Back in early December I couldn't think of anything to get my girlfriend for Xmas, I'd done the fancy jewelery, she has a nice watch and thought taking her to Paris would make a change. I had a look on BA
.com for fares with BA
but couldn't get anything decent in Club Europe, all around £340 and for a 45min flight this seemed a bit of a waste especially bearing in mind my elite benefits. I then had a quick look over on flybmi.com as I could make the best of use bmi facilities thanks to my Lufthansa Senator status. Tickets in Business were again close to BA
although I thought for a saving of £600 I could probably cope with flying on the cheap. The tickets and hotel were booked and all I had to do was keep quiet about it....
Date: 27th December 2004
Flight Number: BD177
Route: London Heathrow - Paris Charles de Gaulle
Departure Time: 1.10pm
We got a chauffeur driven Mercedes S Class to Heathrow (thanks Dad :D) and arrived at Heathrow around midday giving us enough time to make best use of the shopping mall and bmi facilities.
I was a little concerned about the check-in procedure since I had become rather accustomed to the effortlessness that is BA
Premium Check-in in Zone R. Sectioned off from the rest of the terminal completely with its own security point I was cautious of checking in with the masses in the main area, despite having premium check-in benefits. Alas my fears were to be unfounded and check-in was effortless with only one person waiting ahead of us, giving the roaming bmi agent a chance to quiz me on my status and misguided attempts to send me to the lengthy economy line. The check-in agent noted my status in the booking and remarked that the flight was overbooked so my chances of an upgrade were good, however, having flown with Star Alliance partners before I was a little wary of my chances. A quick flash of shiny plastic at the Fast Track desk seemed to confuse the guard and he let us through and within a minute or so we were in a Clinique store and my Amex card was bursting into flames! A couple of shopping bags later we made it to the bmi Diamond Club lounge, a quick knock brought the somewhat sleepy attendant to life and he noted our details as we got ourselves some drinks from the bar.
The lounge was very empty, in fact only a couple of other people were in there with us, of which one was the cleaner and we relaxed with a few beers and biscuits until the flight was called.
A bmi agent obviously very bored offered to take us down to the gate on the Europier. Feeling a little rude takling to my girlfriend I asked if she knew whether the flight was overbooked. She wasn't sure but would check at the gate, we went past all the economy passengers where our boarding passes were taken by the agent, unfortunately we wouldn't experience the 'luxury' that is European business class today! After what seemed an epic walk to the back of the plane I settled into the seat amongst the ruffians
After taxiing and a swift takeoff from 27R the plane banked to the south, the weather was much clearer than my BA
flight to Barcelona a couple of weeks before and offered great views across the South. At this stage the drinks from the lounge were beginning to make a re-appearance and as soon as the seatbelt light went out I scooted down to the back of the aircraft. After exiting we were already on the French coast and a swift drinks and peanuts round was made. Before the crew had finished we seemed to be making what seemed a very early descent into Paris. Definitely glad I didn't pay an extra £600 now! We touched down less than 45mins after leaving London before taxiing round to the hellhole that is Terminal 1. Deboarding from the aircraft in Satellite 3 we took the lengthy travelator to the concrete donut which after flying into US and even UK airports seemed like something out of the dark ages!
By the time we had made our way through several plastic tubes complete with silly space music our luggage sporting Star Alliance priority stickers was whirling round the luggage belt. After flying BA
a lot in premium cabins and not receiving priority luggage treatment it sure is nice when Star Alliance offer this benefit to their customers who are too tight to pay for premium tickets!
We then caught Les Cars Air France into the centre of the city before returning to the airport some three days later.....
Date: 30th December 2004
Flight Number: BD182
Route: Paris Charles de Gaulle - London Heathrow
Departure Time: 6.25pm
With neither of us being an expert in Parisian traffic systems we choose to leave the city in good time and caught the bus back to the airport. Despite being taken around the houses to Terminal 2 we made it to the concrete donut with plenty of time. After feeling like I should don flares and psychadelic colours to match the age of architecture I found the bmi desks. The Business Class desk was free so we waltzed up, we were done within a couple of minutes and assigned 4D
and 4F (which turned out to be the first row of economy) with the middle seats blocked off. Meanwhile the static economy line brimming with many dozens of people had to deal with just two desks...
The arrangement at Terminal 1 is very obscure. Security check you have a boarding pass before passing into another area of the terminal where your passport is checked and then security at each gate...Although since we were early we took advantage of the Star Alliance facilities and headed up a hidden lift to the United Red Carpet Club / ANA First Class Lounge.
The lounge attendants were very welcoming and were even kind enough to point out I wasn't in the bmi lounge! No way! But a quick note of details and we were in. Having been in Red Carpet Clubs before I was quite surprised by this lounge, although maybe the grey concrete of the rest of the terminal just phased my judgement. A nice selection of Japanese beers had replaced the American junk that was probably there in the morning and so I settled into my seat with an Asahi or two. As the lounge was only used by First Class passengers it was very quiet indeed and most of them chose to hide in the far corner of the lounge.
After about 25mins or so we left the lounge and at the elevator noticed a sign for the SAS lounge.....another Star Alliance partner! Again we went and took a look, again very hidden away and quiet and the warden looked a little miffed, as if she was about to head home when we arrived!
The lounge itself was rather nice, a little branch of Ikea the airport and again empty, the drinks selection offered all the ingredients for Bloody Marys....except Vodka so we went for wine this time and chose to check our emails before leafing through a couple of magazines together.
Another 30mins or so passed and we thought it was a good opportunity to make our way to Satellite 3 where we could relax in the bmi lounge safe in the knowledge that no matter how paralytic we got lounge calls would at least let us know we were missing the flight. Deep in Satellite 3 was the windowless dungeon of a lounge that bmi call their home.
Again very similar in amenities to the lounges in London, although this time with added Japanese factor. Home to all the ANA Business Class passengers including one old man who was farting and weezing more than Thomas the Tank Engine. It had been about 10 minutes since we had last sampled an alcoholic beverage so it was time to have another! The ANA J class folk, including, farting old man soon left and in their wake was only a couple of other passengers on our bmi flight. BD182 was soon called and we headed as a group up to the main area of the satellite where security took place. This was a right buggers muddle and eventually all London bound passengers were rammed into a tiny little pen with perspex windows. This was definitely not well planned and a complete contrast to the experience in London with escorted bmi staff! The flight was called in garbled Frenglish and so I was the first person behind a couple of families with pushchairs, only to be rebuffed by 'le jobsworth' who was looking out for other people to board ahead of me. After some mumbling my girlfriend and I were allowed to pass onto the jetway and welcomed on board. We were the only two to board for some 30 seconds or so and a staffmember even took the time to ask 'Mr Davidson, Miss Juul, what drinks would you like after takeoff?'
Good initiative on his part and something I'd have expected on BA
Soon after the rest of the cabin filled up and push back was made, again on the taxi I felt those Asahis making a second showing and waited and waited for the takeoff and seatbelt sign to disappear. As I usually am in business on short haul I hate it when people from the front of coach use the business lavs so I ran back 20 odd rows dodging legs, misplaced carryons and people also heading to the galley. At my return I had my afforementioned drink and bag of nuts waiting for me and so I slowly chowed before we made our descent over London.
Landing from the east allowed nice nighttime views of the city and before we knew it we were on stand. Thanks to being seated in the front row of coach we were well situated to make a quick getaway for passport control which was dead and by the time we made it to the luggage belts our cases, again wearing bright pink Priority tags were waiting for us. Top marks again to bmi and Star Alliance for baggage handling.
After passing through the masses of people with signs we wheeled our way down to the Heathrow Express in order to reach our hotel in Kensington.
As this was the first out of perhaps three dozen trips I have taken within Europe that hasn't been in Business Class I find it hard to compare with other airlines. However, as a Star Gold holder the premium for business would have really been a waste of cash. As it was the flights were excellent value for money and I wouldn't be surprised if we drunk the price of our tickets in the lounges at CDG
Baggage handling was as superb as ever on Star Alliance and something that my regular carrier British Airways really could afford to learn from.
As for CDG
Terminal 1.... I understand that renovations are taking place but I feel it is like flogging a dead horse. Knock it down!
24th March: BA293 LHR
in Club World, 3rd April BA292 IAD
in Club World
If anyone is interested I could write up my LHR
Club Europe & IB
Business trip from a few weeks ago. Got some photos for that too....
[Edited 2005-03-13 00:41:54]
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