Arrived early at T3, and used the BD self check in machines. I put my credit card in the slot, and even got it back. Selection of seats was easy enough, 28E and F got the honours. I was returning later so checked in for the return flight too. Strangely enough it gave us seemingly random seats at opposite ends of the aircraft...soon fixed by putting the boarding cards back in and selecting alternatives.
The inbound from LHR was about 20 minutes down, and we boarded some 15 minutes late. My first impression of an Airbus narrowbody wasn't good...the seats were lumpy and felt spartan compared to BA's blue leather. The head rest covers were also absolutely filthy! The edges seemed to be ingrained with dirt. Come on BD, get them washed! The aircraft was also unpleasantly warm.
Of note: Quite a few VS and BA crew on the way back to LHR, plus seats were being allocated to standby passengers from cancelled BA flights earlier. The storms in London the night before apparently caused much disruption and aircraft/people in the wrong place. BD seemed to be helping out.
Take off was a rolling start on 06L, extremely powerful with the V2500 engines giving out a lovely roar. Not as nice as an RB211 on a 757 but gutsy enough. Both runways at MAN were still in use at almost have past eleven with 6L departures/6R arrivals and plenty of traffic. Hello to anyone who was on the AVP mound at about 11.20am! It was certainly busy...
The cabin crew did a cold drink and biscuit service on this 30 minute hop. It was mid morning so anything more substantial would probably have been a waste.
Approach to a cloudless London and LHR was over the Docklands and towards 27L, the A321 touching down neatly and then making almost a 360 degree trip round the terminals to get to its gate at T1.
Returning to T1 at Heathrow, I got frisked at security as a random check. On we went to the BD departure area at Gate 8. Straight away it struck me how much brighter and pleasant this was to my last experience on that T1 finger, the BA Gate 5 area which looks like a disused cold store. My flight was called on time. One thing that caught my eye was the large numbers of Panninis that Costa Coffee sold in the BD area! Must have thought they would sell to those who have had the BD breakfast before.
Return aircraft was G-MIDW. This Star Alliance liveried aircraft still has stickers for Tyrolean and Ansett on its side! Time for a few new stickers. Like my earlier flight this was easily over 90% full. Lots of BA crew deadheading on this flight again.
This A320 had obviously received attention to its seats, with newer seat covers but a horrid grubby red carpet. It was also working overtime to cool the humid late afternoon air, with some steam from the side panels gathering where chilled air was being vented. Always a good sign on a hot day. The earlier A321 had been far too warm. Seats this time were 20A and 20B.
A brief wait at the threshold of 27L, my second trip down that runway of the day, for a few movements before us and we were off with another powerful V2500 performance. This A320 definitely climbed much more powerfully than the A321, which itself was not exactly slow to get up an away. The SA 744 before us had pushed back just before we did from its T1 gate and was nice to follow out.
As soon as we reached the top of the climb, the engines were throttled back for a long and smooth descent into MAN. Our cabin crew were all northern accented this time, and managed a sandwich selection, hot and cold drink or full bar service in the 30 minutes. They were on a par with the efficiency I've come to expect of BA crews on shuttle routes but win hands down on friendliness.
Approach was straight in from the south and arrival on 6L this time. As usual the Concorde looked lovely with its evening lighting in the Viewing Park. Back to Gate 18 and our arrival was to the minute of published.
The A321 was in the hybrid livery and looked tired both inside and out. The seats were definitely not as comfortable as 737 leather that I've sat in many times. Those flip down monitors are also neat but probably a maintenance nightmare!
The A320 was different again. Better seats, cleaner cabin and all bulbs working. Those sidewall panels though...they just didn't feel right to me. Not as robust as other aircraft I've flown and the joint next to me had a slight but irritating squeak.
BD service was all I expected it to be. Their cabin staff are known for being friendly and it showed. They even treated off duty BA and VS staff with every bit as much courtesy as passengers. All BD need now is to wash those headrest covers and paint the planes!