BMI ORD – MAN in Premium Economy: How hard can a PE product drop? (also random moans)
Yes, we’re heading FURTHER back in time. A lot of this is now moot as BMI has got shot of most of its long haul fleet and is concentrating on its BMED routes, but as 1) I want a lot of this transferred to GhettoIFE.com and 2) A little memorial to how things were aren’t bad things. I’ve expanded this with a few more images. Looking back on this – I was in a right royal mood when I was typing this – and seemingly with justification in the end.
Photoblog link with all the pretty pictures:http://www.photoblog.com/kevincm/2008/03/04/
Last year I did a trip in Premium Economy (have a look here) How much can a product change over 4 months? Here’s an answer wrapped up in a Trip Report…
Comments, Insults and general moaning welcome
After a 66% successful trip (business was crappier than last time…) I still was in the mood to go home in style (or some sort of style anyway).
So here is the homeward bound leg of the Chicago trip.
O’Hare… O’Hare… O’Hell…
Hello and Goodbye Chicago!
I’m fast coming to hate this airport with a vengeance. Specifically the international terminal is finally getting to me with the lack of facilities in it both land-side and air side. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
After making sure all my friends checked in (one was off to LGW via CLT, the other off to Nashville) I made check in stupendously early. So to kill some more time, I made a trip to the ORD Shoppie (which if you like your plane models, I can recommend…), plus it allowed me to grumble about the elevators (i.e. the ATS system elevators are 1) mostly slow and 2) non functional at T2).
I made Check in about 2:30. This was then mostly useless as well. The SAS staff allowed me to check in early, but as I presented 3 bags, I was told I would have to pay for the 3rd (as a silver)
No no no no NO! Even mere BMI silvers have a 3rd bag right (to which the outstations are obvious to..) After 5 minutes they agreed that as per DC rules, a 3rd bag within limits were allowed (Praise the lord and pass the salt!!!!). I then managed to buy an upgrade into a PE Cabin (now $400 instead of $350 .., BMI are money-spinning that now it seems)
After a few minutes, my new boarding pass was spat out and I as cleared into the PE cabin.
Luggage was taken and placed directly on the belt – it seems that the big scanning machines have gone away for now… (alas even as a silver, no *A Priority tags)
The Hall of flags. One of the few nicer things at ORD T5
Of course, as a mere silver, one cannot access the lounge at ORD as it’s a SAS lounge (thus Star Alliance Gold or Business Pax only). As a result, I started to look forward to the very long wait before boarding begins. And as nearly nothing is near O’Hare you can’t exactly escape to anything (well maybe to Dominicks near Cumberland Avenue to pick up some Oreos, but that’s besides the point … the luggage is in already…). So I did what I normally do – flip the camera out and take pictures for a bit before I got bored, froze, or the batteries expired.
Unsurprisingly, the cold win that battle (within 10 minutes)
Security at O’Hare was the usual (shoe shuffle, laptop out, boarding card out… ) then a person pushed in on a Alitalia flight to MXP, asking to cut in (I almost exploded at that point)
I’m going to be very nasty here. IF YOU BOOK A FLIGHT, THERE ARE LITTLE GUIDELINES TO OBEY. ONE OF THOSE IS GETTING TO GATE ON TIME AND ALLOWING YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME. PUSHING THROUGH THE QUEUE IN A WHINY TONE SAYING YOUR FLIGHT IS LEAVING IN 10 MINUTES IS NOT MY PROBLEM. NEXT TIME GET TO THE AIRPORT EARLY ENOUGH!!!
(and before anyone asks, yes, I make sure I’m within plenty of time for my flights). After clearing security, I found a power point to charge up the laptop, and connected to the local WiFi for a bit.
De Plane Boss! De Plane!
The usual wait occurred (which at O’Hare can get very boring, lounge pass or not). The plane was tugged in, and the plane was prepped for flight. After a short while, pre-boarding begun, and as a BMI *S, I had one of the first options to board after pre-boarding was completed .
Ready for boarding
BD706 – ORD-MAN
Seat 14A, Premium Economy cabin, 50% load.
BMI Airbus A330-200, G-WMBB.
My home for the next 7 hours – taken near MAN
After boarding I was asked if I liked roller-coaster rides. Translation, a lot of turbulence due (the Captain rated it an 8). My initial thought.. buckle up!
As boarding continued, this was the lovely sight that was outside…
If you don’t like this, I believe souls are available one eBay
The plane slowly filled, with a lot of late arrivals, and I suspect, a lot of people who mis-connected as the cabin wasn’t filling up hard. Initially I was sharing my space with someone, but as the doors went to close, my seat-mate moved to the seat in front, giving me a lovely load of space (double seats with 49″ pitch… sounds good to me for the next 6 hours and 40 minutes).
Seat pitch: Oxon Flyer and co.. please note: clean trousers
The plane then pushed back, safety demo ran, and after a short taxi,
Over the roads
and await thanks to the “world’s favourite airline”
Waiting for a BA 777 to take off
and off we went into the black coloured air.
IL/Wisconsin/Lake Michigan – more on the photoblog
Service started with a proper pre-emptive top-up regime in full progress, even in Premium Economy. Lots of Chardonnay into the glass! (ok, I’m a simple person with simple pleasures). As usual, the pretzel things did their rounds.
After as shot while, it was time for dinner:
Chicken Risotto – BMI style, in another foil box
Yet again, it’s the foil tin… nothing changes. The food quality from the US end is still pretty good in comparison to the Manchester centre which always ruins the rice.
The ice cream for a change was not Choccie chip or Cookie Dough… it was Vanilla or Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream . Of course, Strawberry cheesecake it was. A quick coffee round and 1½ hour later, it was lights down in PE. (with the lights still on in Y as the crew were finishing up the service.
Duty free was done in the dark. Again, I asked for a model A330 again (I do this out of the challenge rather than getting the aircraft now). Surprise Surprise, none in stock! Oh well. Nothing changes there.
A water bottle service was then made, and the crew made occasional walk-through, checking things were fine as the seat belt sign was on for the majority of the night section of the flight (and rightly so – it was very bumpy). At this point, I noticed no-one had an amenity kit loaded. Surprisingly, they weren’t loaded for PE.
About 1 hour 30 from landing, a breakfast snack service was made of a Cinnamon and apple muffin (tastier than the blueberry one) and the pot of fruit. The on-board team managed again to do a pre-emptive topup on coffee for a round or two before cleaning up the cabin and preparing for landing at Manchester, which was on the far runway, towards the terminal (odd I thought).
Sunrise in the air
We then had a leisurely taxi to Gate 44 (where this journey started nearly 12 days ago).
This was in the way before going to the gate….
There was a short delay as the air bridge was attached, and business passengers were let off first, then the rest of us.
Passport control was quick, and the passport was scanned and just waived through with minimal inspection. Luggage delivery was reasonably slow, with a good 10 minutes before the first batch appeared, with my luggage delivered within 15 minutes. I then made my way through the maze of the airport and out onto the cool Manchester Airport morning air to the Train station for the long slog home with a rucksack, suitcase and a ski bag full of Tripods…
I’ve taken quite some time writing this report up, trying to be fair and removing some of the “get out of my way you annoying person who couldn’t be bothered to check in” anger.. but its been a bit hard writing this one up.
O’Hare International Terminal: I honestly am trying to find nice things about the International Terminal. The fact I can’t says a lot. Bare facilities before departures and barer facilities AFTER departures (although a few more booths have magically appeared. Its just a poor “International” Airport all round (even the Domestic terminals are better served! Dread the thought that people might actually want to SPEND MONEY at the airport!!!). I’ve noticed one of the newsagents is now stocking salads and rolls (and vastly overpriced priced) and that there are 2 bars to purchase alcoholic drinks (with big plastic buckets with the words TIPS on – noticeably empty)
SAS Ground Handling: Oh dear. Someone needs to bring them up to speed on Diamond Club Rules regarding the 3rd bag for Silvers. Perhaps a quick refresher from base would help. The lack of priority tags for ANYONE also shows up that base shows its under-supplied and under informed (and don’t bother asking about the fragile tags – you won’t get them!)
Security: Pretty respectful. The TSA have a bad enough reputation. At least this lot were warning you there was not food options after security. This is an improvement at least.
Boarding: Nice and quick, No questions asked, BP was checked, and my BMI *S confirmed.
On Board team: very good as usual, with good service all round. Very humorous, with a couple of the staff recognising me from a flight ago.
The Onboard product: this is unfortunately starting to suffer. It can be seen in little things, like the lack of amenity kits, and the continued use of tinfoil tins for dinner. And these little things add up to a very big difference.
Miles Awarded: Only Base Miles as the flight is an upgrade so 3814 Miles (which means another 2 flights to hit Silver for next year)
I’m normally very positive about the BMI experience, and I would still recommend them, if for the on-board staff alone. However, the cost cutting HAS to stop.
United and US Airways are having a wonderful race to the bottom as it is. There is no point in BMI joining them, nor would it serve any real purpose other than a little ding at the bottom line. If BMI wanted to do that, it would be better to rip out the old business seats, plop in a few rows of UA 38″ seats and just charge more at the gate for them (And I for one would be sad if they did that).
By having a quality product, and providing the product is pushed well and successfully, it will drive revenue to them. At the moment, I’d have to think twice about paying up for PE again unless the product as a whole was much more improved. Either that, or I’d better get used to saying hello to LHR T3 (or T1 when they move) and begging for an E+ seat on a UA flight…
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