Traveling Fuck Schiphol, fuck KLM Tuesday 11 September 2007
During the three and a half weeks I spent in Africa I was often irritated by the slow pace of everything and thinking to myself that Africa will stay poor if Africans don't get more of a sense of timeliness and efficiency. But then during the journey home I learned the hard way that the most inefficient and disorganised people on the planet must be the Dutch, and they're not poor, so I must have been wrong.
We took a plane in Zanzibar. A very long queue outside in the midday sun, customs officials asking a 'tip' for not checking our luggage properly, ... but the plane left on time. We changed to another plane in Nairobi. We spent about three hours of the four hour transit queueing, but... no real problems.

Then we arrived in Schiphol (Amsterdam airport). We made sure we were the first off the plane and hurried to the terminal for our last flight to Brussels, but encountered a huuuuuuuuge queue for a passport and security check. According to the airport people, it's like that every morning. No wonder since KLM has all its long-distance flights arrive around 6am and then has city-hoppers leaving at 7am to get everyone to their final destination. That's the theory at least, in practice a LOT of people don't make it. Us, for example. After queueing for half an hour and not having made much progress, our flight appeared on a special monitor for the "short connection" line for people who have very little time to catch their connecting flight. So we left the queue and went to the short connection queue, where we were told that this queue was actually closed. Since the monitors kept telling everyone who had a flight within the next 20 minutes to go this queue, many other people kept going there and discovering that there was actually no short connection queue. Noone at Schiphol seemed to have the idea to turn these monitors off then so people wouldn't leave the main queue for nothing.

Okay so we were among many, many people being late for their flight now, but by cheating ourselves into another queue and after a marathon sprint all across Schiphol we still made it to the gate of our Brussels flight 5 minutes before it was to depart. Normally you'd expect the plane to wait if you can't help being late, but in this case boarding had already closed though we had 5' left. Comment of the KLM staff when we told them we had RUN from their own Nairobi flight to this connecting flight: "Oh yes that happens every morning, it's an impossible connection". So, KLM actually sells tickets with a connection that its own employees know is impossible! These tickets cost us more than 1000 euro each btw.

So now we had to go to a Transfer desk to see if we could get on the next plane to Brussels. At the entrance to this desk you had to take a number and wait your turn. After much waiting and not seeing the numbers go up, we and many other people there discovered that the staff behind the Transfer desk was actually not using its own numbers system though the whole infrastructure was there and working (e.g. big monitors). People started complaining, and one person lost his temper, so the leader of the staff decided that they'd simply stop working and call in the police.

The next flight was fully booked, but since many of the next batch of KLM customers ALSO missed their connecting flight, we could get on it. Just like the staff predicted would happen - this is the KLM system apparently.

Anne Mon 17 Sep 2007 @ 15:43
It actually happens all the time - the only time I got my connection in morning they had offloaded by luggage as they had assumed that it will be impossible for me to make the plane:)


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