Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

Flight Log: November 2011: BD906

Beirut (BEY) - London Heathrow (LHR)

I noticed almost immediately that the seats were of a different design compared to those on the recent London - Amman flight, and for some reason I initially thought that these ones were older. However if the installed IFE system was anything to go by, they were actually newer. Either way, we both quickly noticed that in seats 5A/C, neither of the headrests would stay up. It seemed altogether odd to have two different styles of seating in a fleet of just seven A321s. The Business Class load looked reasonably healthy, with passengers showing a clear preference for the starboard side, which seemed logical on a westbound day flight. We had a good 'buffer zone' around us, with 4A/C and 5D unoccupied and with the door area behind us.

While still on the ground, the now-familiar socks and shades kit, gift-wrapped amenities and headphones were distributed, as well as bottles of water. Newspapers were offered and my jacket was hung in the wardrobe. The captain announced that he was hoping to start engines ten minutes ahead of schedule, but in the end it didn't happen: a passenger boarded just two minutes prior to the official departure time. The initial routing would involve a right turn soon after take-off and shortly thereafter we would cross Cyprus and fly on into Turkish airspace.

Pushback came at 0828 and we taxied out to Runway 21 for an 0840 take-off. I quickly deployed my IFE screen, which was very much larger than on the outbound flight. Service began with a beverage run using the cart, in complete contrast with how things were done on the LHR-AMM flight. I had a cup of coffee and a glass of champagne, while Bruce had a Bloody Mary. The breakfast menu was as follows:

BREAKFAST WINE LIST 
Seasonal fruits Champagne   
Breakfast pastries Charles Lafitte Grande Cuvée Brut 
Orange juice, coffee and a selection of teas  
  White wines
Main course Terra Noble Reserva Chardonnay, Chile 
Fillet of beef with scrambled eggs, cherry tomatoes and duchesse potatoes Pinot Grigio, Villa Dugo, Italy 
Fresh herb omelette with Lyonnaise potatoes, grilled tomato and mushrooms Red wines
Silverhurst Merlot 2007, High Constantia, South Africa 
Cheese Knefeh with galette Deep Woods Estate Block 7 Shiraz, Western Australia 
Coffee and a selection of teas Lirac Domaine de Genestriere, France 

I had the steak and eggs option and decided to turn it into a champagne breakfast (well, why not?!), finishing off with another cup of coffee. We then had a round of hot towels, which came as a bit of a surprise given that they had been completely absent on the outbound flight. I started up the excellent recent movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes as my main entertainment for the flight - that's right, this aircraft didn't just have bigger screens, but AVOD capability as well!

A further announcement from the flight deck came at 1050 UK time, reporting that we had made good progress and that no delays were expected, so that our expected arrival time was 1130. As a seasoned Heathrow user, I knew better than to take such an early arrival for granted, whether announced or not. We decided to squeeze in a final drink: I wanted to sample the Merlot and Bruce had a G&T. A second round of hot towels marked the end of cabin service. After overflying East Anglia, entering a holding pattern north of London City Airport and making a final sweep through deepest south London (rather than the usual more direct approach over the West End), we touched down at 1140 for an 1146 arrival at the gate. Although we were comfortably ahead of schedule, my earlier caution on hearing the flight deck announcement proved to have been justified.

Overall, the most remarkable aspect of this flight was the array of differences compared to the outbound. The seats were different and the IFE on this flight was far superior. Hot towels appeared twice on this flight, but not at all the previous weekend. On the other hand, the spontaneous friendly sparkle of the earlier cabin crew seemed to have been missing on this occasion, and handing out food and drinks directly from the cart made for less of a premium feel. I left the flight realising that it had marked the end of my first brief encounter with bmi's mid-haul operation. Given the degree of uncertainty surrounding bmi's future, I also wondered if it might even have been one of my last flights with the airline while it remained in Lufthansa ownership.   

Date: Sat 26 Nov 2011
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Scheduled dep: 0825
Actual departure: 0828
Scheduled arrival: 1200
Actual arrival: 1146
Cabin: Business
Seat: 5A

Linked reports from same trip:

Dublin

Flight Log BD917

Amman

Flight Log ME311

Beirut

Jeita & Byblos