The flight down to London was entirely uneventful, with an easy self service check-in, and short security queues. The completely full flight meant the crew had a tough workload serving drinks and biscuits, and this was reflected in a slightly less personal attitude, but otherwise the flight was fine.
After a hectic few days in London, the return trip was anything but boring.
After meeting a friend in Kings Cross, the afternoon started to go wrong. Firstly looking for a cash machine in central London on the day of a football match is never good, that took 3o minutes to get any money, this delayed my afternoon, allowing me less than two hours to get to Heathrow.
So after a quick goodbye, I ventured to the Piccadilly line to take me straight out to the airport. However the line was not running to Heathrow, meaning a replacement coach trip was running from Acton Town. Once I reached the station, British Airways staff where looking for passengers to help them secure making their flights, no such effort from bmi sadly. I was greeted with a huge queue, with people spilling over onto the road. I had only 40 minutes before check-in was due to close, so I decided to do what I hate other people doing, and push my way to the front. This worked and I was first on the coach, feeling slightly guilty, but it had to be done.
After an effortlessly fast drive down the motorway, we reached the approach roads to Heathrow, these where completely gridlocked, but thankfully a bus lane allowed us to sail through the traffic. It seemed like I was going to make the flight until we reached the tunnel to take us to T1,2,3. This was again solid with traffic, moving really slowly. I reached terminal2 coach park with 5minutes to spare, being first of the bus I had to run to T1 through Arrivals.
Like a true cliché I ran through the airport bypassing the crowded bmi economy check-in area, to the calm of the business area with its self service check-ins. This system was fast and easy to use, with a member of staff on hand to help if needed.
Relieved at making the last flight of the day, I made my way through security, worryingly no one asked me for any I’d. Since my last visit in the summer, Bmi seem to have taken over the entire end of the old domestic pier at T1. Still in the process of being renovated, the area is like one entire bmi lounge, just without the branding. I sat opposite gate 8a, watching in amazement as the entire Manchester United Football ream lined up to get on our aircraft! At 20:50 we boarded after the Football celebrities, this was slow due to the full load. Boarding the aircraft, I was shocked that the three rows of empty business class where absent of football stars, who where sitting randomly around the front of the aircraft.
The plane filled up, and had a very different mood from the previous flight. The three younger crew at the rear of the aircraft where laughing and joking with the passengers and each other. Pushback was only a few minutes after 21:00. The happy sounding captain came on to apologise for the delay, casually saying he would `step on it` to get us in only a few minutes late. We sat in the queue for take-off, I was laughing at the irony of running around earlier only to get delayed. The drunken football supporters soon fell asleep, and where drowned out by the crew laughing and joking around. The two female f/a`s from my native Belfast and male f/a from my adopted Manchester where certainly enjoying themselves. While adding to the atmosphere on this flight, there was perhaps a small lack of professionalism for laughing at the pilot for an unrealistic departure time.
We took of shortly before we where due to land, and during a steep climb the crew leaped into action. Drinks where served from the front, while the food trolley raced down the isle handing out sandwiches before heading up from the back with drinks to meet in the middle. This super fast service was an efficient use of the four crew.
The ham sandwich was tasty and was definitely needed. Before they had even finished drink service, the engines silenced and we began our decent. This prompted the crew into a frenzy collecting rubbish and debris. Peoples drinks where downed as we made our approach. The aircraft itself was fresh and airy looking, the seats at the rear are slightly more comfortable, as they are thinner and sculpt more to your back. They where the non adjustable ones, rather than the flexi seating that can change to 5 across through the rest of the aircraft.
Landing was on the original Manchester runway, not the new one. After a few violent turns we slammed to the ground, the windy Manchester weather was in full force. Full trust was initiated, and the brakes where suddenly applied causing everyone to fly forward as we braked heavily while veering off the exit. Even the crew seemed shocked, shouting `o my god` from the back. They did however reassure some young passengers who where alarmed. We taxied to the gate, squeezing in between a couple of Erj`s, people began to stand up, while the crew immediately raced up the isle telling them to sit down, the pilot came on the pa also telling people to sit down. After a couple of minutes we moved forward to the gate and the engines where switched off.
Overall this was a great alternative to the trains, I dread to think of the chaos that would be a Sunday evening Virgin train cattle car. And at only 50 pounds return, it was excellent value for money. Bmi`s service was still a touch above its competitors, staff where generally happy and friendly, giving a much more personal and human touch, while the aircraft where clean and comfy. Bmi as a company, is in a financial mess, with no focus or direction, but at least they still deliver a great passenger friendly service. It just seems a pity that with the packed bmi domestic lounge at Heathrow, the passengers are willing fly, but bmi seem unable to do so profitably.