bmi domestic flight experience LHR GLA LHRBack to Forum
Anonymous16 Feb 2010
It has been over 18 months since I last flew with bmi. That day, I had just missed my BA flight out of Glasgow so I forked out £126 and jumped on bmi. I was shocked to find that this did not get me a drink or even a coffee, then on arrival in T1 I discovered that I could not get to my car in T5 long stay without first getting to T5. So I vowed then, never to fly bmi again.
I had not however accounted for BA blocking Airmiles sales ex T5 to GLA or EDI on a permanent basis and so yesterday and today found myself once more on bmi on the short hop to and from Glasgow.
On line check in was smooth and I opted for paperless direct to PDA boarding pass. I liked this feature and also that I could check in for my return flight at the same time despite being over 36 hours in advance. Not being familiar with bmi product I did not understand why first 6 rows were blocked on both flights but this became apparent on board.
I parked in T1A, which despite the face lift remains a dark, dank dingy place, mostly full of airport staff cars. T1 was empty at 8 pm on Monday, which just emphasised just how bleak, dirty and decrepit it really is.
Security was a breeze and the paperless boarding pass worked without a hitch……despite little information on how it worked from bmi.
Post security the empty shopping mall of T1 was hardly welcoming and I headed towards the bmi domestic lounge. Despite the years of hoardings nothing in T1 appeared to have changed other than it was deserted. Access to the lounge via Amex platinum card was straightforward.
The Lounge was very quiet with just about 20 people in total. There was no food other than crisps, biscuits, 4 bits of curly cheese and two very sad muffins. I wish I had taken photographs.
Most of the coffee machines were being cleaned leaving one to dispense perfectly good black coffee. There was a very limited supply of alcoholic drinks on offer but the cognac was passable.
Departure announcements, and there were 4 in total whilst I was there, were all interrupted by giggling and staff larking about. BD14 called at 9 pm for 9.35 departure from gate 77.
Gate 77 is about as far from the lounge as it is possible to get and there followed a long walk. Several increasingly loud and demanding boarding calls were made for the 5 errant passengers who were en route from lounge with me. All were on board by 9.15, so I was not sure why there was a panic,…..perhaps they wanted to go home.
On board the reason for the blocked seats at check in became apparent. These are set aside for the exclusive use of flexible economy passenger, whilst post row 5 is for economy. Needless to say at 9 pm front seats had just 4 passengers in 30 seats with the rest of us packed together!
Flexible economy get free food and drink everyone else pays for everything.
The crew was efficient and helpful but perfunctory. They explained patiently, but without conviction, the new seating policy to several passengers who tried to gain a bit of extra space by moving to the empty seats at the front.
The flight departed on time and arrived at Glasgow ahead of schedule were the walk to the exit was shorter.
Overall a satisfactory flight but the experience generally was poor.
T1 is a shambles and it was hard to see what has got better as a result of years of work. It is grubby, dull, dank and thoroughly unwelcoming.
The bmi domestic lounge was ok, but the food offering was simply bad it was not even a poor runner up to BA’s in T5 north, let alone the others in T5.
I returned today from Glasgow, which as many will know is also owned and operated by the BAA, and it shows, the place is filled with shops and pushy credit card hawkers.
There is however a sign at the entrance to security advising passengers of the waiting time to clear security. It stated today at 4pm that it was less than 5 minutes and this was accurate.
Paperless boarding pass was a novelty in Glasgow but worked without a hitch. Lounge entry again not a problem with the American Express Platinum card. The Glasgow lounge was decorated in the same way and with the same layout as LHR. There is one food and beverage point with 2 coffee machines, but one was broken. The black coffee was good and hot. Food however was again very poor and limited to cakes, biscuit, some pre packed olives and cheese…… and there was not much of any of it. Not having a sandwich at this time of day and with nothing available for free on the flight ahead is simply cheap and unacceptable.
Boarding was next door to the lounge and could be reasonably described as being direct from the lounge. Once again front 5 rows occupied by just 5 passengers. This time I asked to move and was refused.
This flight also departed on time.
After takeoff passengers briefed on service and advised that complimentary food and beverage available to flexible economy and request to the rest of us to have orders ready and exact change available!
Arrived in LHR on schedule and have to say that upon getting off noted some improvements at this gate but the general impression of T1 is of run down and much neglected facility.
Overall then, no issues really for a 1 hour hop domestically, but the fact is bmi are no match for BA on this route and the BA product on the ground and in the air is far far superior in every way. I will say however that bmi paperless boarding pass is an idea BA need to get hold of fast. It was brilliant but I can see that for a family with kids it is not much use.
Having food on board or not ,is of course personal choice, I do not miss it on a 1 hour hop, but I object to there being no soft drinks, water or coffee available for free. BA offers a complimentary bar, tea and coffee and it is a strong selling point. Add to this the T5 experience and the excellent food available in BA lounges generally, and it leaves bmi looking like a blue version of easy jet.
The flexible economy / economy product is confused and muddled. It is utterly ludicrous to try and provide 2 types of product in a single cabin and I have to question if this is a single cabin at all. If I cannot check in to one of these seats and cannot move to one of them because it has a different product, then surely this is an upgraded product. As such it should carry the higher APD. Bmi will no doubt have done their checks with HM revenue etc but to my mind they are trying to run a 2 class aircraft without a curtain.
So bmi are poor second division product to BA’s premier league, but my main issue is the appalling state of BAA run airports.
They are without doubt a national embarrassment. T5 aside, why are BAA toilets so disgusting?
They have a unique aroma which meets you at the door and in both LHR and GLA some way from the door!
The long walk from the LHR domestic lounge to gate 77 gave me time to look around at the dingy environment. There was not a single redeeming feature. The travelators do not work, lifts do not work, it is dirty, the PA system does not work properly. In short they are badly run and run down.
I did see some changes when I arrived tonight but once past them and into the domestic baggage hall, this and the arrival area are as bad as ever and the stench from the toilet at the gate was overwhelming.
No doubt this will stir up some comment. VK feel free to correct spelling and grammar…..16 Feb 2010
Thanks for the detailed analysis of an experience I am very famuiliar with – living near Glasgow means that it is a regular hike for me. I long ago abandoned BA on this route on grounds of cost and unreliability. Whatever else might be at fault, bmi invariably come in with a far better price for what is, after all, a short bus ride and they are generally on-time/ early unlike BA.
Departing from Gate 77 on BD14 is unfortunate and unusual – its normally 8C which is two minutes from the Domestic Lounge. The Lounges at both ends are tired and the catering lacks imagination although the Star Alliance Gold Lounge at GLA is marginally better. In LHR, there is always the option of the bmi International or Star Alliance Lounges if you so wish.
Terminal 1 Domestic is a poor cousin of the main part – having to go through International after a common security route only highlights this as you take the somewhat bizarre backdoor route to Domestic.
Our choices to London from Glasgow are BA (three routes), bmi, EZY or FR from Prestwick. Having used all, bmi and EZY stand out as the best options in areas that really matter in short-haul – reliability and convenience.17 Feb 2010
Thanks for the detailed trip report, Binman62; the minutiae is great for regulars as it really sets the scene well.
Spelling and grammar top notch! Bravo!
Small issue with an errant comma eight paragraphs up, but a good 9/10 from me.
I have a confession to make.
Last year, when flying domestically, I put *most* of my business bmi’s way. I know.
I liked the Business Cabin, and on the rare occasion when sensibly priced Business tickets were not available, I could upgrade for free using the four Gold upgrade vouchers provided as part of bmi Gold Card.
Plus the occasional excitement of getting a proper 2-2 midhaul configured airbus with cradle seats.
I suppose so few people actually stumped up for fully flex J that bmi’s margins were diminishing, and coupled with Gordon Brown’s doubling of APD in November 2009 (just wait for the next already scheduled doubling this November…) meant it simply was not sustainable.
Food was never a bmi strong point in terms of quality, but the proper (if thermonuclear in temperature) cooked meal on shorthaul was passable in the late evenings, and the bar service was generous (avoid the mini-wine, though handy for cooking with). Free food in economy (sandwich, tea/soft drink) for bmi Golds on services where Business was not offered was a good perk. Most bmi sandwiches were dry and uninspiring, though I learned that the cheese ploughman’s was acceptable.
I have a personal theory that costs for catering and lounge access may have been carefully salted away into bmi diamond club while bmi the airline accrued the profits of these overinflated “sales” to make the mainline numbers look better, but I have no evidence for that.
On domestic/short haul, BA’s full bar, with tea/coffee and birdseed or moist cookie, is adequate for short flight durations; on board catering was needed in the days before food outlets at airports. Now you can easily purchase something in most airports of better quality than airline food.
The bmi Gold seat block was also useful, meaning I always had a seat free next to me even in economy; this is a superb feature of Star Gold, and IMHO its main attraction (since all the other benefits are modest in extreme). This feature was not available if I switched seats last minute, so I learned to tolerate my original allocation. I wish BA would do that for Golds on Domestic.
I found the bmi crews relaxed and friendly, yet professional at the same time, although that Northern charm is being slowly replaced by Teutonic efficiency as crews become more mixed within the Lufthansa group.
Avoid the rip-off Heathrow Express ticket offer; it’s just 10p off the regular price, and better deals are to be had via the http://www.easyjet.com 10% discount.
Diamond Club lounges are a quiet place to sit and watch TV; that’s about it. They do have a good selection of newspapers and magazines. And as you say, they are free to access with your American Express Platinum Chargecard (as are AAdmiral’s Clubs, which are of similar dire quality).
I generally used the T1 Star Alliance lounge using my Gold Card (no access to the only marginally better First Class section unless travelling F), but despite a better food offering it is dingy, and warren-like, a good distance from bmi’s gates and not a patch on the former BA Terraces/First complex which used to occupy the space.
The big draw for bmi domestically is their excellent gate to gate timekeeping, the fact they operate their schedule during bad weather and snow, the super mobile boarding pass, and the ease of reaching T1 from Central London. This should not have changed with the new FlexEconomy cabin.
bmi Diamond Club remains an extremely generous scheme, and though without the Business cabin it will be hard to retain Gold for many, it is still worthwhile flying bmi if you view it as an Easyjet style product with lounge access and an FF scheme. Just don’t expect any frills.
BAA does great security at Edinburgh, and has invested heavily in the EDI terminal in recent months (long overdue). Terminal One is currently in temporary mode before being largely replaced, so I can tolerate the hoardings and circuitous routings for now.
BAA toilets apart from in T5 are still Trainspottingly awful so I avoid them at all costs.17 Feb 2010
I regularly fly GLA-LON for leisure and sometimes although not as much for business.
My preferred airport is Gatwick because it’s much easier and twice as quick to get to my final destination.
Most flights are in the evening and on a Friday. I have three main options in order…
(1) 7pm to LGW with BA, (2) 7.30pm to LHR with BMI or (3) 8.45pm-sih to LHW with EZY
For me it’s largely about cost. If the BA is only fractionally more that BMI I’ll choose them. Gets me to my preferred airport and I get a free cup of tea on board – I don’t want any food (I take my own) but a nice cuppa is a big plus in my books.
Next comes BMI, whilst it’s LHR, it generally lands more on-time than the later EZY and I will still get to my end destination quicker.
Last is EZY… generally only when the first 2 options are too expensive!
However, I always return on the Monday morning EZY flight to GLA from LGW and it suits me down to the ground.17 Feb 2010
Agree with all the comments about the BMI product. I fly with them domestically at least twice a week ex LHR. Not a patch on BA service but definitely more reliable, especially during the recent snow-related disruption. Also, the Gold seat block is nice to have. I also find the “Park 1” business car park to be much more speedy and efficient that the T5 equivalent.
Recent postings on T1/BMI have raised a couple of questions:
1. If I am flying domestically can I use the BMI “International” lounge? I have DC Gold status as well as an AMEX Platinum card. I tend to use the Star Alliance lounge but agree with other postings that the BMI International lounge is nicer and closer to the domestic gates.
2. If I am on a discounted economy ticket can I use the T1 Fast Track security with BMI Gold status?17 Feb 2010