After a 35 min ride to Brussels Airport (the highway between Charleroi and Brussels was empty given the time : 05:30 AM), we went to the check-in counters for One World in the rather crowded departures hall. A VERY friendly check-in agent gave us our boarding passes to Chicago via Heathrow, asking us if we prefered a window or aisle seat for the BRU-LHR leg (for LHR-ORD, I had already booked seats 38A/B, which the agent confirmed).
Passing through security and passport control was really hassle-free, our aircraft (G-EUPL) was already docked on the B-pier North (in fact, it stayed there overnight). We made a walk down the B pier to have a coffee and also to watch planes (among others, LOT ERJ-170, Lofleitur Icelandic B767-300, Royal Air Maroc B747-400, VLM Fokker 50 and the usual amount of SN Brussels Avros, Virgin Express 737s, Iberia A320 and B757, Alitalia MD-80s, ...).
Boarding was on time, we could pick a complimentary newspaper among a choice of 4 (French, Dutch and English). The aircraft itself was comfortable, with leather seats and friendly flight attendants. During the taxi, we saw the Antonov 124 that was seized by Belgian police some days before (because of a strange story of a Swedish court ordering Belgium to seize the a/c because of unpaid bills to a Cyprus company by Ukrainian government... The Ukrainian crew decided to lock himself into the plane, parked on the Melsbroek military apron). After taxi, we had to wait 20 min for take-off because the usual departure runway (25R) was closed for maintenance. Landings were on 25L (as usual) but departures were on 20 that day, meaning we had to wait for numerous landings as 20 crosses 25L (the captain explained that on the PA). Anyway taking off from Rwy 20 gives very good overviews of the main aprons and soon enough we went through the clouds (overcast at BRU that day).
Immediately after t-o, the LCD screens dropped to show the flight progress (in 3 languages, English, Dutch and French) and the FAs began serving the breakfast (in Y class this consisted in a small croissant, orange juice, vanilla cream with fruits, plus the usual choice of the drinks cart). Crossing the Channel is fast, but we had to make some holding patterns in northeast London due to traffic at LHR. Once cleared for approach, we enjoyed breathtaking views of central London (LCY airport, Millenium Dome, Tower Bridge, London Eye, Houses of Parliament and others) on an unusually clear day. Unfortunately, the card of my digital camera was wrongly formatted, which I discovered at LHR, loosing all the pictures I had taken inflight... We made a bumpy landing on runway 27L and docked on Terminal 4, being almost the only narrow-body in the jungle of 747s and 777s.
Opinion : A nice flight in a comfortable aircraft with friendly crew, including breakfast and refills of coffee although the duration was less than one hour.
From : LHR - London (Heathrow), UK
To : ORD - Chicago (O'Hare), USA
Date : August 20th, 2004
Flight : AA87
Aircraft : Boeing 777-223ER N750AN (CN 30259 / LN 332)
Seat : 38A
We had more than 2 hours to connect to our flight to Chicago, enough to take the bus from Heathrow terminal 4 to terminal 3 (plus passport control and handbags screening at T3 entrance) and to watch some planes (LHR is the heaven for plane spotters, there's such a variety of wide-bodies there, impressive...). We bought some travel items in the shopping mall... errr... terminal 3 before proceeding to gate 13. For US-bound flights, you must first pass through a special passport control before entering a special isolated waiting room (again, complimentary newspapers and magazines). Boarding started on time, with F and C class first, then Y class divided into 3 groups (we belonged to the last one...). I found the aircraft very comfortable in Y-class, with a generous legroom (More Room Throughout Coach program), individual PTVs with choice of at least ten video channels, ten radio channels and flight progress tracking (which is diplayed continuously during the flight on a large screen in front of each cabin).
We took of half an hour late on runway 27R. Our routing led us above Birmingham, Prestwick, south of Iceland, above southern Greenland then Northeastern Canada (above Ungava Bay) and finally down Lake Michigan to Chicago. I enjoyed stunning views of Scotland and icebergs, along with Greenland ice mountains and lonely northern Canada. A very tasty hot lunch was served around noon (choice of lamb or chicken with rice and spicy sauce, plus chocolate cake and bread). Later over Canada, with received a warm pizza with fresh grape. During approach to O'Hare, I managed to take good pictures of the Chicago skyscrapers, an overview of O'Hare and Schaumburg airports. We landed on 09R (I think) on time and docked on the International Arrivals Terminal (T5). There was a small queue at the immigration (usual questions : Where will you stay in the USA ? Why ?), but it did not take too long to get to the baggage reclaim hall, then into an automated train (ATS) to Terminal 2 and finally to the CTA blue line (= subway) to Chicago downtown.
Opinion : Very good flight, more than what I usually expect in Economy. On time, and good and friendly service.
From : ORD - Chicago (O'Hare), USA
To : LHR - London (Heathrow), UK
Date : August 23rd, 2004
Flight : AA98
Aircraft : Boeing 777-223ER N761AJ (CN 31478 / LN 393)
Seat : 38J
After an interesting stay in Chicago (including a stunning aerobatics show by the Blue Angels above Lake Michigan, during the annual Air and Water Show), we took the CTA blue line again to get to O'Hare, in the end of the afternoon. The train arrives under terminal 2, not so far from terminal 3 from where our flight to London was leaving. The terminal was a bit of a mess, but the check-in was reasonably fast and efficient. Instead of dedicated check-in desks for a particular flight, there is a set of counters for all American Airlines international flights, which is better in my opinion. After check-in, the agent asked me if my case was locked (you can't lock your case anymore) then instructed me to bring it to the scanning machine (where another agent once again asked if it was locked). All the bags are scanned inside the check-in area at what seems to be a temporary location (this is part of the reason why the terminal looks messy : screening machines in the public area of the terminal, near the check-in desks).
We passed passport and security control without any problem, then entered concourse K (our flight was due to leave from gate K13). The view from concourse K is somewhat boring as the terminal is dedicated to American Airlines (once I had seen their Super 80s, Fokker 100s and B737/757/767/777s, I went to the end of the concourse where I could enjoy views of the active landind runways, meaning more diversity (Lufthansa A340, United old and new colors, Regional Jets, Northwest Airlines, ...), while passengers were boarding a 777 bound to LHR, just before ours. We boarded our 777, N761AJ, just after sunset, and took off from runway 32R (or was it 27R ?) after a short taxi above a highway.
A dinner was served immediately after take-off (choice of beef or chicken with rice, bread, chocolate cake). I had spectacular night views of Chicago, Toronto and Montreal, along with less spectacular overflies of Michigan (South Bend, Flint, Lansing) and Newfoundland (so, a more southern flight than the previous one). Even with the complimentary pillow and blanket, I couldn't sleep much (as always when travelling) so I watched the movies and followed the flight progress on the tracker. Less than one our before landing, we were served a breakfast, then we started to descend (as we were coming from the West for landing on 27R, we had to circle over central London, unfortunately it was overcast this time). Although the approach was a little bumpy, the landing was smooth (and on time) and the taxi to terminal 3 didn't take long.
Opinion : Same as for AA87. What can I say, efficient, on time, comfortable, friendly. I definitely would fly AA again on transatlantic routes (can't say for domestic flights).
From : LHR - London (Heathrow), UK
To : BRU - Brussels, Belgium
Date : August 24th, 2004
Flight : BA400
Aircraft : Airbus A319-131 G-EUPJ (MSN 1232)
Seat : 17F
That's where the problems begin ! We took the transfer bus to terminal 4, where we found that the gate for our flight (BA396) to Brussels was not assigned yet (we had more than 2 hours to connect). We sat in a quiet area, watching the amazing show of Heathrow's runways, then went to a screen to see... our flight cancelled ! Due to staff shortage, some BA flights had just been cancelled (this is discussed in airliners.net civil aviation forum), including ours... I went to the BA customer service desk where a very friendly (although novice) lady found me two seats on BA400 in the late afternoon. I made a particular point for my luggage, showing their ID, and the lady told me that it would be alright, they would be on board BA400 to Brussels. BA gave us one GBP 5.00 voucher each for drinks in any terminal, any caterer in LHR. So we ate a sandwich with a drink at Costa Coffee (with good views on runway 27L and T4 apron). The wait for the evening flight was quite long, and after a while it even became boring (I was somewhat tired after the transatlantic flight).
Fortunately our flight to Brussels departed more or less on time (we lost much time during taxi because a severe storm was hitting the airport, preventing take offs for some time... The waiting line for 27R quickly became impressive...). Again a nice A319 with leather seats, friendly FAs, drop-down screens to see the flight progress, complimentary newspapers (one with the Heathrow BA mess on cover !). During the short (and low, never above FL200) cruise, we received a tuna sandwich with orange juice and the same vanilla-fruit cream as on board BA389. We landed on 25L in Brussels after a rather bumpy approach (bad weather), and parked on pier B North, near a SN Brussels Airlines A319, at the same gate from where we departed 4 days ago. Passing through passport control was a real mess (long, noisy queues with lots of running children), because of the simultaneous arrival of a Royal Air Maroc B747-400 and Biman Bangladesh DC-10. Watching the baggage reclaim carrousel, we soon understood that our case hadn't followed us to Brussels ! Obviously, there was quite a lot of problems with the BA luggage today, it seems that almost none of the luggage from cancelled BA396 had made its way to Brussels... A (once again friendly, and fluently speaking 3 or 4 languages) lady quickly confirmed that our case had been found at LHR, and told us that they would deliver it at home the next day. And last but not least, the automatic machine in the car park asked me 70 euros for 4.5 days of parking (Front Park 2)...
Opinion : The flight itself was good, once again. Although one shouldn't judge an airline on one flight, it's still difficult to accept that an airline of the BA class had to cancel many flights due to staff shortage. Combined with the luggage not being correctly reallocated (although I specifically asked for that), what a lack of professionnalism ! I think I would fly BA again (because I liked the flights), but I definitely had a bad experience with this flight cancellation.
CV990 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (10 years 3 months 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 8276 times:
Very good report. Very well detailled, specially concerned with the registrations of the airplanes you flew, very good indeed!!! When I fly from Portugal to USA I always like to pick BA, they have great competitive prices and a great atmosphere! I was very much surprised to see AA service and maybe next time when I fly over the pond I'll take AA, did you book you flight with BA and then they booked you in AA? If yes, that will be a great option and fly AA for the first time.
Glad to read that you saw Blue Angels, I also had the chance to see them at Seattle in August 1998 during their Seafair, great aerobatic team right?
By the way my congratulations to Anderlecht and their great game against my team Benfica, 3-0 is a great score and very fair!!!
BrusselsSouth From Belgium, joined Aug 2001, 628 posts, RR: 5
Reply 2, posted (10 years 3 months 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 8258 times:
No I booked through Travelocity.com (in USD -> interesting change rate into EUR) and actually flew the BA flights under AA code (except for BA400 which I wasn't supposed to take).
The Blue Angels were awesome, the highlight of the whole show. Especially when they come face to face at high speed and roll at the very last moment to avoid each other. Breathtaking !
Sorry for Benfica ! I'm not fan of Anderlecht but I admit it's great to have a belgian club in Champions League If I remember correctly, Anderlecht had also qualified themselves for CL against a Portuguese club (FC Porto) 2 or 3 years ago...
Cubsrule From United States of America, joined May 2004, 23225 posts, RR: 20
Reply 3, posted (10 years 3 months 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 8105 times:
Nice report, and I'm glad you enjoyed Chicago. The construction in Terminal 3 is certainly a pain, but it will be quite nice to have the extra space when it is done. You may have noticed that they are doing the same thing in Terminal 2. The baggage screening setup is theoretically temporary, though I haven't heard of any plans to bury the machines. Terminal 5 was the priority (though it may be done now; I haven't been through there in a while).
I can't decide whether I miss the tulip or the bowling shoe more
DoorsToManual From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (10 years 3 months 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 7519 times:
Very enjoyable report Brussels, thanks for taking the time out to write it up.
Very interesting to read of your AA flight to ORD. In fact, the only time I have ever flown with AA was ORD-SEA in 2001; even back then, it seemed their MRTC programme had already been implemented on the 738 the airline had allocated for my flight. Indeed, the economy cabin was roomy and the seats were comfortable. I can't remember much else about the flight, although the service seemed OK from what I can remember.
I was actually scheduled to fly LHR-MIA in October (with AA) but have had to postpone the journey; they will credit my next flight with AA from LHR for a change fee of £100 plus any fare difference which is probably not a bad deal when you consider my ticket was the cheap, non-refundable kind.
Glad you enjoyed your flights with BA, although I would expect good service whenever using them. How awful of them to have to cancel flights like this; the airline will rapidly lose its good reputation and customers if this nonsense continues. As you said in your report, it's just not good enough for an airline like BA to be so disorganized. I guess some things never change at ex-govt airlines! On the whole though, my experiences with them have been good on 90% of my flights. That's enough for me to book with BA again.
BrusselsSouth From Belgium, joined Aug 2001, 628 posts, RR: 5
Reply 7, posted (10 years 3 months 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 6876 times:
Hi all (again),
Thanks for your kind feedback.
Terminal 5 was the priority (though it may be done now; I haven't been through there in a while).
From an arrival point of view, the terminal looked OK (modern and efficient).
Out of curiosity: did you connect in LHR especially to fly the B772 of AA, instead of the direct B763 between BRU and ORD? And which breakfast did AA serve you on the flight back to LHR?
I connected in LHR for two main reasons : cheaper (I booked relatively late) and indeed, from an aviation point of view, I thought it was better to fly the 777 (and, the more flights, the happier I am) and do some spotting at LHR.
Just for your info: a year ago, I was on G-EUPJ too on the same flight (LHR-BRU) in the seat behind yours (18F)!
Do you know member Apuneger (Ivan Coninx)? He has been on G-EUPL from BRU to LHR a few months ago (so again the same routing), and he has been on G-EUPJ together with me a year ago, from LHR to BRU!
Funny, it seems those a/c are frequently seen in BRU... Also funny is the fact that one of the few AA 777 cabin pics in the database shows the exact aircraft I flew and my particular seat !
BTW I know Apuneger from his posts and, more importantly, from his photos on A.net, but I don't know him personnally.
Sn26567 From Belgium, joined Aug 2004, 131 posts, RR: 4
Reply 8, posted (10 years 3 months 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 6875 times:
Very nice report, BrusselsSouth. Sorry to hear about your problems at LHR on your way back home: I know better understand how Ryanair can promote their flights by saying: "never BA again and their cancelled flight!". Unfortunately, Ryanair doesn't' fly London-Brussels anymore (or rather Stansted-Charleroi!).
What I do not understand is why BA staff did not try to put you on a competitor's earlier flight between LHR and BRU. bmi for example...
I guess that if you had insisted (business meeting!), they would have put you through...
BrusselsSouth From Belgium, joined Aug 2001, 628 posts, RR: 5
Reply 9, posted (10 years 3 months 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 6867 times:
As I was on leisure, I did not insist too much. But there was also an earlier LHR-BRU flight on BA (BA398). I guess they mostly put 'sensitive' (i.e. business) passengers on that flight (or competitors' flights), putting leisure pax on the evening flight (although that one was far from full).
I used to fly CRL-STN on FR some times in the past (they had 4 daily flights), and always found it very convenient (on time and cheap, except transportation from STN to Central London). However, I was glad to give BA a try this time.