Photo © Rez Manzoori - FlightLineImages
My full flying itinerary for this trip was:
BD MAN-ORD (A330-243, G-WWBD)
UA ORD-LGA (B737-322, N350UA)
B6 JFK-OAK (A320-232, N588JB)
F9 DEN-LGA (A319-111, N915FR)
UA JFK-LHR (B777-222, N771UA)
BD LHR-MAN (A320-232, G-MIDR)
The morning of the 21st started very early with a 06:30 alarm call in order to catch the train from my parent’s house in Warrington to Manchester Airport. My journey today would take me from MAN over the pond to ORD and onwards to LGA with United (I took this routing for the extra FF miles).
Thankfully this part of the journey was on time and I arrived at the airport at 08:15, 2hrs 50m before scheduled departure. Upon arrival at T1 I proceeded directly to the bmi check-in where there was only a small line for economy check-in but trying to get one of the few benefits out of being a Diamond club silver member I used the business check-in which had no line. I was asked the usual security questions at the booth before being beckoned over by a check-in agent. She asked me where I was travelling to and I got it wrong - Duh! (It was early). Anyway I finally remembered I was going to New York and asked the agent what the loads were like on the flight, hoping to shift seats from the crappy one United assigned for me which I was unable to change despite calls to both UA and BD (I was on a UA codeshare). I was told the load was heavy today but I asked if she had any window seats in the back anyway, after which she started playing on her computer before winking at me and whispering “I’ll upgrade you”. So I whispered back “thank you” (she probably thought I had special needs or something after I couldn’t remember where I was going!) I received the boarding pass and lounge pass and headed off to the T1 shops. I checked my boarding pass to see if they had taken the unprecedented step of upgrading me all the way from economy (cheapo W fare) to “the business” (well you can dream ) but alas as I put in Premium economy, but its better than a kick in the whatsits.
One I had finished my window shopping I sat down and saw that I had been assigned seat 12A, which I suspected is the window seat with no window. I then decided to head to the GlobeGround lounge to make use of their free wifi internet to see if I could check if this was the case. I knew there was a thread in flyertalk about it but couldn’t find the info I was after so would have to wait and see. The GG lounge is decent enough with plenty of free drinks including a decent selection of spirits and a few snacks and sandwiches but I just stuck to orange juice and a muffin whilst admiring the views over the domestic apron.
After leaving the globeground lounge I made my way to gate 27 where our aircraft, G-WWBD painted in the star alliance colours, was waiting.
The gate area became very crowded before boarding so I took a seat in the area around gate 25, although the boarding announcements were shouted out rather than via a public address and couldn’t hear them but I just waited until most people had boarded before I joined the end of the line anyway. There were security personnel waiting at the entrance to the air bridge and they were randomly searching passengers and their bags, although for once I got away with it. I took a bottle of free water (nice touch) and proceeded to board, snubbing the free Daily Mail on offer.
Scheduled Departure: 11:05; Actual Departure: 11:25
Scheduled Arrival: 13:20; Actual Arrival: 13:10
Seat: 12A (Premium Economy)
Aircraft: G-WWBD (A330-243)
On boarding I was welcomed by name and pointed in the direction of my seat (complete with missing window). My seatmate was already there and I was relieved that it wasn’t the dreaded obese giant but rather a more petit American lady who in the process of stuffing everything but the kitchen sink in her seat pocket. I was a little disappointed that the seat didn’t have a window although I was able to lean back just enough to take a few photos on take off. No chance of changing seats though as the PE cabin was 100% full.
As for the premium economy seats, unlike BA and VS the seats don’t have any extra width over regular economy (still 2-4-2) which would be disappointing if I had paid for this as it makes this not much better than economy + on United which is free for *A elites. Seat pitch is a comfortable 38” though and the seats have leg rests and lumber support. The foot rest is difficult to “activate” using one’s feet and I had to use my hand which wouldn’t be nice if the previous passenger had stood in dog waste before boarding . Recline on the seats is good and made for a very comfortable journey.
One I had settled into my seat the FAs came around with a pre-departure drink of orange juice or water and followed this up with a menu (see photos for meal choices).
2 minutes later they came around to take our order for dinner and being vegetarian I choose the only option I could have, the pasta. Bmi treat their PE pax very well and make a big effort with their service and general passenger interaction to very much put the “premium” into PE. Once dinner orders had been taken FAs came around with an amenity kit which is similar to the Virgin night flight kit (the one in the small bag) and contained a pen, pad, toothbrush, toothpaste, socks and eye patch in a neat zipper bag. Headphones were already in the seat pocket, along with a copy of “Voyager” magazine, safety card, entertainment guide, duty free guide, how to use the airphone guide and a barf bag.
Shortly afterwards we began to push back, at 11:10 our scheduled departure time and I activated the A330s nose camera to watch our taxi to runway 06L. However this was soon interrupted by the safety video and when it had finished we were waiting behind a LH Avro RJ to enter the runway as seen below.
The taxiway past the Aviation viewing park was closed and had a lot diggers around it so in order to use the full length of 06L we had to enter the runway, use it as a taxiway past the closed taxiway and then exit the runway again before taxiing to the end. It was strange watching the nose cam as we entered the runway as there was a TCX 753 at the end waiting to begin its take-off run and it was like a head to head duel as we taxied towards it. We soon exited the runaway again and went straight to front of the take off queue after the TCX 757 departed. After a few smaller aircraft departed from the intersection the RR Trents fired up and we began our roll at what seemed like a rather slow pace. Before I knew it we were airborne and I flicked onto the downward camera for a great view of Cheshire getting smaller and smaller. The whole take off was very quiet, rather A340-esque and the seatbelt sign was released very early.
Take off from MAN
Almost immediately the flight attendants sprang into action with a drinks service followed by a (very) hot towel. They had a decent choice of complementary wine and spirits but I just had an OJ – like Superman I never drink when I fly . A short time later the entertainment system was activated (not AVOD but still an excellent choice of channels). I chose to watch “meet the fokkers”, hoping it would be a compelling story of the Dutch plane maker, but alas it was a hilarious comedy starring Ben stiller. Dinner was served around 15 minutes after the movie started and it was very well presented and very tasty – full marks to bmi. Ice cream was served for desert .
After the trash was collected the thing that every window seat passenger dreads – I needed the toilet and “miss aisle seat” had nodded off. Not wanting to actually wake her I took to coughing loudly and playing with my seat to bump her and she eventually woke allowing Niagara Falls to flow (in the rest room of course). Whilst queuing for the WC I popped my head into “The business” cabin and I couldn’t see a single person. I couldn’t see the whole cabin but if there were any pax in there there was no more than 1 or 2. I guess that is what people mean when they say MAN is a low yield market. It wouldn’t have hurt to give me a double upgrade would it??
I was relieved to find that the PE seats have laptop power to allow me to write more of this report on the go. As I was running out of juice I went to the galley to ask if they could lend me a power adaptor and they kindly satisfied my request, although we had a bit of fun and games trying to find the right adaptor. The FA eventually brought the basked of all the different adaptors to my seat as I tried them one by one and on the last possible one I could have tried it fitted .
The rest of the flight was uneventful apart from a little light chop as we hit the Canadian coast (you learn all the right phrases from UA channel 9!) The second meal service consisted of a pizza, either pepperoni or cheese and tomato, along with tea/coffee and a chocolate brownie. However when they got to me (in only the third row of PE) she had run out of Cheese and tomato pizza and offered me a pereroni. Telling her I was vegetarian the FA was very apologetic and went away and miraculously produced a cheese and tomato pizza, although I kind have wished she hadn’t have bothered as it was awful – not a patch on AAs fantastic inflight pizza!
With about an hour to go the captain made only his second announcement and his first since pushback from MAN telling us that we would soon be beginning our descent into ORD. Soon after the numbers on the airshow began to change – 40,000ft to 32,000 and then a more gradual decent into Chicago. 30 minutes out the FA made an announcement informing us that we would be arriving into the midfield concourse at Dulles airport – seems I’m not the only person who wasn’t sure where I was going today! She soon realised her error and changed into “Chicago mode”. When she came back into the cabin she explained to another passenger that she was rostered to do Washington but got changed at the last minute so got confused. When I put my seat back into the upright position I realised I had almost no view out of the window behind which I was able to poke a camera through on take off. I guess my seat must have been slightly reclined on take off. Never mind the birds eye cameras made up for no window view and as we lined up to the runway at ORD the gusty winds were quite noticeable as the runway was moving from the left to the right of the screen at regular intervals. Focusing on the screen I was surprised when we hit the ground with a bang as the camera makes you think you are higher than you are and I wasn’t expecting it for a few seconds longer. We slowed down very gradually and began our very short taxi to the international terminal 5 where the ground crew were waiting for us as viewed through the pilots eye camera. Once we reached the gate I unbelted and I could see through the window in front that there was a problem attaching the air bridge i.e. it was moving away from the aircraft and not towards it! Then it kept moving closer and then further away again and the agent could then be seen frantically getting on her radio. About 3 minutes later another agent came sprinting across the apron and up to the air bridge and she piloted it gingerly into position although they seemed to be concerned about hitting something though I don’t know what as they were miles away from the engine. Sitting so far forward I soon disembarked though and proceeded effortlessly through immigration, the officer didn’t even ask me any of the usual questions, he just took my prints and a souvenir photo and I was on my way (I’ll be arriving through ORD more often after this). As usual the baggage took an age to arrive and despite having a priority tag on was one of the last to arrive.
Photo © Mark Kopczak
After dropping my bag on the connection belt I proceeded on to Terminal 1 for my flight to LGA. I won’t go into much detail about this flight just to say that it was a bit cramped with a full 733 and E- seat.
Final approach to LGA
Channel 9 was on though so this kept me entertained as we departed on time and arrived 10 minutes early, to embark on a rush-hour journey to Manhattan that took longer than the flight. Are there any plans for an “airtrain LGA” as it would certainly help!
Right click link and choose “save as” for the video of my take off and landing from this flight.
Or click below to watch the video now in a separate window
The trip also included flights on JetBlue who I was impressed with even though my expectations were very high, the free wi fi internet access in JFK T6 being an added bonus, not to mention those yummy blue chips they serve. In a way I was even more impressed with Frontier as my expectations were lower. However, although you had to pay $5 for the live TV they did serve a very filling vegetarian wrap so full marks for not only having catering but also for offering a veggie option.
Lower Manhattan viewed when approaching LGA from DEN
As a final footnote my return trip from JFK to LHR with UA was fantastic as I was upgraded from Economy to business at the gate totally out of the blue (I think they were overbooked in Y) so I had a very comfy flight home and thought it was a very nice touch when the purser came around to shake everybody’s hand and have a brief chat with them to thank them for flying UA as we came in to land. Top marks.
Photo © Kyle Donagher
Photo © Phil Derner Jr.
Photo © Keith Ogden
Photo © Kevin Minter - Mint Photography
Anyway, well done if you have got this far, and thanks for reading.
[Edited 2005-05-06 20:00:55]