Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Departing: Leeds Bradford (LBA) 11.00AM
Arriving: London Heathrow (LHR) 12.15PM
Fare Type: Economy (X)
For the first time, I checked in online for today’s bmi flight in the comfort of my own home. I printed my own boarding card and selected my seat. This meant when I got to the airport my duties were fewer: simply proceed straight to the baggage drop-off point to hand over my checked luggage.
Next, I passed through security (where they scanned the boarding card I had printed) and went straight for a coffee and a read of The Times. In the news today was the story on the Devon beachcombers who had been scavenging the washed up payload of stricken ship MSC Napoli.
The boarding process was swift. Once onboard I settled in my comfortable leather seat and surveyed activity out on the apron. The plane seemed new and the wings were spotless. Baggage was still being loaded below, though there were only twenty of us or so flying down to Heathrow today so it didn’t take long. It was a beautiful winter’s morning: blue skies, moderate visibility, and a surface temperature of 1C. I had three seats to myself so I could spread out. This would make up for all those crammed August charter flights I have subjected myself to over the years.
We left the gate on time and departed from runway 32 behind a Jet2 Boeing 737. The takeoff was smooth and composed; no screaming jet engines here. As we flew down England parts of the country were covered in snow, while others were green. A drinks and snacks service (for purchase) followed; the staff were efficient and attentive.
Thirty minutes after takeoff we were nearing Heathrow. Due to the large amount of traffic needing to land, we were placed in a hold – in which we orbited for a good twenty or so minutes. A United Airlines 777 was spitting distance from me at one point. We eventually made a smooth touchdown on runway 09L. Seconds after we had exited, a British Airways 747 direct from Los Angeles landed; the aforementioned United 777 (from Chicago) landed immediately before us. Great skill must be applied by the controllers to draw each aircraft out of the hold with such well-timed precision.
Once I had collected my baggage, I used the Piccadilly Line of the London Underground to get straight into Central London. During the boring train journey I checked live Heathrow flight arrivals on my BlackBerry to determine the origins of the two U.S. flights that landed before and after me.
Photo © Javier Guerrero - AirTeamImages
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Departing: London Heathrow (LHR) 8.40PM
Arriving: Leeds Bradford (LBA) 9.45PM
Fare Type: Economy (X)
For this evening’s flight home, I checked in at the airport, using bmi’s self check-in machines. Just like online check-in, this method is straightforward also. I simply swiped my credit card (which was my reference number), answered the security questions, chose my seat and out printed a boarding card.
Tonight’s flight could not have had even forty passengers on it. Which is good from a passenger point of view, but surely not from a business point of view. My carbon footprint was not good this week! Our APU (or the “little engine at the back”, as our pilot called it) was not working, so one engine was started while on stand via ground power, and the second started once we had pushed back.
We made our way briskly to runway 09R, where there was a line of a dozen or so patiently waiting aircraft (mostly heavies). Thankfully, we jumped the queue (even though we were operating to schedule) and departed behind a Jet Airways A330, which I think is the most prosaic of names for an airline. A swift left turn steered us clear of downtown.
Twenty minutes into our flight and we were already descending from our short-lived cruising altitude of 20,000ft. It was a clear, calm winter’s night so we could make a direct approach to runway 32. A smooth landing (which is quite an achievement given Leeds Bradford’s undulating runway) was made and we taxied to our gate.
I would highly recommend bmi for both its short-haul and long-haul services. The Leeds/Heathrow shuttle worked perfectly for me: it was prompt, efficient and quick – a good way to do business. The A319s look smart with their leather interiors and clean, airy atmosphere. The airline’s services to the United States are the best I have used; the customer service on these flights goes that extra mile.