Mr. Torben Nybo Jensen
Regional Director, Business Development, APAC
First of all, Torben, before you give us your travel account, tell our readers a bit about yourself, who you are and where you are currently active businesswise.
Originally from Denmark, I have been living in Asia for the past 27 years: Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. Since 1999, I have been based in Bangkok, Thailand.
You are what we call a “modern day Corona business traveller.” Tell us about what prompted your decision to fly from Bangkok to Copenhagen, and what did you learn.
Having been sidelined with a broken foot for months before COVID-19 “came to town”, I was like a caged tiger, ready to bite. Getting out of Bangkok was needed to preserve some level of sanity, and having an isolated summer house in Denmark, I couldn’t think of a better place to sit out the pandemic. So when a few airlines opened up again, I jumped at the opportunity.
Business class is normally synonymous with drinks, appetisers, a selection of movies and nice stewardesses. How was your COVID-19 business class trip?
It was a very different experience all around. Business Class passengers were asked to board the plane last. No pre-departure drinks – in fact no alcohol was available at all. Each seat had a pre-placed plastic bag with fruits, nuts, biscuits, water and a Coke. Additionally, a small aluminum container with noodles was served after take-off. Breakfast consisted of a sandwich and one bottle of water. Coffee or tea was not available, and no other meal service was available throughout the flight.
Tell us about your experience at the check-in, the airport, and onboard.
Suvarnabhumi Airport was all but empty. Like everywhere else in Thailand, masks were mandatory when entering the airport, in the same way that your temperature is being checked prior to entry. This has become standard in most supermarkets for the past 2 months, so nothing unusual. I flew out one day prior to the official re-opening, so there were almost no flights and no people. All shops and lounges were closed, and only one restaurant and one coffee shop was open near the gate. Lights were out in many places, so it was an eerie experience all together. During the flight, everybody wore masks most of the time.
I suppose that after landing in Europe you would have liked a great coffee and perhaps a light meal. How was the transit airport in this regard?
My transit was in Amsterdam, another ghost airport. One coffee shop was open. All other restaurants, shops, lounges, etc. were closed down. In fact, the Dutch seem to have done the only sensible thing during such un-sensible times: renovating everything. So, it was more like walking through a deserted construction site than one of Europe’s busiest airports. Very few people wore masks on the flight AMS to CPH.
Finally, how about your arrival into Copenhagen, and your final verdict on this trip?
For a change, luggage came fast – my flight was the only one, and we were the only passengers at the luggage belt. A handful of airport staff guided us through a temporary maze and told us exactly where to stand (at a distance) at the belt. Nobody was wearing masks in CPH airport or elsewhere in the Kingdom of Denmark.
I fail to understand why it is compulsory to wear masks outside your own home in most Asian countries, whereas in most European countries it is not only discouraged, actually people think you have COVID-19 if you do wear a mask. So much money is being spent and there are so many smart people around the world, and the West and the East can’t even agree on such a small thing as “Mask or No Mask? Does it help or not?”
My final verdict would be this:
Was it very different? Absolutely. Was it inconvenient not to have all the usual perks, options, and choices? You bet. However, just the fact that KLM, amongst a few other airlines, have opened up and given some of us the option to actually travel during these times is very much appreciated. I think we should all appreciate the staff who put their necks on the line (well ….. in the sky actually) and thank them for opening up the world to us all again. So, thank you very much to everyone at KLM and all the ground staff in BKK, AMS, and CPH Airports.
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