1st November 2004
bmi A321 G-MIDK
Photo © William Ronciere
Photo © William Ronciere
Having made the opposite direction of this trip the week before, I was not particularly looking forward to the bmi experience. However, as soon as I got to Belfast City airport my expectations were instantly turned upside down. There was a large queue for check-in, but as soon as I joined it I was met by a really nice check-in clerk who asked me if I would like to try the electronic kiosks. Well, there was no question, so he checked my tickets were suitable and then brought me to the kiosk. A few quick questions about visas and return ticket (I had booked this trip from Canada to come home for a week, so as far as he was concerned I had no return trip booked - thank goodness I had printed out my AF e-ticket for December to prove I would soon be back!), and he brought me to the baggage drop desk. When I booked I had picked an A seat at the front of the aircraft - I asked to change as I found these seats most uncomfortable, thanks to their convertable features. So i asked for an F seat near the rear ( a tip: as you can see in the photo the back seats are homogenous, from about row 30 I think. Forward of this they are convertable, and the DEF side appears to be much more comfortable).
Check in completed, it was off to get some breakfast. As nice as BHD is, the catering is LIMITED: I had to wait around 20 minutes for them to prepare the cooked breakfast, which was tasty but expensive. I bid my mother goodbye, went through security quickly and with no fuss. A short wait at the gate and boading commenced on time. A uniformed pilot took the seat beside me, and even though an FA came and offered him to move up to business class, he remained where he was, which made for some interesting conversation on the flight. Turns out he is an A320 pilot for BMed and was connecting to his flight at LHR for somewhere in Siberia or something. Anyway, we taxied and given the short runway at BHD powered up for some time before a fun take off which took us over my lovely home city - nice to get some nice views for the last time until Christmas. Inflight service soon began, which consisted of complimentary bar or tea and coffee with shortbread or some absolutely foul pretzels. We spent about 15 minutes stacking over LHR before landing and making our way to the gate.
Photo © Th Seythal
Arrival into terminal 1 was ok, not as painless as I would have liked. The moving walkways to the Flight Connections Centre were out of order, and there was a huge queue (about 15 minutes) to have our boarding passes checked to get through. After taking a wrong turn towards T2, I back-tracked and made my way to the bus queue for T3. Another long queue, with the maze entirely filled and the queue reaching back to the stairs. Aw well, a good opportunity to call and few friends and say goodbye. Eventually got to T3 and really only had just enough time to peek in a few shops and stock up on some cheap gin before the boards flashed up we were boarding. I bought some Canadian dollars then got to the gate area. What did I find there? Yup, another huge queue. Got through and only had to wait a couple of minutes before I was able to board.
I took my seat and got ready. Push back was delayed a while, I don't know why, and as we were taxiing I realised some of the stupidest people I had ever come across were going to be my travel companions for the day. A few rows in front and in the middle seats were sat some strangely dressed women, one of whose cell phones began to ring while taxiing. The FA immediately caught here while she was talking and insisted she turn it off : "No, you can't put in on silent, it must be OFF, and NOW!". But of course a few minutes later it rings again, but I assume she turned it off after the first ring. Then after sitting without moving for a few minutes beside the new T5 and with only an Egyptair 777 and an ANZ 744 in front, someone walks up and into the bathroom, at which point the little kid and his father in the bulkhead row also head into the bathroom. As the FAs were all gathered at the back there was nobody there to tell them to sit down, but I did picture us rolling down the run way and them thudding about in there. The eventually came out as the chimes went to signal we were next for take off, and very quickly we were off, with an overhead popping open and the FA looking slightly anxious at not being able to close it.
Drink service soon began, with wine served from large bottles and a glass being poured from soda cans, contrary to European airlines who give out individually portioned bottles and cans. Dinner was delayed due to turbulence, but they finally came round with a choice of Chicken or salmon. The chicken came with a nice salad and dressing, unlike the last week when the dressing tasted like an ashtray, and it was served with potatoes, green beans, carrots and a nice spicy sauce. It was really quite delicious, and was followed with ice cream, then coffee and cookies. I am rarely filled by an airline meal, but it was great: filling and tasty. The IFE was Harry Potter and some other random crap on the mainscreen, which in the rear cabin was very difficult to see due to a problem with the projector, so I read my book and polised up my french with a Montreal newspaper. The pilot had announced the last hour or so would be rough going into YUL, so it really was not very long before the crew came round with our afternoon snack: pizza. I had never had it on a plane, but it was again really very nice. I also have to add the contrary to reports I had previously heard, they are very liberal with the bar cart. A few G+Ts, some red wine and a beer, then I decided to stop because I did not want to be drunk at immigration! The descent was not as bumpy as I had expected, and before long we had touched down and parked at the gate.
Air Canada Jazz
C-FGQK (I think!)
Photo © Richard Barsby - Aviation Photography CYEG
Arriving at Montreal was the usual nonsense, sadly missing the new immigration hall. The long long walk to immigration followed by a long albeit fast moving queue. As I don't need a visa I was sent to the interview room, where I was asked for some university documentation and my return ticket, both of which I was able to provide. I have to say they weren't the friendliest people in the world. One thing I do not like about connecting internationally in Canada was having to pick up my case, go through customs then drop it off again, but it was fairly easy given I was in immigration so long everyone else had already got their bags and there was nobody there! I made my way to the domestic departures area after having a quick look around the checkin area (nice) and a quick ($10!) beer and uploading my photos of LHR. Security was another scene of large queues, but there were a lot of xray machines so it moved quickly. In I went to the gates and was surprised by how nice it all was. Oh but wait, the AC Jazz gates where located elsewhere.
Oh dear...Off I went in pursuit of these elusive gates - some timewarp brought me back to the 70s along the way. Ancient tunnels, horrible decor, and as for the gates themselves: they were clearly undergoing renovation but there was nothing on the concrete floor apart from the dust that attached itself to my carry ons, and no ceiling tiles in place either. Quite disgraceful. There were also no announcements made until after what should have been departure time. I did notice however that, whilst seated to the desk used my Westjet in the middle of the room, everybody went up to the girl in the Westjet uniform asking about AC flights - she must have redirected at least 20 people to the HUGE Jazz signs at the end of the room.
Anyway, boarding began, and I made my way to the window seat in the last row. I did not like the seat along the back wall in the middle of the aisle - had a very bus like feel. A quick safety demo by the sole FA was followed by an equally quick taxi and take off. Drinks were handed out and before we knew it we were landing in YQB, a dated but quaint little regional airport where it takes around 3 mins between disembarking, baggage claim and finding a cab. Fantastic
All in all, I really enjoyed my trip. I have to say that although I've been on a dash8 before with BA, the 100 series is definately not my aircraft of choice, but I suppose it beats a 3 hour bus trip! Even though Air Canada come up against a lot of criticism, I would very happily fly them again, especially long haul where the seats and legroom are excellent, and they cabin crew highly confident. I hope I haven't bored you too much!