Well, due to a business meeting in Belfast on the 30th Feb, I was booked onto a flight to Belfast City returning (I thought!) on the same day.
Got into Heathrow Terminal 1 90 minutes before the scheduled 9am departure and was checked in by the friendly checkin agent. Was booked a window seat (8A) and boarded at 8.30.
Scheduled departure time 9.00
Actual departure time 9.10
Flight time - 1 hour
Boarded the aircraft via the airbridge and was given a copy of the daily express. The cabin was very nice and new looking, and I settled into my seat, which was a bit tight in terms of width.
After a slight delay we pushed back and after a 20 second roll were airborne at 9.10 am.
The route took us westwards towards Wales, over the Isle of Man and then into Belfast. Interestingly, due to heavy traffic altitude was only 11000 feet, rather than the usual 31000. Halfway into the flight beverages and a panini (I selected Bacon) were served - very nice, and the F/A's were very friendly and efficient throughout.
We descended into Belfast City international and touched down smoothly. Interestingly, due to no taxiways at the end of the runway we had to do a 180 degree turn at the end and go back up to the runway before taxiing to the gate, where we departed by airstairs into the nice, modern terminal building.
A very nice flight into a very nice airport - but here is where things get interesting.
Scheduled departure time 20.20
Actual departure time 15.30 THE NEXT DAY!!!
After the meeting we headed back to the airport and tried to check in for the flight back to London. However, due to the terrible weather at LHR many flights were cancelled, although ours showed a delay. After scenes of pandemonium we were informed that the flight was cancelled, although as myself and 2 colleagues had checked in for the return flight at LHR, we were given boarding passes for an earlier flight which WAS departing. However, my director and 2 colleagues had an early morning presentation in London the next day so we forfeited our tickets to them.
So the remaining 7 of us headed back into the centre of Belfast (which incidentally is very nice) and booked into the Europa hotel. The hotel is very nice, but it holds the dubious 'honour' of being the most bombed hotel in Europe, and the 2nd most bombed in the world after the Beirut Hilton. Nice.
We booked ourselves onto the 11:00 flight for the next morning and after a meal (and copious drinking at the bar) headed to bed at 3.30 am to be woken at 7.00 am. Who needs sleep?
After breakfast we headed to the airport for 09.30 and checked in. We were informed that the flight was delayed until 12.00 - subsequent checks of the departures monitors showed that was pushed back to 13.50.
However, we were suddenly called for boarding at 13.00, and boarded by airstairs by 13.30. Here the captain informed us that due to heavy slot restrictions at LHR because of weather we were to be boarded early until he could get a slot, where we would promptly belt it out of the airport ASAP!
Anyway, this took a-g-e-s, and after a drink (rather watered down O.J.) we got the signal at 15.10 that we had been allocated a slot. Doors were closed and we taxied towards the runway, holding short whilst another BD A321-200 landed. Incidentally, the other a/c at the airport were FlyBe Bae's.
After the otgher a/c had landed we taxied onto the runway and then to the end, where another 180 degree turn took place. Once we were reasonably straight full throttle was applied and we were airborne about 15 seconds later.
Cruising altitude was 31000 feet, and we took the same route back as the outward journey. Drinks were served but when I enquired about food the FA informed be BD didn't serve food on this fligh and hadn't done so for a year. Hmmm, interesting - wasn't I served a hot panini on the outward flight? Anyway, I managed to blag the FA into giving me three packs of Jaffa Cakes
BTW - the FA's on this flight had come off a BD flight which had landed whilst we were waiting on the a/c for a slot at LHR, so they immediately came off that flight and onto ours. They weren't best pleased and therefore not as friendly as those on the outward flight, but pleasant enough nonetheless.
Anyway, after another flight of approx 1 hour (and 1 holding turn) we landed smoothly at LHR where full reverse was applied and we taxied to the gate at Terminal 1.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised by BD - good ground staff and F/A's and nice cabins on the A321's (although seats could have been wider). Cabin was configured in a 3-3 outlay. Obviously the cancelled flight was a bit of a bummer, and as the cancellation was weather-related we couldn't get free accomodation, but it isn't BD's fault that the World's leading international airport apparently can't cope with a few snowflakes