planejamie From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2011, 572 posts, RR: 0 Posted (1 year 8 months 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 5475 times:
Hello and welcome to my first trip report (and second post) here on airliners.net. I've been reading the forums on here for a while now (mostly the trip reports) and always thought that someday I'd post one of my own, however never got round to signing up/posting something mainly due to working my way through my second year of GCSEs. To give a bit of information about me, my name is Jamie and I'm 16 (nearly 17) and (as my profile states) I have had for a long time interests in aviation (mainly commercial, now also general/light aviation) with the aims of becoming a commercial airline pilot.
The background of this trip was to visit my Dad who works in Riyadh (I did live there for 2 years before moving back to the UK for education related reasons mainly). This trip was booked through the travel agent that the company my dad works for uses in Riyadh. This trip was in fact the "return" leg of a return ticket (mainly because of the pattern my return bookings created from when I lived in Riyadh). I was also travelling alone due to the fact that I could not have the last few days off school as I needed to get information about my January exams on the last day before the 2 week Christmas holiday (the rest of my family went out a few days before me).
A bit of warning about this trip report - it's a bit wordy, and my pics arn't great as I was using my old digital camera which I think has seen better days... However, without much further ado, let's begin:
Flight 1: MAN-LHR
Type: Embraer ERJ-145(EP)
Flight Number: BD (something, can't remember it now!)
Seat: 7A, moved to 10A
From: MAN - Manchester Terminal 3 (Gate 17)
To: LHR - London Heathrow Terminal 1 (Domestic Gate, odd arrivals procedure described later)
Date: December 18th 2010
I woke up at about 4.30am feeling very groggy, took my case downstairs and waited for the taxi (or if the taxi would come for that matter). The night before, the north west of England took a battering of snow which was pretty deep (deepest in a while) where I live. At the time, I didn't think I would actually make it to the airport (or ontime for that matter) however, the taxi arrived at 5:10am (10 minutes late isn't bad given the conditions) and so it was time for the 45 minute journey there. For the first time in a long while the motorways were empty and I actually arrived with plenty of time to spare! As I had checked in online the night before (bmi's online check-in and website as a whole are surprisingly pain free and I was able to choose the seats I wanted) I went straight to the bmi bag drop and off to security I went!
Security at Manchester Terminal 3 is pretty much empty at this time in the morning so I was through in minutes (thankfully not having to remove my walking boots as the security officer said no problem - though now I think they have changed the scanners so you do if you send the metal detector off and get directed to the body scanner). Once airside I headed over to WHSmith and bought the latest copy of Airliner World, a bottle of MtnDew and some wine gums (needed a sugar boost to get me going). I headed over to the Gate 16/17/18 area where most of bmi's domestic flights depart from and looked out the window at the excellent ground staff clearing the snow and working hard to get flights out that day. Whilst reading/watching I heard many announcements about there being cancelled Flybe flights to Belfast (and I think a few other regional airports).
Flybe Dash 8 G-ECOB going nowhere my BD ERJ-145 to LHR G-RJXA
After a while, a delay was announced due to it taking longer for the de-ice truck to come round and due to the level of snow on the aircraft to be cleared (however, I still had an hour at LHR for my connection). After about 20 minutes, my name was called out and a new seat 10A was written on my A4 home printed boarding pass (don't like these tbh). BD decided to load us (and bags) then deice to save time so everyone quickly boarded down the steps and I was greeted by a friendly crew. Once everyone was on board, the captain mentioned in his welcome speech that we would not be restricted to holding at LHR today so we should recover quite a bit of our delay (I presume due to the number of BA flights cancelled on that day before the snow even hit LHR in force).
We taxied out to runway 23R (I think 23L was out of use on that day or at least that morning) and held for 2 minutes by the runway with our engines revved up (I presume to get them warmed up a bit more due to the cold) and then we were off on what felt like the longest take off roll I've ever had on an ERJ-145 (and I've flown BD 's quite a bit). Fairly typical BD domestic flight, the only people to get served anything are "Economy Flex" passengers. I wish they would at least do a water run or just something little like that, they had time to (my opinion of bmi at this point in time was already tainted by an experience in October of bad onboard experience which I did actually complain to them about later on and got a direct response from various departments - however, I still came back on BA). I can't remember the runway used at LHR, I'm fairly sure it was the typical over the city approach.
Here's where it got interesting. Those who have gone Domestic - International at LHR Terminal 1 will know that all the Gates 8abc etc and a few others mix the arriving and departing passengers and you only need to go through one little boarding pass check to transfer. Today however, our junglejet ended up on a "bus" stand. Why a bus was needed I'll never know, but health and safety / security I guess. We boarded the bus only for it to drive under Terminal 1 in a loop and drop us by this mysterious little door on the opposite side of the aircraft (literally 5-10 metres away). After going up the escalator, I realised it dropped me right in the baggage claim bit. This meant I'd have to re-clear security again (albeit through a transfer bit across the checkin area) and it seems that everyone going through LHR that day were not prepared to remove all their Arctic-proof gear so despite a short line, it took a good 20 minutes to get through. Once through, everything was normal, no delays and at 10am I found out which gate to go to.
Flight 2: LHR-LHR
Type: Airbus A330-243
Flight Number: BD775
Seat: (I think) 29K
From: LHR Terminal 1 - Gate 43- I think (from the "Europier" bit, not quite the new block)
To: LHR Terminal 1 - Arrivals hall
Date: December 18th 2010
Everything seemed to be going ahead for this flight as the staff turned up to man the gate and I believe the crew did too. However, the jetway remained detached from the aircraft and that was when the snow began to fall. At 10:30 we got the announcement that we were "suspended" and that we would receive further information at 12:30 and with that, the gate agents got out the latest copy of Ok! and put their feet up.
Also going nowhere - G-WWBD covered in snow G-WWBD again, in the snow, from t'other side - needs a clean... G-MEDJ to I think Tel Aviv in the snow TP standing out in white with the red & green lettering
12:30 came and "2pm" was announced. After a long while of sitting there, we eventually got the announcement "bmi regrets to inform you that BD775 to Dammam via Riyadh has been cancelled. Please proceed to gate 43 to claim your baggage and rebook in the check-in area". Well, I followed that advice and was expecting just our flight, maybe one or two more to be down there to begin with (thinking "they won't do this all at once"). Got through immigration very quickly and then stepped into hell. Now the Terminal 1 baggage claim is cramped normally, but this was madness! I wish I had taken time to take a picture as it was bad. Other carriers (United, Lufthansa) were giving out information about which belt their luggage was coming out of. BD - nothing, even customer service wouldn't help. So I searched and spent about an hour along with other people from my flight trying to find the bags from our flight (going off bag tags alone here) and eventually we found them coming out. However, the belt kept filling up and stopping (and many of these bags wern't for Riyadh or Dammam).
In the end, I got out and thought "well at least the queue might have got dealt with a bit in over an hour" - how wrong I was. bmi staff were out in force however. I got directed to 3 different lines before joining one they said would be "for transfer" and I was handed an A4 bit of paper with contact details on (the phone line was full and I had left my UK phone at home, so I didn't have internet access on my Saudi one - it barely makes texts!). So I queued and queued whilst my Dad in Riyadh was frantically trying to get me either another flight out or a hotel (after telling him that my policy on refusing to ever fly EK again still stands), I was looking at possibly an evening BA flight to DXB and then Saudi Arabian Airlines to RUH (I was hoping for this, mainly due to the possibility of another flight on an SV 747 as SV has/had some interesting types running that route). The BD staff disappeared after half an hour or so and the only announcements were from BAA saying basically "Go away, we don't want you", well "the airport is closed, please use the Heathrow express to london city and check online"
However, my Dad found me a B&B in Hayes on the internet and text me the details. It was lucky that I had just enough £ for a taxi, so queued up outside in the hour long queue for one and by 7pm, I was in a perfectly nice family run B&B (I have to say, the most hospitable place I've stayed). I had a room with a TV, Shower, Bed and it was warm and clean, I was perfectly satisfied and it was cheap enough to be able to pay for it off my debit card (my Dad did put the money back on after some grumbling and "that can be your Christmas present this year). The plan was, I'd stay the night there and get the train (EUGH!) up to Manchester and stay with my grandparents who live in Manchester. However, I was spared and my dad got me a flight from LHR-RUH on BD on the Tuesday. So I had a nice lazy 2 days in 'London'. I did contemplate going into the city, but seeing that it was an ordeal to walk 10 minutes to the nearest Tesco express in the snow, I spent most of the time in the room watching TV, on my laptop (sadly no WiFi or internet, but I now have great minesweeper skills...) or sleeping. The best bit of this B&B too is that the local Pizza Hut will deliver to your room rather than the front door, so for a lazy teen like me, I was great!
Flight 2 - Attempt 2: LHR-RUH
Type: Airbus A330-243
Flight Number: BD775
From: LHR Terminal 1 (Gate 49)
To: RUH Terminal 1 (Gate 16)
Date: December 21st 2010
This time, the B&B booked a taxi for me (and it was half the price that the black cab driver charged on the 18th) and I was dropped off sort of curbside at Terminal 1. This is where I needed to walk round a huge white marquee and proceed to the door. At this point, my dad's instructions were "head to the blue premium box and give them that booking ref" (ironically, I wrote it on my original boarding pass). I just presumed that due to his bmi diamond club Gold status he did something or arranged something. Anyway, I was stopped at the door and despite the check-in hall being nearly empty (except one or two sleeping passengers) we were all told (lots of people for my flight were here) "Go to the white marquee and we'll call you" - no one moved. So, at about 7:30, we did get let in after checking if "check-in were ready for us" (which they were 10 minutes ago as the bmi staff were ready and told us to come in, but BAA were having none of it). So I headed over and the lady checked me in, disposed of my old boarding pass and then I got a shock when I saw "3D" written down. A quick text to my Dad confirmed that I was in Business class and he'd paid for it on his credit card along with the instructions "don't tell your mother, it was one of the only seats". I was also excited as I hadn't flown in the front part of BD's J class (the first 3 rows), only the 2nd cabin.
Sadly no fast track security open, so after going through (and as I was wearing my hoodie and converse this time, I didn't need to take anything off except a belt and to take out my laptop) I then headed to the BD lounge. I've been in here before, but not this early so I noticed the blue lights. There's many pics on here of the BD lounge and it was busy that morning, so I only took a few photos out the window:
AA 777-200ER - Big Shiny Thing The snow clearing machines, that can't be used when we have anything more than 10cm of snow on health and safety grounds (I'm sure that was the excuse)
Now, after a short time in the lounge, boarding was called at 9:30 (early for this flight) at Gate 49. Those of you who might not know where this is, the only way to describe is it is (forgive the phrase) "the arse end of Terminal 1". I like it once your there, but there's a lot of walking. It's almost like a 3 mile hike just to get there! Once there (and after getting my passport checked for a valid entry visa to Saudi Arabia) boarding commenced for BD775. I was surprised, I'm sure the Y load wasn't full and the J load certainly wasn't. Once on board, I was greeted by one or two familiar faces from past BD flights (they didn't remember me, however...). I stowed my bag in the centre overhead bin (BD have these poorly designed recessed ones that open in mild turbulence if not slammed shut, however for tall people like me, it does mean I can stand up in the middle).
After everyone had boarded, the captain came on with information about a 5 minute delay (he sounded a bit frustrated) "we've been ready to go now for 5 minutes, but unfortunately Heathrow isn't quite yet. I do apologise for the delay and we'll get going soon" (or words to that effect).
We taxied out (I noticed a few oddly parked aircraft, e.g. BA at Terminal 1...) before turning onto the only runway open at that time and made what felt like the longest take-off roll I've ever had in an A330 considering that it wasn't exactly full of passengers and it's not even a full tank of fuel to get to RUH (though BD make a lot on cargo on this route, I've had cargo sent on bmi).
BD's seat is a standard full-flatish bed (it is 180o but not quite flat in the middle if that makes sense). I have always wondered why the J seats on this A330 have been in this brown colour for so long (now the rest of the fleet looks the same) however, it was acceptable service. I had the "Christmas Lunch" which was ok, though not the best meal in terms of J class and I watched a bit of the IFE (though there wasn't a great choice at the time tbh - in my e-mail to bmi, I mentioned even putting some newer and more popular films on). bmi's IFE is a slightly older one. I'd call it semi-AVOD. In the sense that it has interactive games, but loop Audio/Video. Unlike BA, BD don't change the programming of the channels after the first "loop", so it's the same stuff again. I'll let the pictures do the rest here:
Seat Controls - a bit dirty. Also, that cup holder should get moved somewhere else as it is easily knocked bmi stuff - noise cancelling headphones, menu, thick blanket. They don't provide airliner world Cabin shot, not the greatest but you can see the blueish lighting and those awful centre bins
Finally, we made my favourite approach into Riyadh, 33R over the city. One thing I did notice was that the gear was dropped a lot earlier than on past flights.
It was an interesting few days in London. The funny thing is, the exact opposite happened on the return with BA where I had 20 minutes to run through Terminal 5 (I made it btw, my checked in bag didn't), made possible by a very helpful BA rep/helper/not sure of the job title lady that ran us through. And I wasn't the last on! and the flight left bang on time to MAN! BD, I have told them this and they did respond promptly: The IFE and food need a bit of tweaking. Whilst I don't expect them to put AVOD in right away (btw, even this system crashes, I've seen the Linux penguin and the boot screen many times on this aircraft) they did say that they will aim to put better films on and try to improve the food (whether this has happened I don't know). Whilst I accept LHR closing was not BD's fault, the way they handled the situation was dreadful. I told BD this and I'm not sure what they will do. The staff not walking off and some more announcements would be a huge improvement!
Hopefully, I would like to try BD again soon, but my next commercial flight will be with Icelandair on a school trip - I will try and do a better report of that one if possible (it is on one of my favourite aircraft, the 757-200, the other favourite being the 777 in case you wondered).
Thanks for reading and let me know if I can improve at all,
planejamie From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2011, 572 posts, RR: 0 Reply 2, posted (1 year 8 months 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 4602 times:
Quoting ezy0134 (Reply 1): Great little TR! sorry to hear about the cancellation, I remember my flight out of istanbul was cancelled due to snow in December, but luckily you got upgraded!
Thanks! - It wasn't really an upgrade as such, more of a surprise from my dad as Economy was "fully booked" (though in reality it wasn't) so he had to make a whole new booking in J. Still waiting for the refund of the original Y flight out...
infodesk From Switzerland, joined May 2006, 1240 posts, RR: 34 Reply 3, posted (1 year 8 months 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 4470 times:
Great to read your first TR. I loved the photos of the snow at MAN & LHR, something that used to be a rare sight but which seems to be getting more and more common now. I was flying back to UK at that time too - I was really lucky and made MAN with just a 20minute delay.
How kind of your Dad to book you C-Class to RUH, bet that was a welcome Christmas pressie.
Quoting planejamie (Thread starter): Fairly typical BD domestic flight, the only people to get served anything are "Economy Flex" passengers.
I'm sure they could manage a glass of water, that really wouldn't be asking too much.
I did between RUH and DXB - before I discovered seatguru, I didn't realise EK had 10 abreast Y class seating. For a 90 minute flight, it was awful. When I saw the 777 at the gate I thought "Yes! This should be good" but I wasn't impressed with EK - their fares aren't the cheapest anymore, everything (in my opinion) seems rather tacky with the gold/wood mix, the cabin crew wern't that brilliant and obviously a narrow seat combined with average legroom wasn't good. I flew SV next time, 747-400 there (same 10 abreast layout, but obviously the 747 is wider) - was perfectly acceptable. The crew were average on SV but the food was very good (just a simple curry, tasty). The only thing I will give EK credit for is their IFE system is one of the best.
Quoting infodesk (Reply 3): I'm sure they could manage a glass of water, that really wouldn't be asking too much.
Yeah, I know! When I flew BA, exact same route, they only have 1 class on domestic routes, so on a full A321, everyone got served a small snack (normally nuts, crisps or a biscuit) and a full bar service (including alcohol, tea, coffee etc) - with time to collect the rubbish and have plenty of time to spare. I don't see why BD can't do it on an ERJ!
Speaking of BD ERJs, I spotted G-RJXK (I think that was the reg) doing a football charter at BLK today (I was dodging the showers waiting to go out flying when I spotted it coming in)
Palmjet From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1051 posts, RR: 20 Reply 5, posted (1 year 8 months 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 3825 times:
planejamie - hi there. Nice report of your flights - what a chaotic mess it was here last December for sure. Nice to see lots of snow pics - your original BD 330 looked like it was not going anywhere in a hurry! Glad that you finally made it in the end. Interested to read about your EK experiences. I too had similar experiences when I flew them to Australia a few years back. I don't understand what all the hype has been about - very average onboard service in my view. I also agree with you - the interiors of their cabins look cheap and tacky and completely over the top. Nothing classy about it at all. Thanks again for your report! Cheers P/jet
planejamie From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2011, 572 posts, RR: 0 Reply 6, posted (1 year 8 months 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 3642 times:
Quoting Palmjet (Reply 5): planejamie - hi there. Nice report of your flights - what a chaotic mess it was here last December for sure. Nice to see lots of snow pics - your original BD 330 looked like it was not going anywhere in a hurry! Glad that you finally made it in the end. Interested to read about your EK experiences. I too had similar experiences when I flew them to Australia a few years back. I don't understand what all the hype has been about - very average onboard service in my view. I also agree with you - the interiors of their cabins look cheap and tacky and completely over the top. Nothing classy about it at all. Thanks again for your report! Cheers P/jet
I have to say, recently (e.g. the past 6 months) I have flown BA (and nothing but) via LHR. I've not had a single problem, the staff have been great from check-in to plane to transfer to arriving etc. Their food isn't bad and whilst I ended up on one of their older 777-200s (with the old 12 channel IFE too) they had several new movies on (not yet on DVD at the time) along with a decent selection of TV shows to suit all. Now they've sorted out their labour issues, I'll stick on BA unless I'm on a very tight budget... might give BD another try soon though (maybe MAN-LHR) then perhaps LCY-EDI and EDI-MAN or something like that. I'm also considering trying Jet2 from BLK on a day trip just for fun as I've not actually flown out of BLK as a passenger through the terminal before! I won't touch EK again (also due to the way they treat their staff and how they're taking over everywhere)
Thanks for the kind comments! I could do a TR of my BA flight in April from MAN-LHR-RUH but nothing special really happened tbh (other than it was perfectly nice weather all the way!)
PlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6183 posts, RR: 79 Reply 9, posted (1 year 8 months 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3483 times:
Nice first report, planejamie. Quite bad to hear about the cancellation, at least you made it to the destination some days later.
Quoting planejamie (Thread starter): Hello and welcome to my first trip report (and second post) here on airliners.net. I've been reading the forums on here for a while now (mostly the trip reports) and always thought that someday I'd post one of my own, however never got round to signing up/posting something mainly due to working my way through my second year of GCSEs.
Good to see you finally decided to join us.
Quoting planejamie (Thread starter): A bit of warning about this trip report - it's a bit wordy, and my pics arn't great as I was using my old digital camera which I think has seen better days...
No worries, the text was fine. Just don't forget to include food pictures next time.
DunaA320 From UK - England, joined Feb 2009, 610 posts, RR: 9 Reply 12, posted (1 year 8 months 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 3409 times:
Congrats on your first TR, very well written and informative.
A shame about the snow fiasco you experienced, but at least you managed to get away in the end.
Quoting planejamie (Thread starter): my next commercial flight will be with Icelandair on a school trip - I will try and do a better report of that one if possible (it is on one of my favourite aircraft, the 757-200, the other favourite being the 777 in case you wondered).
Lol, I'll see what culinary delights Terminal 1 has to offer (not flown out of that one for nearly 2 years now, most my flying now is through Terminal 3)
Quoting DunaA320 (Reply 12): Congrats on your first TR, very well written and informative.
A shame about the snow fiasco you experienced, but at least you managed to get away in the end.
Thanks Matt! I was quite lucky, I know of many that gave up. I also met quite a few foreign travellers from Europe that ended up going by train/land via France (and I'm not a huge fan of trains to be honest!)
I'll definitely do an Icelandair trip report (both ways, if I am awake for the return leg, 4.30am wake up!) - not seen one done for some time now...
HiJazzey From Saudi Arabia, joined Sep 2005, 788 posts, RR: 1 Reply 14, posted (1 year 8 months 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 3256 times:
Quoting planejamie (Reply 4): I did between RUH and DXB - before I discovered seatguru, I didn't realise EK had 10 abreast Y class seating. For a 90 minute flight, it was awful. When I saw the 777 at the gate I thought "Yes! This should be good" but I wasn't impressed with EK - their fares aren't the cheapest anymore, everything (in my opinion) seems rather tacky with the gold/wood mix, the cabin crew wern't that brilliant and obviously a narrow seat combined with average legroom wasn't good. I flew SV next time, 747-400 there (same 10 abreast layout, but obviously the 747 is wider) - was perfectly acceptable. The crew were average on SV but the food was very good (just a simple curry, tasty). The only thing I will give EK credit for is their IFE system is one of the best.
Unfortunately, EK has made the B777 3-4-3 layout acceptable for a network carrier, encouraging others to follow suit including SV
planejamie From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2011, 572 posts, RR: 0 Reply 15, posted (1 year 8 months 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 3161 times:
Quoting HiJazzey (Reply 14): Unfortunately, EK has made the B777 3-4-3 layout acceptable for a network carrier, encouraging others to follow suit including SV
WHAT! SV have gone the same way! I thought their "refurbished" 777s were 3-3-3 from the original 2-5-2... funny thing is, BA were the first ones to test 3-4-3 in a 777 and then went back to 3-3-3, but EK, AF, KL, OS, NZ etc then followed suit... I won't fly on a 777 with 3-4-3 seating, definitely not!