22nd October 2004
Sched. Dep. 1925 (On Time)
Photo © Anne Deus
I arrived at Jean Lesage Airport not long after 5pm, to find a vertually empty check in area for all Air Canada and the other few airlines serving the airport. I checked in with out queuing, and was issued boarding passes all the way to Belfast. After this, I decided to 'explore' the terminal, which took all of 3 minutes. So I took a seat and filled my photo album ready to show the folks at home the pictures of my crazy adventures in Quebec City, I had a brief look around in the small shop, then proceeded to security and the boarding lounge. Security was brief: I just had to take my laptop out of its bag, but the staff were pleasant, polite and bilingual. All good. I waited at the gate then for a while, observing the arrival and departure of 2 Quebecair Express Saabs, waiting for my aircraft to arrive. Soon after, an A319 arrived instead of the scheduled CRJ - thank goodness I thought. Boarding soon commenced, first inviting aeroplan gold members, then everyone just progressed with no hassle. The load was very light, with plenty of free seats. Having assumed the CRJ i picked a D seat, but of course on the A319 this was an aisle seat, so I quickly changed. Push back and a safety video were followed by a quick take off, and service commenced. This was passing round the basket of snack mix, and the crew were extremely friendly, insisting we take as much as we wanted. They also handed out free earphones to enjoy the news presented in English then in French, and of course Celine Dion appeared on screen several times, as well as having a showcase on Channel 8. As we began our descent, the gates for our connecting flights were read out, and one of the cabin crew came round to ask if anyone had any questions. Very thourough. Landing was fine, and a long taxi btought us to terminal 1. The purser and first officer said goodbye to passengers leaving the aircraft, the former also wishing me a pleasant connecting flight. An excellent flight, very comfortable seats, wonderful crew, and overall a very pleasant surprise.
Photo © Paul Langfermann - The Art of Flying Photos
A fairly long bus trip across the tarmac brought me to Gates 500+. A quick trip to duty free, which was very busy, and a quick $7.50 beer, and it was soon time for boarding. I took my window seat in the rear cabin of the A330, and after a short delay, we pushed back. Same safety video as before was presented, nothing special, and take off. I had been told to expect a small snack after take off, but after the drinks cart passed round, dinner was served. A choice of beef, chicken or vegetarian lasagne. I had the beef which was served with a rather nasty salad, only because the vinaigrette tasted like an ashtray, but the main course was excellent. Really good, even by non-airline standards. The drinks cart passed again, and they left us to sleep in the dark cabin, or enjoy Stepford Wives, which I gave a miss. As usual, sleep eluded me, so I read and watched the sunrise. Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, Mr Bean were all shown, and as we approached Ireland breakfast was slowly served: a yogurt, an apple bread roll and tea/coffee. This was accompanied by an ANCIENT video guide to London - it predated me! Rather amusing. The end of the flight got very bumpy, and after stacking for quite some times, we landed in grim rainy miserable London. Our gate was blocked with an other AC aircraft where there were problems with the headcount, but we were kept very well informed over the crystal clear PA. Disembarkation was surprisingly swift, although Terminal 3 at LHR was depressing: a horrible terminal that does not say much for the UK. I eventually found the Flight Connections Centre, not before being directed to a long queue for a flight to China though! Another bus trip over to T1, on an extremely uncomfortable machine.
Overall, another pleasant surprise. The service was again excellent, crew very pleasant and visible throughout the flight, passing through many times with water and juice, and the legroom and seats were great.
Photo © Luis Rosa
Ironically, this was the disappointing segment given how great I'd heard BMI were. I made my way to their Belfast lounge, and boarding then departure times came and went. No announcements. Eventually we were told the incoming aircraft was late, then it arrived and about 30 minutes later we were told they had trouble disembarking the passengers, but they would try to cater and refuel the aircraft ASAP. Pre-boarding was finally announced, although no more announcements came so everyone just filtered into the line. The aisle of the aircraft was chaos, but as I was near the front it was not too bad. I sat in 8a, and was immediately appaulled but the pitch and also the width of these convertable seats. Next time I shall insist on sitting on the other side of the aisle, where they are of fixed width. The flight seemed totally full, so we taxied out quickly, they showed a rather snazzy safety video, and it was a powerful take off with no queue. I drifted in and out of conciousness, although I was awake for the inflight service, which was merely refreshments. A glass of water and some shortbread for me. The weather was very grim - there was no sight of sea nor sky, just clouds, unti we reached the irish coastline. Lining up into Belfast was nice, and afforded beautiful views of the Bangor peninsula and the mansions of County Down. WE touched down quite far down the runway, bounced back up, and reversed thrust for dear life. I was not unhappy to get off, but at least my bag was one of the first on the carousel. As I say, this was a huge disappointment, and the crew bar one were quite unpleasant and surly; I hope my return trip next week will be more pleasant. Let's put it down to the miserable London weather, eh?