Hôtel Dieu

Hôtel Dieu

It is summer holiday time!

I had a few options for my 10 days, and the final choice was Toulouse for a week. This is my 3rd visit in the last 5 years - prompted by having spent a year here in the 1970s. As with those other visits, it is good to be back.

I have an apartment in the St Cyprien area, just across the river from the city centre, but much quieter and more relaxing.

Old Toulouse (2)

Old Toulouse (2)

Those other two visits were in March, so the weather is different this time. The temperature has gone over 30⁰c on two of my four days here up until now.

L'Apéro

L'Apéro

It is like coming home, and I love feeling so comfortable about the place from the minute I get off the plane.

My friend R has been staying with me up until today, and introducing her to a city she has never visited before has been a lot of fun.

Old Toulouse (1)

Old Toulouse (1)

One highlight has been a piano concert at Les Jacobins - part of the Piano Jacobins festival. The venue was stunning - the Cloître - and so was the solo performer - Varvara Nepomnyashchaya.

Les Jacobins

Les Jacobins

Another was a Sunday afternoon picnic on an island in La Garonne - local grapes, plums, peaches and goat cheese, all bought a few hour before at the St Cyprien market.

La Garonne

La Garonne

The top restaurant meal so far has been at Le Dahu in rue des Blanchers. The food, wine, service and atmosphere were all delightful.

Le Dahu

Le Dahu

A surprise highlight has been 3 visits to a popular bar - Le Filochard on the corner quai de Tounis and rue de Metz, right on the river.

Le Filochard

Le Filochard

I already knew it is “my kind of place” and when it turned out to be the same for R… It has a really eclectic clientele and friendly efficient staff.

Posted by IainT 07:32 Archived in France Tagged france restaurants toulouse Comments (0)

Unique

all seasons in one day 15 °C
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Loganair Disembarking

Loganair Disembarking

Barra is a lovely place to visit in its own right, but for me the unique flight experience was a big part of the attraction in visiting the island.

The airport is unique, being the only one anywhere in the world where scheduled flights use the beach as the runway. The airport opened in 1936 and is now operated by HIAL (Highlands and Islands Airports Limited). HIAL operates most of the smaller airports around the Scottish highlands and islands.

So how does it all work? The airport is located at the northern tip of the island at the wide shallow bay of Traigh Mhòr (“Big Beach” in English). The beach is set out with three runways in a triangle, marked by permanent wooden poles at their ends. At high tide these runways are under the sea and flight times vary according to the tide.

On Approach

On Approach

Loganair operates the flights - to and from Glasgow twice daily in the summer except on Sunday when it is a single flight. They use an 18 seat DHC6 Twin Otter which has the capability to take off and land on the short “runways” and on wet sand.

Waiting

Waiting

For most travellers a flight in such a small aircraft is an experience in itself. The co-pilot supervises boarding and disembarkation. He/she does the safety demonstration. You have no cabin crew (or toilets). The cockpit is separated from the cabin by a bulkhead, but there is no door and so you can see almost everything which is going on in the cockpit even from the back row. I had flown on the aircraft type before - on the Tiree service.

Cosy

Cosy

On my trip to Barra the landing was very smooth and routine, in good calm weather. Here's a YouTube clip of a landing - back then Loganair operated as a franchise of FlyBe.

Arrivals

Arrivals

Seconds later you get off the plane, walk 50 yards across the beach to the terminal, spend 30 seconds passing through the terminal (more if you stop in the toilet) and then pick up your bag from baggage reclaim - a bus shelter type structure in the car park. I reckon it took 5 minutes from landing to get onto the bus to Castlebay.

Don’t linger in the toilet or you’ll miss the bus and have to wait 2 hours for the next one - or call a taxi and pay £15.

Leaving the island was different. The weather was wet and windy.

Wet & Windy

Wet & Windy

The bijou terminal (it’s not much bigger than a double garage) has a popular cafe and flights are an attraction for tourists, so it’s a busy wee place - especially when in that weather and folks want shelter. Check in “formalities” are relaxed and security does not exist.

Terminal

Terminal

We all got wet on that short walk to the plane. Fortunately I’d had the foresight to wear my hiking shoes as the beach was under a couple of centimetres of water. The plane was rocking about in the wind even when it was stationary prior to takeoff.

As we waited while the crew did final checks, from my window seat I could see the seaweed floating past. Take off was rough in the wind and through that layer of seawater. On the other hand it doesn’t last long - that’s the point - a very short runway and a tiny plane which takes off at low speed.

The experience of a lifetime.

Posted by IainT 06:40 Archived in Scotland Tagged beaches planes scotland island transport flights airlines barra islandlife castlebay barraigh Comments (0)

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