A few months ago, a topic was started at airliners.net for a meeting in MAN on July 10/11. As I was still looking for one destination to visit this summer, I decided to go to MAN.
Being somebody who loves to fly, I didn’t want to take a boring BRU-MAN-BRU flight. After checking some fares, the best option seemed to be BRU-MAN on SN and MAN-LHR-BRU on BMI. Since I’m a BA-fan, I was a bit sad that I couldn’t fly BA from MAN to BRU via LHR, as they don’t offer one-way-fares (unless you like to pay for expensive unrestricted tickets ). But because I also like to try out as much airlines and aircraft types as possible, it would be a nice opportunity to experience the service of BMI.
For info: this trip report contains several pictures to illustrate things on which I will comment. Since I’m not a photographer, I didn’t care about angles/dirty windows/… The only reason I made those pics is to have a few memories for myself of the trip, and to illustrate the trip report.
Saturday July 10, 2004
Since I had to go to the airport by train, I had to get up already at 4.20am. ‘Getting up’ is actually an euphemism, since I did not sleep one minute during that night. I can better say: I was counting the minutes and the seconds till 04:20 would finally be displayed at my clock
When I checked my mobile-phone, I saw that I had got an sms from Patrick (airliners.net member Sabena332). At the moment he had arrived from his longhaul-flight at DL), Germany">DUS, it was time again to leave his house to go to the airport for his AF flight to CDG, continuing to MAN. So from flight, to flight, to flight .
After double-checking to see if I had everything loaded in my trolly, I left around 5:15 for a walk to the station, where I had to catch the train at 5:38.
As usual, the train was on-time. Once again it was such a nice train they normally use for IC-routes (while Merelbeke-Brussels Airport is an IR-route). The journey from Gent to the airport lasts a very long 1h30min, since this boring train is just stopping everywhere.
In approach, a VEX B737 and a TCW A320 could be seen on take off once we had left the station of Brussel-Noord.
The train arrived perfectly on schedule in the airport at 6:56, after which I proceeded to the Wingtips to check what was on the ground. At this point, something very annoying happened: the iron bar of my trolley (the one you have to keep in your hand to roll it, don’t know the exact word for that), broke. ARGH. This meant that I would have to wear that 8kg heavy trolley during the whole weekend.
Nothing special was parked: 2 AZ MD82’s (I-DANW, I-DAWC), A321 LH, CRJ LH, B752 IB, A320 IB, MD87 OS (my last one, OE-LMO), and 2 SQC B744 freighters (9V-SFH/K). Also an A320 of LX was parked (HB-IJK).
After this, I went down to get my ticket at the ticketing counter. Indeed: for some reason, e-ticketing wasn’t possible on this BRU-MAN flight.
Nobody was at the counter (was right on time, quite a few people arrived after me), and I was greeted by a friendly woman of SN. The first thing she asked me, was my passport, followed by my confirmation. After looking up the reservation in her computer, she went to a big box full of tickets. Than, something funny happened: she gave me the ticket, but before I could take it, she immediately retracted her hand. While I was wondering what the problem was, she went back to the ticket-box, took another ticket, and gave that one to me. Apparently, there was another ‘Frederic Backaert’ flying SN on that day! What a coincidence… The strange thing is: there are not a lot of ‘Backaerts’ in Belgium. Also my name is written in a way you don’t see much: ‘Frederic’. Most write it like Frederik, or Frédérique (or something like that).
In the meantime, a lady was standing just next to me, and even pushed me a bit away with a ticket in her hand. The SN-lady had seen this, and said immediately: ‘Step a bit backwards please till I have finished with this person’. Very nice reaction, because that lady was really a bit on the arrogant side. Well done SN.
A nice detail: the check-in for my flight was not at the usual ticket counters in row 04, but in row 01. They had opened additional ticket counters in row 01 today, due to the high number of passengers they expected.
Got my ticket, went to the check-in desk (after removing some weight out of my handluggage: a bottle of water = 1,5L = 1,5KG), and a friendly agent welcomed me. At this point, it was 07:20, so 2h10min before the scheduled departure time of my flight. After the agent asked whether I wanted an aisle- or a windowseat, I told him I wanted seat 08A if it was still free (I had studied the SN seatingmap the day before, to check which rows had no window, and to see which rows had a badly placed window). Seat 08A was taken, after which I requested 10A which was also taken. Also taken was 14A and 08F. The fifth time, I finally got the last seat I had written down: 10F. I asked him the load, and it was totally full (had seen this already in CRS the day before).
Got my boarding pass, and being a big news-junkie, I went to the newspaper shop for a newspaper. First I wanted to take ‘De Standaard’ for the size, but in the end I took my favourite newspaper, De Tijd. Being a broadsheet, De Tijd is not as easy to read on a plane. This is why I also had ‘Knack’ with me.
At 07:30, so 2h before my flight, I went through the passports control. The police officer was very friendly, and was joking to most passengers, which we all appreciated of course. After queuing for a few minutes, I had finished the third passport control of the day (the next day, the totally opposite would happen).
Then it was time for security: this is something I really don’t like. I removed everything from my pockets, put it all in a box (handed out by a friendly lady), I went through the beeper. BEEP. Strange, since my pockets were totally empty, except… a roll of peppermint, indeed. A security officer immediately came to me: ‘Dutch-Français-English-Deutsch’? A nice gesture, others would just start talking to you in whatever language they wanted. He was very friendly, and I told him that the only thing left in my pockets was peppermint. He explained to me that this caused the beep: in the package of peppermint, there is some silver-paper. This was the reason for the beep. So I went back, put a half roll of peppermint in such a big box, and while my peppermint was being x-rayed, I went to the beeper again without problems this time. The security officer thanked me for my patience (!), and wished me a nice flight.
Some nice planes were present: saw 2 new AT-regs (CN-RMF + CN-RNQ), saw a new OHY MD88 (TC-ONR), and saw for the first time the B763 of BelgiumExell (PH-AHQ).
After having seen SP-SKE, a LO B735, in LHR before, I spotted it today in BRU in the new Star-Alliance colours.
Just like the A-Pier, the B-Pier is a nice and clean place. It looks very modern. Since this report is published on both luchtzak.be and airliners.net, (so a lot of people who have never been to BRU are reading it), I made a picture of the B-Pier:
Just before the restricted area where the American aircraft park (you can’t enter it without a ticket for a flight to the US), I saw a bunch of about 7 Africans joking with a guy I had previously seen on TV, in the Het leven zoals het is-series about BRU airport. Both the Africans and the guy from (I think) a handling company (maybe aviapartner) were having a lot of fun. African people always seem to have this nice attitude. SN crewmembers told me already that, when you announce to a group of Americans going to the States, that their flight is delayed with one hour, they start to shout. Announce this to Africans, and they start to play music, start to joke etc etc. Maybe the difference between Carpe Diem, and Time is Money?
As I was a bit hungry, and in need of a strong coffee to wake up, I went to a snackbar while N67062 of CO touched down at the 25L.
I bought an overpriced breakfast of €3,75, containing a coffee, a small croissant, a small ‘round Suisse’ as we say in Dutch, and a ‘chocoladebroodje’.
Took a picture of it:
Glad would I be afterwards that I had purchased this small breakfast…
After combining eating with spotting, I went to my gate, B93, located in that special area which you can see from the wingtips. You have to go over there if your plane is at the A-Pier, or on a remote stand. In the meantime, OO-MJE passed by (only repainted into the new colours a few days ago).
Boarding was starting within 25 minutes, so I walked a bit around. PH-AHQ, the BelgiumExell B763 was starting up the engines already besides me (although it had only landed 1h30 ago). Quickly took a picture of it:
On the other side was an SN A333 being loaded:
And a picture of a DL B763, N1604R, arriving from ATL:
At 8:55, while I was taking some pics, my flight was called for boarding.
Something I noticed: although SN announced that they will, from now on, control passports at the gate, they only asked the boarding passes and not the identity cards (!). I gave my boarding pass to the friendly lady, she wished me a nice flight, and I entered bus ‘13’.
While driving to the A-Pier, the bus slowed down to check weather no aircraft were coming to taxi by, as they have priority. Nice was that several people started joking about the big sign, with something written on it like ‘Aircraft have priority’.
The bus stopped in front of the first SN ARJ parked at the first stand of the A-Pier. A small word about the aircraft type: when I booked this flight 2 months ago, it was announced as an ARJ100. 3 weeks before departure, it was changed to a Bae146-200 (which made me very glad because I really want to fly one of those). 10 days before departure, the aircraft type was again changed to an AR1, followed by an aircraft change 4 days before departure to an ARJ85, which was also the aircraft type that operated SN2173.
Brussels BRU – Manchester MAN
Avro RJ85 OO-DJL with an UNICEF-sticker
First flight: 23/11/1995
Departure time scheduled/actual 9h30/9h41
Arrival time scheduled/actual 9h50/9h42
As you can see, the aircraft had UNICEF titles on it (the second time I fly an SN aircraft with Unicef titles, the previous time it was OO-DWL, an AR1).
While boarding, the flight attendants were not at the door to greet the passengers. One was a bit further into the galley to distribute newspapers to the passengers, no idea where the other f/a was. She said ‘hello’, and asked whether I wanted a newspaper. In her box, I saw Le Soir, The Times, …, but no Flemish newspaper. I asked her one, and she directed me to the end, where a box was with… Het Laatste Nieuws. Please… for an airline that wants to attract business passengers, they are not distributing a real newspaper? For the people who don’t know Het Laatste Nieuws: this is a sensational tabloid. At least De Standaard should have to be available.
Afterwards I went to my seat, 10F. Nothing but positive comments about the comfort of the seats: enough legroom, wide enough and very comfortable in general. The are also equipped with a footrest.
Shot of the cabin while boarding:
Boarding went quick, and at 9h30, we were ready for pushback. Very nice was that the seat next to me was empty, although the whole economy-class cabin was full except a few empty seats (maybe 5). Business class: I couldn’t really see the load, but I think about 10 people.
After pushback, we started taxiing at 9h35 to runway 25R for take off. After us were an OHY MD88 and an AT B737, also taxiing for take off.
At 9h40, we finally heard the cockpit-crew for the first time. They made an announcement, in English only, with a duration of a laughable 10 seconds: “Temperature is x degrees, flighttime is 1h, we are going to take off now”.
9h41: after line up, the aircraft came to a full stop. The breaks were released at 9h41’45’’ and we started our take off-roll, a roll of 38 seconds. Not much pleasure anymore with SN Avro-take offs, because they are very derated.
Pictures of take off-roll, rotation and climb-out:
After take off, the first announcement of the flight attendants was about the frequent flyer programme of SN: Privilege. After welcoming “especially the Privilege-members” (this is how they said it), they were now promoting the FF-programme.
Levelling, no idea at which altitude due to the lack of announcements from the cockpit:
At 9h48, we had broken through the clouds. It was the first full blue sky I saw in weeks! Always a nice experience to be at the place where the sun never goes down… At this point, the service started in C-class (of course with the closed curtains).
It was only 15 minutes later that the service in Y-class would start.
In the meantime, we still hadn’t heard anything from the cockpit-crew.
At 10h04, when we entered the UK coastline, I got my Brussels bistro (with only 30 minutes of flying left, and I was in row 10, so in the half of the plane. 10 minutes later, I got my drink (!!). That was 5 minutes before we started our descent.
About the Brussels Bistro: if this is what SN means with an improved catering… A miniscule piece of bread, together with a package of cream cheese. That’s it. A total joke. BMI managed to offer a MUCH better service on a 30 minutes flight from MAN to LHR, with a full load of pax on the A320. The tea was good, and the piece of lemon in the tea was a nice gesture. I looked around me, and several pax even didn’t want to open it, or didn’t eat it.
Here is a picture of the ‘meal’:
Around 10h15, the cockpit crew made for the second time an ‘announcement’: just like the first time, it only took a few seconds, and it was only in English. The ‘announcement’ was: ‘Ladies and Gentleman, as we are approaching MAN, we will start our descent soon’. Very informative, and again very poor in comparison with the announcements made by the BMI cockpitcrew the next day.
At 10h25, the ‘fasten your seatbelt’-sign was turned on, followed by an announcement of the purser in 3 languages. In the meantime, I realized that the inflightmagazine ‘Connect’ hadn’t been distributed.
Let’s switch now to GMT+1 for the timings: at 9h35, the landing gear came out (as usual accompanied with a lot of noise in the cabin – the ARJ is a very noisy plane inside). The flaps came down, and we experienced some turbulence while descending through the haze and dark clouds.
In the clouds:
Some pictures of the descent:
At 9h42, we touched down 8 minutes before schedule, followed with an announcement that the landing was early.
We parked next to a B752 of AA, N184AN. AA has recently started a MAN-B O S service with B752’s. AA also flies the B763 into MAN, on the MAN-ORD flight.
The doors were opened, and we could leave the aircraft. As usual, when the cabincrew is friendly, I thank them for the nice flight while vacating the aircraft. She smiled and wished me a nice weekend.
About the flight: SN did what they are supposed to do: bring passengers from A to B in an easy way without delays. SN brought an almost full load of passengers indeed from BRU to MAN, with even an early landing. Also the cabincrew was very friendly. Still, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. Not one time did I get the “Passionate about you”-feeling as communicated so much in their advertisement campaigns. The meal was very poor, the cockpit-crew was very poor in terms of announcements, the newspaper-selection was bad, and the service really came as a rush (due to the fact that SN puts now 2 instead of 3 f/a’s on an ARJ). Not one time did I somewhere get the feeling that the passengers (at least the economy-class pax) were ‘appreciated’. We were just a number. As you will see in my next trip report, BMI managed to give a much more personal and attentive service on the way back from MAN to BRU via LHR. In the end, SN is a good airline. Nothing more, but nothing less. Of course, I don’t want to take this one flight to come to a big conclusion. I’m flying to Milan, and returning from Rome on SN within a few days, so I will see how they will perform on those services.
After going through the passports control (with a very unfriendly guy checking the passports), I made my way to the spectators area at Level 13 of the big car park where a whole bunch of a.netters was waiting. A nice 2-day spotting trip followed (more info about that in the return trip-report).
Thanks for reading, and all comments/criticism/additions/… are welcome of course. Please do note that I’m away till Sunday, so I won’t be able to comment from Thursday till Monday afternoon.