Seventy eight steps. That’s how far it is from my parked car to the door of the airport terminal on a recent journey to Amsterdam with my ten year-old son. I have to ask at the KLM check-in desk if I’ve parked in the right place as I can’t believe I can leave my car there for three days. ‘We get asked that a lot,’ says the lady, smiling. ‘You’ve parked in the right place.’
In fact our whole journey to Amsterdam and back feels somehow too easy. Kent’s Manston airport is a revelation to me. OK, I live twenty minutes from Gatwick and it takes ninety minutes to drive to Manston , but it’s worth it to avoid the M25 and for the complete lack of airport queues at any point. Even going through the security checks is fine – the three jolly staff chat to us in a friendly way about our trip and tease my son gently about supporting Arsenal.
Manston is near Ramsgate on the Kent coast and I think it’s genius of KLM to use an airport so close to the Channel because it makes for pretty nippy flights. The official flight time from Manston to Amsterdam is 55 minutes but we’re in the air for just 35 minutes when we travel.
Brilliantly for me, but probably not for the airport authority, the only money I spend at Manston is £22 for three days’ parking and £4.90 for a coffee and a hot chocolate while we wait to board our flight. The Duty Free shop and cafe are so sparsely stocked that there’s nothing we want or need to buy, which makes a pleasant change from the full-on shopping experience which I can’t resist at the big London airports. My son’s disappointed that there are no magazines for him though – I usually buy him a children’s football one to read when we fly.
The flight’s half-full and feels relaxing. KLM is one of those nice airlines which give allocated seats and a drink and a snack on board – mineral water and biscuits on our flight. The staff are friendly and efficient, the seats comfortable. A generous hand luggage allowance of 12 kg plus a small handbag or laptop allows us to travel with just hand luggage – perfect for our three-day trip. This means that we’re on a train to the city centre within half an hour of landing at Schiphol.
On the way back from Amsterdam to Manston my son wants to use KLM’s self check-in machines at Schiphol. Now I’ve never had much success with these and generally end up cursing them and going to queue up for help from a real person, but we have plenty of time so I’m happy to let him try. I can’t believe it when he checks us both in and prints out our boarding passes successfully.
I’m not impressed by the food we buy in the departure lounge at Schiphol. A small plate of pasta with tomato sauce is an inflated €9,95 but the pasta is so dried up that my son can’t eat much of it. A cup of fruit for €4,25 is fine but overpriced. Then I buy two bottles of water for us to drink on the flight, only to find that there’s a security check just before boarding. I’d assumed we’d already been through all of the security checks before going in to the departure lounge. As no liquids are allowed through that’s a waste of €6.
I’d take my own food next time but the journey was great overall and I’d definitely recommend flying with KLM between Manston and Schiphol.
Family travel lowdown: KLM flights between Manston and Amsterdam run twice a day every day of the week. From Amsterdam the airline offers connections to over 130 worldwide destinations.
Disclosure: KLM provided our flights to Amsterdam the purposes of this review.