TRIP REPORT: Belgrade - Osaka via Amsterdam

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Written by Žarko Dimitrijević

I always wanted to visit Japan. Their culture, architecture, nature, and food are so unique that there is no place like it. In the fall of 2019, I decided to finally do it. Since hotel accommodation in the Tokyo area in November is pretty expensive, I set on visiting the Bay of Osaka. There are 5 European carriers that fly to Osaka KIX airport: Air France, KLM, BA, Finnair, and Lufthansa. I was booking the trip one month in advance and Air France - KLM with their SkyTeam (Korean Air, China Airlines) partners offered the lowest rates. I wanted both of my long haul legs to be on the same airline and I only wanted to have one connection so I opted for the KLM flight from Amsterdam connecting with Transavia and Air Serbia. Round trip BEG - KIX via AMS was only 505 EUR with hand luggage only, however, I chose the 585 EUR option with checked luggage. KLM offers the option to connect with Air Serbia’s morning AMS flight every day of the week, however, since the flight to Osaka leaves at around 3 PM I decided to fly out on Monday and connect with Transavia’s flight that departs BEG at 10:40 on Mondays only (other days it departs later and connecting is not possible). The Transavia operated leg was with a B737-800 and AMS-KIX was with a KLM’s 787-9. The return was with a KLM’s 777-200ER and Air Serbia’s A319. I also decided to book seats on the AMS-KIX-AMS sectors since I wanted to have an aisle seat, for a regular seat this costs 25 EUR per flight.

Transavia offers the option to check-in online, however, since I was booked through KLM, I was not able to complete it. This turned out to be a good thing as when I checked-in at the airport I was able to get a front-row seat which I guess is charged a lot to reserve when booking through Transavia.

The flight was scheduled to depart at 10:40, boarding was completed at 10:45, the captain then announced that we will have to delay the take-off by 25 mins due to ATC restrictions. I was a bit concerned if I would make my connection, however, the connecting time was 1 hour 35 minutes and AMS airport transfer security was not crowded. I had no troubles with connecting.



The experience onboard Transavia’s B737 is typical for a European low-cost company. You can purchase various drinks and snacks. The green seats were comfortable enough for a two-hour flight, and before you know it we were in rainy Amsterdam landing on runway 27.




After clearing transfer security without any queues, many amenities were available, I had a snack in the airport’s McDonald’s and headed to the gate. As my check-in was done in BEG with Transavia for both legs of the journey I received multiple messages from KLM to report to the gate early to get my passport checked. The majority of passengers on this leg were Japanese. I was able to notice many connected from Air France and Alitalia. KLM’s 787 is in a 3-3-3 configuration. The seats have adjustable headrests, which I found very uncomfortable as they were not very easy to adjust. The ones on their 777s are much better. I booked the aisle seat, at that time the middle seat was empty, but it got assigned to a Japanese traveler in the meantime.

Right after takeoff, all passengers are given a cold towel and a bottle of water, I believe this is a really nice touch and makes you feel a bit better for having to sit for 10+ hours in economy.



I ordered a non-lactose meal in advance and was served my meal at least half an hour before the rest of the passengers. This is also the practice on Etihad flights that special meals are served first before others, however, I know Turkish Airlines doesn’t do this. There were two meal services on this 10 and a half-hour flight. The first around an hour after takeoff and the second 2 hours before landing.

I must say I did not like the first meal. It was Mexican curry chicken with carrots and corn. It contained garlic powder. It was not a good choice to serve this at the beginning of such a long flight. However, I always like it when fresh fruit is served. It is always so refreshing in the aircraft's dry air.


In between meals, there were 2 beverage services. They even served ice cream in the middle of the flight. The buffet was set in the aft galley and you could take drinks and snacks as you wish during the entire flight. It contained water, juice, salty snacks, pretzels... They even put unopened salad and fruit packs from the served meal.

The second meal service was much tastier. It was categorized as breakfast and served 2 hours before landing. It contained an egg dish with some vegetables, served with fruit and coconut yogurt.


All passengers get a pillow and a blanket. I was able to get around 3-4 hours of sleep. A piece of advice is to bring your own headphones as the ones provided by the crew have poor sound quality. Inflight entertainment screens were very responsive and easy to navigate, the choice of programs is a bit limited as with all the airlines but you can entertain yourself for a couple of hours definitely. Face masks and earplugs are available on request. Maybe some other amenities are too but I only asked for these.


The experience of arrival at KIX was very smooth you can see the Japanese dedication and effectiveness at work here. Kansai Airport Terminal 1 is a long building, the longest in the world if I am not mistaken, so passengers arriving/departing from gates further from the main part of the terminal are shuttled with remote-controlled trains. When going through passport control, the officers take your fingerprints and a photo. I am a Serbian citizen so I am allowed to stay 90 days visa-free in Japan. The immigration officer didn't asked me any questions, however, customs officers usually ask about the purpose of your trip.

Traveling to the city of Osaka from the airport was an attraction of its own. I took the Nankai Rapi:t train, which costs around 1300JPY and takes around 40 mins to get to Namba Station. All seats require reservation. The first car of the train resembles the head of a power-ranger and there were anime characters all over the train.



To conclude, the entire trip for me with KLM was really nice. I think they offer quite good service on the long haul leg to Osaka, I like the small touches like the cold towels, availability of bottled water throughout the flight, ice cream service and the positive attitude of the crew and their soft product are the biggest benefits. The hard product is what it is, it resembles most 787 cabins I was in.

My return flight was with KLM’s 777 and Air Serbia A319. I booked an aisle seat on the 777 in the aft part of the plane where it has a 3-3-3 configuration and the middle seat was empty so I was able to spread out and rest for what turned out to be a twelve-hour flight. I had a 6 hour-layover in AMS when I decided to visit the city. The train ride to the Centraal Train station was just 12 minutes and I had a couple of hours to wander around. I was very jet-lagged and didn't take any photos of this part of the journey but my flight back to Belgrade with Air Serbia was half-full, with not so pleasant flight attendants and a standard Air Serbia service of chips and water.


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Comments

  1. Zoran, thank you for a nice report. Is there any menu card in econmy to choose main meal from or? Does KLM offer any kind of premium economy on long haul?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You welcome! Glad you like it. KLM offers Economy +, which is situated at the front of the economy cabin, it is the same configuration as economy just has bigger legroom. It costs 115EUR per flight, i didn't find it justifiable to take it.

      Delete
  2. JU520 BEGLAX10:09

    Thanks for the nice report and all the photos. Serving garlic powder is indeed no good idea on a long haul flight. I hve been to Japan last year too and I am still impressed. It was definitely one of my most memorable trips.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice trip report, thank you

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous10:26

    Nice report! Shame there aren't more pics of Transavia like their menu or cabin. How was the load on the flight from BEG to AMS?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry for that will try to get more photos next time. :)
      The load factor on that flight was around 90% by my free estimation, mostly Dutch tourists as I could notice.

      Delete
  5. Anonymous10:34

    Cool report bro. I live in LA and I fly to BEG a few times per year. Before Transavia or AF came into the market connections with JU were possible only one way. The other it would usually require a few hours at the airport. That's where LH Group absolutely dominated. Now connection with JU-AF-KL are possible both ways and are great. Love AMS. Much better than CDG or FRA. Only that's better is MUC.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nice report, reminded me on my only flight to KIX in early 2000s. I stopped ordering SPML when I was unable to upgrade to business class for cash at the gate on a LH group flight because of a pre-order. Never did it again. After that few op-ups happened and the best one was FRA-EZE, 15h flight :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous11:32

    Quite interesting report, thanks.
    KL obviously remains a fine airline.
    It seems that Air Serbia is having more negative comments related to Flight Attendants so nothing new. Just use HV instead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous12:27

      How can someone just use HV if the schedule doesn't match which is often the case? KL needs JU's morning arrival into AMS.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous13:49

      What do you mean by nothing new when it comes to Air Serbia FAs? Kondić insisted on great service and Air Serbia was initially known for smiling, helpful and well presented FAs. What is new is current management that does not insist on those same levels.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous14:00

      Read comments on TripAdvisor about rude staff:

      https://www.tripadvisor.com/Airline_Review-d8729096-Reviews-Air-Serbia

      And he also mentioned it in his trip:

      "I was very jet-lagged and didn't take any photos of this part of the journey but my flight back to Belgrade with Air Serbia was half-full, with not so pleasant flight attendants and a standard Air Serbia service of chips and water."

      ASL must undergo a staff training and increase salaries to make them happier.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous17:17

      Tripadvisor accepts ratings from people with only one comment. Those are usually frustrated first-time travellers and their comments are useless. You can also see people giving lowest rating because their flight was delayed but they also gave lowest rating to legrom, cleanliness and everything else. Frustrated idiots that can't be trusted. This is not just for Air Serbia, that can be found everywhere. Tripadvisor was valuable long time ago but they are just crappy now. If they raise the bar to at least 15-20 trips before ratings are counted in and exclude frustrated/fake reviews they would became useful once again.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous20:19

      It is not correct to be radical.
      TripAdvisor is a reliable source and if you see, most comments are related to staff.
      ASL must improve and work on this area and invest in their people.
      There are also very good comments so your frustrated theory does not really reflect reality.
      Besides, the initial ranking was 3.5 and now it is 3.0.

      Delete
    6. Anonymous21:28

      TripAdvisor is a reliable source. Best joke ever.

      Delete
  8. Anonymous14:31

    I'm very surprised you didn't consider the Middle Eastern carriers. Qatar is resuming flights to KIX soon, whereas EK has been flying there for ages now. Wasn't the connection good?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous15:13

      Maybe prices were higher plus imagine the horror of flying on FZ for five hours?

      Delete
    2. Anonymous12:00

      Why horror with FZ?

      Delete
    3. EK was 1000EUR+, and QR was routed via NRT or HND continuing on ANA or JAL and there was a 7 hour layover in Tokyo on the way back.

      Delete

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