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Last month I flew with KLM in Business Class from the UK to Bangkok via Amsterdam, returning from Singapore. The decision not to fly in economy was primarily because of the cramped seating that i've put up with for too long, and by going via Europe, the fare was several hundred pounds cheaper than flying non-stop. KLM has a comprehensive network, and is especially useful if you live outside of the London area. If you're going to have to change planes anyway, Amsterdam is far better than Heathrow yet the fares are considerably cheaper. KLM also have some of the biggest club class seats around. The seats recline to 150 degrees and offer 60 inches of legroom. Whilst you're not flat out as with the new seats on British Airways, everyone gets to sit facing forward and it's certainly comfy enough to catch a few hours of sleep in. Check-in at Heathrow was quick and we were into their executive lounge (they're using the Holideck lounge just now) within a matter of minutes. Good views over the airport and a very quiet bar area at 3pm on a Friday afternoon. The flight boarded early and left on time - the 40 minute hop across the North Sea deosn't leave much time for service but the crew made it round Business Class with a cold meal and a round of drinks. The KLM executive lounges in Amsterdam are OK, but the food's not up to much. After a couple of hours there, it was onto the next flight. The plane was marked as boarding but when we got to the gate there wasn't much happening. No information was available, but it was clear that they were still cleaning the plane from its earlier flight. As such, we boarded after another hour or so, but no apology or explanation was forthcoming - very bad form! Anyway, after stting down, the crew were quickly round with the champagne (Piper Heidseick if you're interested) but no refills. Although dutch cuisine isn't well known, I feel the menu had
a local influence to it. In general the service on this flight was adequate - the crew were friendly enough, but it was a case of having to ask them for another bottle of water or whatever, rather than them coming round to see if you were OK. Breakfast was good - nice selection of breads/pastries, we landed in bangkok about 30 minutes behind schedule (again, no apology or explanation), the airport was very quiet, so with no bags to collect, we were into a taxi less than 30 minutes after the plane touched down.
If you're wondering which of the Star Alliance frequent flyer programs you should sign up with, this is the one! For 35,000 miles, you get your Gold Card - that's priority check-in, use of the lounges for you & a guest, and increased chances of being upgraded - most carriers look for 50,000 miles in a year for that status. With Aeroplan, you can easily accrue that sort of mileage in a year, say with one trip to Australia and another across the Atlantic. Also, their redemption levels seem lower than other schemes - 10,000 miles for a round-trip London-Edinburgh in Economy, 12,500 in Business. The Air Canada scheme has certainly served me well in the last few years, and I'd recommend it to anyone flying with Star Alliance.
The Unicorn Hotel at Gunthorpe Bridge is a winner. Fantastic location - very rural, but just a 20 minute drive to the centre of Nottingham, and not much further to either the A1 or the M1. The price is akin to a travel inn, but the place has a warmth of character that's just not available in the chain motels. Ignore the fact it's a two star - the rooms are large, clean and comfortable, with real wood furniture. Downstairs, there's a pub/restaurant with an extensive fixed menu plus specials board. Main courses are a good size and around £7. If you want something a bit more adventurous, there's the Brasserie Tom Brown next door, but book in advance as it often seems full. Staff were faultless, from the moment I called to book the room, right through to when we came to check out. Definitely one to recommend, ideal if you want a break near Nottingham, have business in town but want to stay somewhere different, or are looking to break a North-South road journey overnight.
Claiming to be a 5 star hotel, the Grecian Park certainly falls short of equally rated hotels elsewhere in Europe. We stayed for six nights and booked the package ourselves. This worked out about the same price as going with a tour operator, but also gave us the benefit of scheduled flights at respectable times of the day, and private transfers (a taxi) to and from the hotel. Although we arrived on a holiday weekend and the hotel appeared to be full, there was always a plentiful supply of sun loungers around the pool and on the lawns. Breakfast also seemed to be better over the holiday period, I assume because food was being used quicker. Overall service was reasonable. Certainly the staff could have been more attentive, but they were certainly never rude or grumpy. Minor irritations surrounded a perpetual shortage of towels in our bathroom, and the fact that the hotel is rather remote. The advertised shuttle bus runs four times a day (not in the evening) along to Ayia Napa, but can only take 8 guests - it's first come, first served, so get there early. In summary, if you want a reasonable quality beach hotel, it'll do, but don't go with your expectations set too highly.
I travelled from London Gatwick to Guernsey with British European in April 2002 in Economuy Class. The service was far better than that offered by British Airways on the same route, with short queues for check-in, comfortable (leather) seats on the plane and very personable staff. There was a good seat pitch too, even at the back of the plane. The flight is promoted as full service (in comparison to the no-frills carriers) but you have to pay for alcoholic drinks - coffee, tea & soft drinks are included in the price, as is a snack, but it is only a 45 minute flight. Also, British European only seem to use jet aircraft on this route, making for smooth and fast flights. Both the outward and return flights were on time, luggage was delivered quickly and all round it was a service id' recommend