Hello and welcome to my first trip report (and second post) here on airliners.net. I've been reading the forums on here for a while now (mostly the trip reports) and always thought that someday I'd post one of my own, however never got round to signing up/posting something mainly due to working my way through my second year of GCSEs. To give a bit of information about me, my name is Jamie and I'm 16 (nearly 17) and (as my profile states) I have had for a long time interests in aviation (mainly commercial, now also general/light aviation) with the aims of becoming a commercial airline pilot.
The background of this trip was to visit my Dad who works in Riyadh (I did live there for 2 years before moving back to the UK for education related reasons mainly). This trip was booked through the travel agent that the company my dad works for uses in Riyadh. This trip was in fact the "return" leg of a return ticket (mainly because of the pattern my return bookings created from when I lived in Riyadh). I was also travelling alone due to the fact that I could not have the last few days off school as I needed to get information about my January exams on the last day before the 2 week Christmas holiday (the rest of my family went out a few days before me).
A bit of warning about this trip report - it's a bit wordy, and my pics arn't great as I was using my old digital camera which I think has seen better days... However, without much further ado, let's begin:
Flight 1: MAN-LHR
Type: Embraer ERJ-145(EP)
Flight Number: BD
(something, can't remember it now!)
Seat: 7A, moved to 10A
- Manchester Terminal 3 (Gate 17)
- London Heathrow Terminal 1 (Domestic Gate, odd arrivals procedure described later)
Date: December 18th 2010
I woke up at about 4.30am feeling very groggy, took my case downstairs and waited for the taxi (or if the taxi would come for that matter). The night before, the north west of England took a battering of snow which was pretty deep (deepest in a while) where I live. At the time, I didn't think I would actually make it to the airport (or ontime for that matter) however, the taxi arrived at 5:10am (10 minutes late isn't bad given the conditions) and so it was time for the 45 minute journey there. For the first time in a long while the motorways were empty and I actually arrived with plenty of time to spare! As I had checked in online the night before (bmi's online check-in and website as a whole are surprisingly pain free and I was able to choose the seats I wanted) I went straight to the bmi bag drop and off to security I went!
Security at Manchester Terminal 3 is pretty much empty at this time in the morning so I was through in minutes (thankfully not having to remove my walking boots as the security officer said no problem - though now I think they have changed the scanners so you do if you send the metal detector off and get directed to the body scanner). Once airside I headed over to WHSmith and bought the latest copy of Airliner World, a bottle of MtnDew and some wine gums (needed a sugar boost to get me going). I headed over to the Gate 16/17/18 area where most of bmi's domestic flights depart from and looked out the window at the excellent ground staff clearing the snow and working hard to get flights out that day. Whilst reading/watching I heard many announcements about there being cancelled Flybe flights to Belfast (and I think a few other regional airports).
Flybe Dash 8 G-ECOB going nowhere
my BD ERJ-145 to LHR G-RJXA
After a while, a delay was announced due to it taking longer for the de-ice truck to come round and due to the level of snow on the aircraft to be cleared (however, I still had an hour at LHR
for my connection). After about 20 minutes, my name was called out and a new seat 10A was written on my A4
home printed boarding pass (don't like these tbh). BD
decided to load us (and bags) then deice to save time so everyone quickly boarded down the steps and I was greeted by a friendly crew. Once everyone was on board, the captain mentioned in his welcome speech that we would not be restricted to holding at LHR
today so we should recover quite a bit of our delay (I presume due to the number of BA
flights cancelled on that day before the snow even hit LHR
We taxied out to runway 23R (I think 23L was out of use on that day or at least that morning) and held for 2 minutes by the runway with our engines revved up (I presume to get them warmed up a bit more due to the cold) and then we were off on what felt like the longest take off roll I've ever had on an ERJ-145 (and I've flown BD
's quite a bit). Fairly typical BD
domestic flight, the only people to get served anything are "Economy Flex" passengers. I wish they would at least do a water run or just something little like that, they had time to (my opinion of bmi at this point in time was already tainted by an experience in October of bad onboard experience which I did actually complain to them about later on and got a direct response from various departments - however, I still came back on BA
). I can't remember the runway used at LHR
, I'm fairly sure it was the typical over the city approach.
Here's where it got interesting. Those who have gone Domestic - International at LHR
Terminal 1 will know that all the Gates 8abc etc and a few others mix the arriving and departing passengers and you only need to go through one little boarding pass check to transfer. Today however, our junglejet ended up on a "bus" stand. Why a bus was needed I'll never know, but health and safety / security I guess. We boarded the bus only for it to drive under Terminal 1 in a loop and drop us by this mysterious little door on the opposite side of the aircraft (literally 5-10 metres away). After going up the escalator, I realised it dropped me right in the baggage claim bit. This meant I'd have to re-clear security again (albeit through a transfer bit across the checkin area) and it seems that everyone going through LHR
that day were not prepared to remove all their Arctic-proof gear so despite a short line, it took a good 20 minutes to get through. Once through, everything was normal, no delays and at 10am I found out which gate to go to.
Flight 2: LHR-LHR
Type: Airbus A330-243
Flight Number: BD775
Seat: (I think) 29K
Terminal 1 - Gate 43- I think (from the "Europier" bit, not quite the new block)
Terminal 1 - Arrivals hall
Date: December 18th 2010
Everything seemed to be going ahead for this flight as the staff turned up to man the gate and I believe the crew did too. However, the jetway remained detached from the aircraft and that was when the snow began to fall. At 10:30 we got the announcement that we were "suspended" and that we would receive further information at 12:30 and with that, the gate agents got out the latest copy of Ok! and put their feet up.
Also going nowhere - G-WWBD covered in snow
G-WWBD again, in the snow, from t'other side - needs a clean...
G-MEDJ to I think Tel Aviv in the snow
TP standing out in white with the red & green lettering
12:30 came and "2pm" was announced. After a long while of sitting there, we eventually got the announcement "bmi regrets to inform you that BD775 to Dammam via Riyadh has been cancelled. Please proceed to gate 43 to claim your baggage and rebook in the check-in area". Well, I followed that advice and was expecting just our flight, maybe one or two more to be down there to begin with (thinking "they won't do this all at once"). Got through immigration very quickly and then stepped into hell. Now the Terminal 1 baggage claim is cramped normally, but this was madness! I wish I had taken time to take a picture as it was bad. Other carriers (United, Lufthansa) were giving out information about which belt their luggage was coming out of. BD
- nothing, even customer service wouldn't help. So I searched and spent about an hour along with other people from my flight trying to find the bags from our flight (going off bag tags alone here) and eventually we found them coming out. However, the belt kept filling up and stopping (and many of these bags wern't for Riyadh or Dammam).
In the end, I got out and thought "well at least the queue might have got dealt with a bit in over an hour" - how wrong I was. bmi staff were out in force however. I got directed to 3 different lines before joining one they said would be "for transfer" and I was handed an A4
bit of paper with contact details on (the phone line was full and I had left my UK phone at home, so I didn't have internet access on my Saudi one - it barely makes texts!). So I queued and queued whilst my Dad in Riyadh was frantically trying to get me either another flight out or a hotel (after telling him that my policy on refusing to ever fly EK
again still stands), I was looking at possibly an evening BA
flight to DXB
and then Saudi Arabian Airlines to RUH
(I was hoping for this, mainly due to the possibility of another flight on an SV
747 as SV
has/had some interesting types running that route). The BD
staff disappeared after half an hour or so and the only announcements were from BAA saying basically "Go away, we don't want you", well "the airport is closed, please use the Heathrow express to london city and check online"
However, my Dad found me a B&B in Hayes on the internet and text me the details. It was lucky that I had just enough £ for a taxi, so queued up outside in the hour long queue for one and by 7pm, I was in a perfectly nice family run B&B (I have to say, the most hospitable place I've stayed). I had a room with a TV
, Shower, Bed and it was warm and clean, I was perfectly satisfied and it was cheap enough to be able to pay for it off my debit card (my Dad did put the money back on after some grumbling and "that can be your Christmas present this year). The plan was, I'd stay the night there and get the train (EUGH
!) up to Manchester and stay with my grandparents who live in Manchester. However, I was spared and my dad got me a flight from LHR
on the Tuesday. So I had a nice lazy 2 days in 'London'. I did contemplate going into the city, but seeing that it was an ordeal to walk 10 minutes to the nearest Tesco express in the snow, I spent most of the time in the room watching TV
, on my laptop (sadly no WiFi or internet, but I now have great minesweeper skills...) or sleeping. The best bit of this B&B too is that the local Pizza Hut will deliver to your room rather than the front door, so for a lazy teen like me, I was great!
Flight 2 - Attempt 2: LHR-RUH
Type: Airbus A330-243
Flight Number: BD775
Terminal 1 (Gate 49)
Terminal 1 (Gate 16)
Date: December 21st 2010
This time, the B&B booked a taxi for me (and it was half the price that the black cab driver charged on the 18th) and I was dropped off sort of curbside at Terminal 1. This is where I needed to walk round a huge white marquee and proceed to the door. At this point, my dad's instructions were "head to the blue premium box and give them that booking ref" (ironically, I wrote it on my original boarding pass). I just presumed that due to his bmi diamond club Gold status he did something or arranged something. Anyway, I was stopped at the door and despite the check-in hall being nearly empty (except one or two sleeping passengers) we were all told (lots of people for my flight were here) "Go to the white marquee and we'll call you" - no one moved. So, at about 7:30, we did get let in after checking if "check-in were ready for us" (which they were 10 minutes ago as the bmi staff were ready and told us to come in, but BAA were having none of it). So I headed over and the lady checked me in, disposed of my old boarding pass and then I got a shock when I saw "3D" written down. A quick text to my Dad confirmed that I was in Business class and he'd paid for it on his credit card along with the instructions "don't tell your mother, it was one of the only seats". I was also excited as I hadn't flown in the front part of BD
's J class (the first 3 rows), only the 2nd cabin.
Sadly no fast track security open, so after going through (and as I was wearing my hoodie and converse this time, I didn't need to take anything off except a belt and to take out my laptop) I then headed to the BD
lounge. I've been in here before, but not this early so I noticed the blue lights. There's many pics on here of the BD
lounge and it was busy that morning, so I only took a few photos out the window:
AA 777-200ER - Big Shiny Thing
The snow clearing machines, that can't be used when we have anything more than 10cm of snow on health and safety grounds (I'm sure that was the excuse)
Now, after a short time in the lounge, boarding was called at 9:30 (early for this flight) at Gate 49. Those of you who might not know where this is, the only way to describe is it is (forgive the phrase) "the arse end of Terminal 1". I like it once your there, but there's a lot of walking. It's almost like a 3 mile hike just to get there! Once there (and after getting my passport checked for a valid entry visa to Saudi Arabia) boarding commenced for BD775. I was surprised, I'm sure the Y load wasn't full and the J load certainly wasn't. Once on board, I was greeted by one or two familiar faces from past BD
flights (they didn't remember me, however...). I stowed my bag in the centre overhead bin (BD have these poorly designed recessed ones that open in mild turbulence if not slammed shut, however for tall people like me, it does mean I can stand up in the middle).
After everyone had boarded, the captain came on with information about a 5 minute delay (he sounded a bit frustrated) "we've been ready to go now for 5 minutes, but unfortunately Heathrow isn't quite yet. I do apologise for the delay and we'll get going soon" (or words to that effect).
We taxied out (I noticed a few oddly parked aircraft, e.g. BA
at Terminal 1...) before turning onto the only runway open at that time and made what felt like the longest take-off roll I've ever had in an A330 considering that it wasn't exactly full of passengers and it's not even a full tank of fuel to get to RUH
make a lot on cargo on this route, I've had cargo sent on bmi).
's seat is a standard full-flatish bed (it is 180o but not quite flat in the middle if that makes sense). I have always wondered why the J seats on this A330 have been in this brown colour for so long (now the rest of the fleet looks the same) however, it was acceptable service. I had the "Christmas Lunch" which was ok, though not the best meal in terms of J class and I watched a bit of the IFE (though there wasn't a great choice at the time tbh - in my e-mail to bmi, I mentioned even putting some newer and more popular films on). bmi's IFE is a slightly older one. I'd call it semi-AVOD. In the sense that it has interactive games, but loop Audio/Video. Unlike BA
don't change the programming of the channels after the first "loop", so it's the same stuff again. I'll let the pictures do the rest here:
Seat Controls - a bit dirty. Also, that cup holder should get moved somewhere else as it is easily knocked
bmi stuff - noise cancelling headphones, menu, thick blanket. They don't provide airliner world
Cabin shot, not the greatest but you can see the blueish lighting and those awful centre bins
Finally, we made my favourite approach into Riyadh, 33R over the city. One thing I did notice was that the gear was dropped a lot earlier than on past flights.
It was an interesting few days in London. The funny thing is, the exact opposite happened on the return with BA
where I had 20 minutes to run through Terminal 5 (I made it btw, my checked in bag didn't), made possible by a very helpful BA
rep/helper/not sure of the job title lady that ran us through. And I wasn't the last on! and the flight left bang on time to MAN
, I have told them this and they did respond promptly: The IFE and food need a bit of tweaking. Whilst I don't expect them to put AVOD in right away (btw, even this system crashes, I've seen the Linux penguin and the boot screen many times on this aircraft) they did say that they will aim to put better films on and try to improve the food (whether this has happened I don't know). Whilst I accept LHR
closing was not BD
's fault, the way they handled the situation was dreadful. I told BD
this and I'm not sure what they will do. The staff not walking off and some more announcements would be a huge improvement!
Hopefully, I would like to try BD
again soon, but my next commercial flight will be with Icelandair on a school trip - I will try and do a better report of that one if possible (it is on one of my favourite aircraft, the 757-200, the other favourite being the 777 in case you wondered).
Thanks for reading and let me know if I can improve at all,
Link to flickr photos (there's a few more in there): http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamlava/sets/72157626209224562/