Our loyal followers may recall an article we wrote about ‘Air-Rail Tickets’ offered by various airlines around the world. Of course, this concept isn’t just limited to rail as a coach bus is sometimes part of the itinerary. In October I had the ‘pleasure’ of experiencing this first hand as part of a KLM service from Montreal to Ottawa. This will be a review of the two-hour journey on this bus!
KLM doesn’t technically have a flight to Ottawa, but because of this bus service from Montreal as well as partner flights with WestJet via Toronto, KLM can serve Canada’s capital city. Any flights within Canada are codeshares with WestJet. Canada’s second largest airline recently became a more integrated FlyingBlue partner. Now, status (XP) points can be earned on WestJet (non-codeshare) flights – not just miles.
Departing from Montreal’s Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport (YUL), the bus is timed exclusively to serve the daily KLM flight coming in from Amsterdam. As passengers have to clear customs and collect baggage, there seems to be a sufficient gap so that the process isn’t too stressful.
Your ticket and communications with KLM will indicate that the bus will pick-up passengers in front of stand #7 just outside customs and arrivals. The signage is a little bit lacking and there isn’t any representative there to assist passengers. The only indication you are in the right place is an A4/US Letter-sized sign (maybe slightly larger) with the Air France and KLM logos and a note that this is the waiting area. Otherwise, the area just feels like any ordinary hallway of an airport.
Having no checked bags to collect and being a Canadian citizen free to use the automated machines, I was at the waiting area first. The bus didn’t arrive until 25-30 minutes before the scheduled departure. In fact, it’s hard to miss because it pretty much has the KLM livery of blue and white as well as big signage on the side (see photo below).
If you’re reading this and you have a similar itinerary on Air France, take note that there is supposedly an Air France-only bus! One passenger got on board our bus who wasn’t on the list. He was so insistent he was in the right place and got into a fight with the driver. It took about 10 minutes of argument before he mentioned anything about the Air France flight. The driver then told him it was a separate bus.
Space and seating
Unlike an aircraft, there is no assigned seating, despite what your bus boarding pass says. In fact, once you check-in with the bus driver he will tell you to take any seat you want. They’re really all the same – so don’t get too excited!
And now, onto the most important part of the review: the experience once seated. It’s not comfortable. It’s actually quite cramped. As someone who is almost six feet tall, I was unable to stretch out. Luckily the bus was half full and I was able to stretch out at an angle.
As we pulled away, the driver mentioned that there were bottles of water we could help ourselves to at the front. There was also a lavatory at the back and complimentary WiFi.
It was a dark and rainy evening in October and so there wasn’t much to see out of the window. I suppose the large windows of the bus offer much more to see than the small round windows of a Q400 or 737.
At this point in the article, I would go over the food or inflight entertainment system. Maybe I would talk about the service and demeanor of the flight attendants. However, this bus journey had none of that.
Entertainment is limited to whatever device you have. Food is limited to whatever you took with you from the aircraft or airport. And the bus driver is the only crew member on board.
It’s a very basic service, to say the least!
In conclusion, there isn’t much to rave about with this journey. It’s uncomfortable and even a little difficult to get work done using a laptop. However, I do appreciate that the onboard WiFi is complimentary and fast enough to watch YouTube videos or get some work done.
After a long day of flying from Amsterdam to Montreal, I was glad the bus wasn’t full and I could kind of curl up and get a short nap in. I appreciate that KLM is pushing these ground-based initiatives for shorter journeys. As a FlyingBlue/KLM loyalty member, it’s nice to be able to collect status points while taking a bus. Furthermore, this method is more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient.
Have you ever done this journey or something similar? Let us know how your experience was and if you would do it again!