On Sunday 29th April a friend informed me that bmi british midland were using their new aircraft on selected routes between Manchester and Heathrow. I phoned reservations and was informed that the aircraft would be operating its first passenger flight on Monday 30th April with flight No BD591 to LHR and BD594 to MAN. I quickly booked my day return flights in business class at the airline’s website.
I was really excited as I’ve flown most types of Airbus aircraft (A300; A310; A319; A320; A321; A340) and this would be my first flight onboard the A330. I phoned reservations back to request a window seat and spoke to a guy called Eddy (forgot to ask his surname). He informed me that all passengers who booked a business class ticket would be seated in the ‘the new economy’ and only Gold Diamond Club members would be seated in ‘the business’. I was naturally disappointed, as I don’t have elite status with bmi british midland. I have elite status with Continental Airlines, as this is my preferred carrier across the Atlantic from the UK. I explained to him that I had booked this ticket especially to fly on the A330-200 and I would love to try ‘the business’ cabin. He told me that he would try his best for me and to get to the airport early.
Date: Monday 30th April 2001
Flight No: BD591
Route: MAN - LHR
Cabin: the business
I arrived at Manchester Airport Terminal 3 at 13.00. Made my way to the reservation desk to pick up my ticket. I explained to the lady that I was booked in ‘the new economy’ cabin and that I would like the chance to travel in ‘the business cabin’ if possible. She advised me to speak to Phil Mayers who was working at the Business Class counter.
I approached him and explained that I was a keen airline enthusiast and that I had booked this trip especially to fly on the new A330 and if it was possible to fly in ‘the business cabin’. He entered my details into the computer and found a message from Eddy explaining my situation and asking to upgrade me to ‘the business’ cabin, if there was room available, which I thought was very nice and thoughtful of him.
Phil was such a friendly guy and very helpful as I was asking a lot of questions about the new aircraft and the new cabins. He said he would make a few phone calls and I thought he would maybe put me on stand by. I couldn’t believe it when he told me that I was in ‘the business’ cabin and asked me where I would like to sit. I thanked him for the upgrade and asked for a window seat, as I wanted to take some photographs. I was given a boarding card with seat No 3K.
As I was travelling back the same day, I was also issued with a boarding card seat No 16A in ‘the new economy’ cabin and was told to ask at Heathrow for an upgrade. I had a good long chat with Phil, it was so nice to meet an airline member of staff who was genuinely interested in aviation.
I was also informed that the flights to Heathrow normally depart from Gate 18 but as the aircraft was too large it was parked at Gate 23 at Terminal 1 International and that passengers would be put on a coach and driven to the aircraft. Unfortunately from Gate 18 there was no view of the plane but I couldn’t believe my luck when it was arranged for me to go airside so that I could take some photographs. I had to put on a HV vest and was taken airside to a section where the aircraft was viewable. The A330-200 in the new bmi british midland colour scheme looked amazing and I quickly took lots of photographs.
It was 14.30 by the time I got to the executive lounge and again the staff were very friendly. The lounge itself is very nice, with a mixture of comfortable sofas to relax or chairs and tables if you needed to work. There was also a smoking section and an area with phones and fax machine. Soft and alcoholic drinks were available, as well as tea/coffee and snacks such as peanuts and biscuits. The highlight for me though was the very large plane model of the new aircraft by the reception. I asked a member of staff if I could take a picture and was told yes with a smile. I spent the rest of the time relaxing, there was a good selection of daily newspapers and also Voyager the airline’s in-flight magazine. I also took the opportunity to jot down some notes for this trip report.
Announcements were made at 16.00 that boarding would be starting shortly and that coaches were waiting to take passengers to the aircraft. At the boarding counter I given another boarding card with seat No 5k as a lot of passengers had changed seats.
I was on the second coach and it only took a few minutes to reach the aircraft. Passengers were still walking up the stairs so this gave me the opportunity to take some close up photographs of the aircraft. The Cabin Crew greeted me at the door and I made my way to 5K. As I approached row 5 I noticed a couple sitting in my seat and 5H, I went back to the Cabin Crew to inform him. He asked to see their boarding cards and they were supposed to be seating in 6H&K. As they were already settled in I said that I would sit in 6K. As soon as I sat down, I wished that I hadn’t offered to swap. Warning to all those who like to sit next to a window – Row 6 has no windows! The next window was too far ahead to see properly during take off and landing. I was slightly disappointed, as I wanted to take some pictures of the wing and winglet during the flight.
‘The business’ cabin was bright and spacious and configured in rows of 2-2-2 with a 60-inch pitch. When I sat down with the seat belt on, I couldn’t reach the seat pocket in front of me, as there was so much room. The seats were a mixture of pale and dark blue with gold coloured headrests and each seat had 9-inch armrest mounted screens as well as laptop power, telephones and dataports. I also noticed the chairman of bmi british midland – Sir Michael Bishop sitting in seat No 8G.
The crew welcomed everyone onboard for the first passenger flight using the A330-200, did the safety demonstration and we pushed back at 16.35. We took off from the new runway (a first for me) at 16.43 and we were soon cruising at 19000 feet.
The cabin crew quickly started the in-flight service and we were served afternoon tea followed by tea/coffee and beverages. Afternoon tea was well presented, a large tray containing a plate with 3-quarter sandwiches, each one a different filling – ham, turkey and salad. There was also a small oval plate with a jar of jam and a portion of clotted cream. On the rest of the tray there was a cup with a milk jigger in it, a glass and cutlery. Warm scones were served individually which I thought was a nice touch.
The seat belts sign were switched on at 17.08 as we had started our decent into Heathrow. The Cabin Crew were quick to clear the trays and the Captain announced that there were no ATC problems at Heathrow today and that we would be landing soon. The aircraft touched down at 17.17 and it was announced that the aircraft will be parked at a remote stand and coaches would take passengers to Terminal 1. The aircraft parked at stand No 92 and at 17.30 I was disembarking down the stairs. I really enjoyed this short flight and ‘the business’ cabin was very impressive. I wished though that passengers would have received a certificate or a small gift such as a pen or plane model to celebrate the inaugural passenger flight on the new aircraft as this would have made a fantastic souvenir.
I had a few hours at Heathrow before the 21.00 flight back to Manchester. I decided to go to the Spectators Terrace where I bought a few items before the gift shop closed at 18.00. I was surprised to see how busy it was and there were good views of the aircraft taking off. I took some photos and it was a pleasure to see all the different airlines and aircraft types at Heathrow, it definitely is one of my favourite airports. The highlight for me was the B747SP operated by Syrian Arab Airlines from Damascus, which parked very close to the terrace. I have fond memories of the B747SP as in 1985 and 1986 I flew with Air Mauritius between Heathrow and Mauritius using this aircraft type. I stayed on the terrace until 19.45 and decided to make my way back to Terminal 1.
Date: Monday 30th April 2001
Flight No: BD594
Route: LHR - MAN
Cabin: the new economy
I went through security as I already had my boarding card and arrived in the executive lounge at 20.05. I showed my boarding card to the staff and asked them to check that I still had a window seat in case any seating had been changed. I was asked if I wanted to sit in ‘the business’ cabin but I declined explaining that I wanted to do a trip report and I wanted to experience ‘the new economy’. The lounge at Heathrow is large but it wasn’t too busy. I helped myself to some orange juice and read a magazine. At 20.25 boarding at gate 76 flashed on the screen for flight BD594. A few minutes later an announcement was made in the lounge that coaches will be used to the aircraft and for passengers to leave soon as gate 76 was a few minutes walk away from the lounge.
I arrived at the gate and there was no view of the A330-200 but boarding had commenced. I was on the second coach and we soon arrived at the aircraft, which was still on stand 92. I made my way up the steps and was greeted by the same Cabin Crew as before and made my way to 16A. The seating in ‘the new economy’ is configured 2-4-2, same as economy but the main difference is the seat pitch, 38-inch compared to 32-inch. All seats were equipped with individual seat-back screens, laptop power, telephones and dataports. The seats and headrests were different shades of blue and felt comfortable, especially the generous seat pitch.
After the welcome onboard announcements and safety demonstration we pushed back at 21.05 and taxied along to the runway. We took off at 21.20 and in-flight service started soon afterwards. We were served a light refreshment followed by beverages and tea/coffee. The tray included a cold plate consisting of lettuce, 2 slices of smoked salmon, 1 king prawn, 2 halves of cherry tomatoes and some pasta. The fruit salad consisted of 1 segment of pink grapefruit, 1 slice of pineapple, 1 slice of melon, 1 slice of kiwi and 5 black grapes. On the tray there was also a cup, glass, cutlery, butter portion, milk jigger, a Lindor chocolate truffle and warm bread rolls were served individually. For such a short flight the in-flight catering and service was superb. The Captain made a quick announcement that we were cruising at 19000 feet and that there were no delays expected. At the end he asked, “Isn’t this a marvellous aircraft ladies and gentlemen?” which brought a smile onto everybody’s face and I certainly was happy to be flying on this beautiful plane.
Trays were cleared efficiently and the seat belt signs came on at 21.45 and we touched down at Manchester Airport at 21.56. We taxied to gate 23 of Terminal 1 and the seat belt signs were switched off at 22.05. Announcements were made that coaches would be taking us to Terminal 3 Domestic. I wasn’t in a rush to get off the plane so I let most of the other passengers go first. Another announcement was made, apologising for the lack of coaches, as we would have to wait for the original coach to come back. By this time most passengers who had been travelling in economy were now situated in ‘the business’ cabin and didn’t seen to mind waiting as they were all trying ‘the business’ class seats. As the economy and the ‘new economy’ cabins were now empty I took the opportunity to ask one of the Cabin Crew if I could take some photos and if I could take 2 safety cards to keep as a souvenir. The Cabin Crew were very friendly and answered a lot of my questions. The coach was back at 22.20 and I managed to get a few shots of ‘the business’ cabin and it was time to leave the aircraft. I was out of the Terminal at 22.35 and on my way home.
When bmi british midland offers the full product to the USA, I think the service will be excellent and good value for money. In ‘the business’ there will be an on-board chef to prepare meals, there will be a choice of ten television and ten movie channels as well as sixteen audio channels and a great choice of PC and Nintendo video games. Passengers flying in ‘the business’ from the USA will also be entitled to a complimentary arrivals package at the Radisson SAS Hotel at Manchester Airport. But the best news, there will be cameras mounted in the nose and belly of the aircraft for all passengers to follow take-off and landings!
This was a very special day for me and I would like to thank everyone at bmi british midland especially Phil Mayers and Eddy for making it such an enjoyable day. I would also like to wish the airline lots of success on their two new routes from Manchester and if I need to travel to Washington or Chicago in the near future I would have no hesitation in using this excellent airline.
Thanks for reading my trip report, I know it is long but I wanted to give as many details as possible and I hope you enjoyed reading it.