Saying goodbye to the KLM MD-11

So it seems that I have a bit of a travel problem: I cannot stop doing it. This weekend was supposed to be a quiet one at home catching up on some work and getting ahead of things in light of my upcoming adventures next month which will see me do a quick 27,000+ miles and visit five countries along the way. Instead I’ve gone and booked a bit of a ridiculous excursion: 100 minutes in Amsterdam.

KLM MD-11 by Lord of the Wings via Flickr

Turns out that Saturday night the KLM MD-11 is operating from Montreal to Amsterdam, just like they have for a while now. But Saturday is the last time the plane will be on that route. In fact, it is the last scheduled commercial service for the type. I’ve know this for a while and looked into booking it a few times but never could quite justify it and pull the trigger. Nothing like waiting until less than 24 hours prior to departure to make that decision.

Friday morning some friends noted that there were still award seats available on the flight. Flying Blue was selling them at 35,000 points + $115ish in taxes & fees. That is a bit more than the low rate of 25,000 points and only gets me to Amsterdam, but it is within my realm of acceptable so I started looking at piecing the trip together. Surely there wouldn’t be award space to position into YUL to catch that flight, right? So it was all just academic anyways. Except Delta did have award seats on their morning flight up to Montreal from LaGuardia. Hmmm….maybe this could work after all.

But surely there would be no way to get home at a reasonable price. Except there was. United had a seat on the 8:30am AMS-EWR flight. I could be back on the ground in the USA by noon. Maybe this isn’t so ridiculous after all.

Of course it is. Ridiculously good! Time to make the bookings.

Getting the UA flights was easy. And with free cancellations I had no risks there. But Flying Blue wouldn’t sell me the Montreal connection online so I had to phone that one in. And here’s where things got a bit harried. The 35k award seat YUL-AMS books into “N” in the KLM system (second of their five award tiers). The LGA-YUL books into X (the lowest tier). Flying Blue cannot combine those into a single booking. I figured I’d just pay the higher rate and get both flights and call it a day; I’m used to such voluntary downgrades on award bookings all the time.

Is. Not. Possible.

I called twice, just to make sure, but they weren’t budging on that one. And while I was trying to figure it out I missed the 24-hour advance booking requirement window for the Flying Blue award. Oops. I still had my flight home from Amsterdam and I could still get YUL-AMS but I had nothing getting me to Montreal. I checked Amtrak; I know they have a daily run up to Montreal. And they even had seats for sale at $67 each, a price I’d happily pay to ride up the Hudson, take in the scenery and get some work done en route to the airport. Except that it arrives in downtown Montreal just after the plane is scheduled to depart. Not so useful after all.

And so it was back over to United. For an extra 10,000 points I could make it happen. Not particularly happy about spending the extra points, but I figured that once I started down this rabbit hole there was no reason to stop. Like I said, ridiculous but ridiculously good.

And so I’m booked. By the time this post is live I should be in Montreal, enjoying some fresh air downtown for a few hours before heading back to the airport where the distinctive shape of the KLM MD-11 will greet me at the gate. It is a short flight to AMS and I doubt I’ll get much sleep. I plan to make up for that on the return segment.

Because this is a special event and I’m going to get at it for all I can.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Enjoy it!

    My fiancé and I had an award reservation on today’s KL672 ourselves until a few weeks ago. But we JUST bought our first home together and have been dealing with closing and moving the last few weeks and finally threw in the towel and realized that we really just couldn’t handle that kind of trip this weekend (we were going to be in Amsterdam about 24 hours), so we cancelled.

    Maybe the seats went back into award inventory and you got them? Maybe not.

    Either way, have fun and write a good report so we can live our original plan vicariously through you!

  2. Wow. I’d thought the whole DC-10 family had long ceased operations. As an aviation buff, you should have a great time. I’m still trying to work out flying upstairs in a 747 or two while there are still some in service.

  3. Have fun! A bunch of us flew on the last NWA DC-10 from HNL to MSP a few years back. Lots of fun and a great time with other AvGeeks! Looking forward to the trip report !!

  4. Saw that plane at Montreal on my way to Munich. Got a picture of it if anyone want’s to see it.
    Can we post pictures here? I don’t think so.

  5. Nice to know: KLM will fly the MD-11 on a few more ‘local’ farewell trips in/around the Netherlands, for the price of 111 Euros.

  6. Ah, the MD-11… last of the mighty passenger tri-jets.

    At least they’ll live on as a cargo type for a few more years… it’ll be a sad day when the 747 retires and all we’re left with are the much more generic looking 2 engine giant beasts… and A380s from non-US carriers.

    Plane spotting gets that much trickier.

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