Airport Experience (Questions & Reviews)


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TheLocalYokel

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Birmingham-Melbourne

A few weeks ago my wife and I flew from Birmingham (BHX) to Melbourne (MEL) and return, with a change of aircraft at Dubai (DXB) in both directions.

We were collected by an Emirates chauffered car from our home in the West of England and arrived at BHX in good time for our Monday evening departure on Emirates flight EK 38 to Dubai.

Check-in was quickly accomplished and after a look at the bookstalls in the user-friendly BHX terminal we made our way to the excellent Emirates lounge situated in the new part of the airport where we enjoyed a full meal and drinks.

We were called to our aircraft shortly before it was due to depart. It was parked near the lounge and we were soon in our seats via an airbridge. We were travelling on a Boeing 777-300 which had 42 business seats and around 400 economy seats. The business seats were of the older non-pod variety but comfortable nonetheless. The business cabin seemed pretty full and the flight in general appeared well-filled.

We pushed back on time at 2025 GMT and after a short taxi were airborne. A five-course meal was offered but we elected a light portion of the full offering, having eaten our fill in the lounge prior to take-off. We did have one or two drinks that helped us both to snatch a couple of hours light sleep later in the flight (we are normally very poor sleepers on aircraft).

The celebrated Emirates ICE entertainment system (of which more later) was in full working order with individual pull-up monitor screens, although on this type of aircraft they cannot be used for take-off and landing and have to be stowed, presumably as a safety precaution in case they obstruct in an emergency situation. We are not great ones for inflight entertainment, preferring to read or look out of the window, but we did, out of curiosity, have a look at what was on offer in case we felt like being entertained on the next, much longer leg to MEL.

The flight was without incident and we arrived at DXB shortly after 0700 local (0300 GMT), a leg of nearly seven hours.

DXB is a modern airport (for the most part) and extremely busy. Because we had first-class boarding cards for the onward flight to MEL we were able to use the Emirates first-class lounge. We spent a couple of hours in the lounge which, rather surprisingly, was almost empty of passengers (I understand it can accommodate one thousand), had a shower and freshen-up and cups of tea and coffee together with a snack. We didn't feel like drinking alcoholic beverages at that time of day.

Our onward flight to MEL on EK 406 was due to depart at 1000 local (0600 GMT) and we were at the gate in good time. The flight was clearly going to be full or nearly so and we walked down a tatty and dingy passage (unlike the ultra-modernity of most of DXB) to be taken by bus on a tortuous journey (including through a tunnel) to our aircraft parked at a remote stand.

The aircraft was again a Boeing 777-300, with eight first-class suites, 42 business seats and over 300 economy seats (not sure of the exact number). The suites are in two rows of four at the front of the aircraft. I noticed that the business seats immediately behind the first-class cabin were of the modern pod variety.

My suite was on the right-hand side of the second row and stretched the length of three windows. My wife's was to my left across the aisle.

The suites are effectively tiny rooms that can give complete privacy be means of a door that can be opened and shut at the touch of a button on the passenger's control console.

The seats turn into flat-beds at the touch of a button and any intermediate position can be achieved. They are extremely comfortable with inbuilt massage facilities and bedclothes of varying degree, depending on the passenger's preference.

There is a personal mini bar in each suite, as well as a bowl of 'treats', magazines, fresh flowers, table lamp, illuminated vanity mirror, a fold-away table for working or eating and a 23inch digital tv screen.

Emirates' ICE entertainment system features over 1200 channels of entertainment from films to games to radio to news, but I was most interested in the forward and downward facing cameras fitted to the outside of the aircraft, and the comprehensive system for following the progress of the flight. Unlike our flight from BHX that was entirely flown in the dark meaning the on-board cameras were of little value, EK 406 departed in bright sunshine on a hot morning more or less on time.

Because the tv screens in the suites remain on during take-off and landing I was able to follow our lengthy taxi path through the eye of the pilot. Once in the air I switched to the downward-facing camera for fascinating views of the desert landscape below us as we headed out from Dubai.

Emirates offer seven-course meals in first-class together with fine wines and spirits, and other excellent alcoholic beverages ranging from aperitifs to cocktails but, to out regret, neither of us felt like eating or drinking much. Meals or snacks can be taken at any time according to the individual passenger's desire.

We decided on fruit juice and water and settled down to try to get some shut-eye. We cat-napped for four or five hours but the persistent turbulence (lightish but noticeable and enough for the seat-belt signs to be illuminated for much of the flight) was a hindrance to deep sleep.

My wife then had a light continental breakfast but I contented myself with further fruit juice and water. I then watched a very old black and white film (the classic 'The Grapes of Wrath' for anyone remotely interested) before finally deciding I could tackle some food (about nine hours into the flight). I selected a pan-fried beef fillet and accompaniments followed by cheese and biscuits and a decent Shiraz – very reluctantly I could not face the full seven courses.

By now we were in our second local night so I dozed, read a bit and played idly with the ICE system. My wife was trying to doze in the neighbouring suite.

We arrived over the state of Victoria between 0500 and 0600 local time on Wednesday morning (1800-1900 GMT on Tuesday) and it was beginning to get light. I was able to watch the approach into MEL, the landing and taxi on the tv screen in my suite. We landed about 0630 local (1930GMT the previous day) after a flight of just under 13 hours from DXB and a total time of just under 20 hours in the air for the entire journey.

We had an Emirates chauffered car to take us to our destination in the Melbourne area.

Melbourne-Birmingham

Our return was three weeks later on a Monday evening.

We arrived at MEL a couple of hours or so ahead of our 2225 hours (1125 GMT) departure.

After a quick check-in we made our way to the Emirates lounge which was very similar to the one at BHX, though we both thought the BHX lounge was slightly better in most respects.

We had a full meal and drinks in the lounge and I had a couple of large brandies as I was determined to get some sleep.

Boarding the EK 407 was simplicity itself and I occupied the same suite as the outbound, except the aircraft was a sister of the one coming out. I elected for a fruit juice instead of the offered champagne on boarding (as I did on the outbound) and once in the air downed a couple more brandies over the next half hour.

I closed my suite door and managed to get five or six hours of reasonable sleep (very good sleep for me on an aircraft in fact) but it was napping rather than a really good kip. It was still dark when I awoke and the flight continued that way all the way to Dubai as we flew towards the oncoming night.

I had a light snack and fruit juice, together with the copious amounts of water that I always consume on long-haul flights.

I watched another very old film (this time Humphrey Bogart in 'The Big Sleep') and then dozed. I just did not feel like attacking any of the culinary delights on offer, and didn't even consume any more alcohol.

The dark night gradually gave way to the lights of Dubai and we landed about half an hour early at 0510 local (0110 GMT) after a flight of around 13 and a half hours. We encountered light turbulence for much of the way and again the seat-belt signs were illuminated for the greater part of the journey.

Because our ongoing flight to BHX was business class we accessed DXB's Emirates business lounge. I had read a number of disturbing reports about this lounge and they turned out to be correct.

It was extremely busy (it can hold 1500 people) and available chairs and tables were difficult to find. There was even a queue for the gents. We had cups of tea and coffee respectively and a light snack. It was not a particularly restful place and we were not sorry when it was time to walk to the gate.

Our aircraft home was a Boeing 777-300 similar to the outbound from BHX with non-pod business seats, of which about 30 of the 42 were occupied. Our flight (EK 39) pushed back at 0855 local (0455 GMT) around fifty minutes late, the reason for the delay being heavy traffic according to the captain.

Although the individual seat monitors had to be stowed for take-off there was a public screen at the front of the cabin that gave us the view of the pilot through the forward-facing onboard camera. There were three or four Emirates aircraft ahead of us and as we turned to enter the runway we saw a queue of four or five airliners behind us. We were immediately behind an Emirates A 380 and had a great view of the behemoth on its take-off roll and lift-off. We were held at the end of the runway for several minutes, presumably to allow the effects of possible wake turbulence to dissipate.

Climb-out gave us a splendid view of Dubai and all its modern buildings and artificial islands in the sea.

For once we were both quite hungry and enjoyed a continental breakfast. I then settled down to look out of the window (it was clear until we reached the Bulgarian coast in the vicinity of Varna), and enjoy the desert landscape of Iraq via the downward-facing camera.

I previewed various films and tv shows on ICE but found nothing that really interested me so I settled on an audio version of Les Miserables to accompany my lunch – this time I went for the five courses: canapes, Arabic mezze, seasonal salad, braised beef, wild berry and orange frangipane concluding with the cheese board. I washed this down with two or three glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps not the choice of a wine connoisseur (which I'm certainly not) with such a meal, but I wanted something light and refreshing.

We were nearing the Dutch coast by the time I had properly done so the approach into a bright but very cold BHX soon came into view on the public monitor at the front of the cabin (the individual monitors had been stowed again for landing).

We touched down around twenty minutes late a minute or two after midday GMT giving a flight time from DXB of just over seven hours, and an overall time in the air from MEL of just over 20 and a half hours.

Our bags were amongst the first on the carousel and the immigration was swiftness personified - plenty of manned desks.

The Emirates chauffered car was awaiting us - there was quite a fleet meeting EK 39 - and we were back home in the West Country by a quarter past two.

Summary

I believe we obtained a great deal in that we paid little more than business fares for the return trip, the bulk of which was in the first-class suites. We booked with a well-known travel chain specialising in long-haul flights and holidays and were able to nominate and reserve our seats, including the actual suite numbers, three months beforehand. The deal also included complimentary chauffered car travel to and from BHX and from MEL. We could have also been driven to MEL but chose not to as we had family transport.

Emirates sometimes comes in for criticism from travellers on trip report web sites but we were very pleased with all aspects, apart perhaps from the Dubai business lounge and DXB itself, a large and extremely busy airport with crowds in the public areas at times resembling football crowds in density.

Food and drink were excellent, though we lamentably failed to do justice to it on the first-class legs, and the cabin staff attentive and helpful. Emirates say they have four cabin staff dedicated to the eight first-class suites. On the return only five of the suites were occupied and we troubled the cabin staff little so they must have been very bored.

The trip was also useful to us in that it showed how easy BHX is to reach from the West Country (we had never used it before). We could have flown from LHR on a similar deal but don't much like big airports unless there is no alternative - we've had our fill of them in the past. We were favourably impressed by BHX and will certainly be looking to use it the next time we visit Australia as we couldn't find anything approaching this deal from our local airport at Bristol.
 

Aviador

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[textarea]Birmingham Airport ‘needs to get its act together’

Outspoken industrialist David Grove, owner of Warwickshire-based Grove Industries, has said Birmingham Airport ‘needs to get its act together’. He said the airport is ‘not user friendly’ and called its passenger drop off system a ‘nightmare’.

After spending 50 minutes getting through passport control after a recent trip because of a broken iris reader and poor passenger management, Mr Grove said: ‘I know people in Wolverhampton who fly out of Manchester, they dislike Birmingham Airport that much.’

Source[/textarea]

He sounds like a disgruntled passenger on his soap box.

I am sure Birmingham airport has it's problems as do all airports. I would think the iris reader problem at Immigration was a one off. Many airports don't have this as an option to passengers anyway.

If the friends he knows who fly from Manchester don't use Birmingham because they dislike Birmingham airport so much, that's fine because there will always be a similar amount of passengers heading in the reverse direction for the same reason.
 

TheLocalYokel

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Absolutely right.

It's not uncommon to read people whinging in the local Bristol press about Bristol Airport and saying they will use Cardiff or Birmingham or Heathrow in future.

As you say, this happens everywhere.

[offtopic]In a well known airline and airport trip report site one poster comes on every two or three months saying he will never use BRS again but he obviously does as his subsequents posts show.[/offtopic]
 

Aviador

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How do you rate Birmingham airport? If you have used the airport recently we would like you to rate the airport in our poll so we can find out how the airport performs. If you take part in our poll we request that you be honest in your voting. Your thoughts and opinions are most welcome.
 

Ash

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Will be off to BHX for the first time in a while in September, shall be interesting to see whats changed. Hopefully no delays or it will seriously mess up my onward connections.

Watch this space for a review!
 

Ray Finkle

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I've not been abroad since we've had the little ones so not used the airport since 2007, I'll be looking forward to reading about your experiences :s_yes
 

ELectric Warrior

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Having just joined the board reading up on old threads have been very interesting non moreso than this one and the post by localyokel was a very interesting and enjoyable read almost felt like I was there.

More reviews would be nice if people could spare a few minutes to do a review.
 

TheLocalYokel

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More reviews would be nice if people could spare a few minutes to do a review.
If you go to the Board Index page and click on the Passenger Forum & Frequent Flyers Reviews section you will find more flight reviews, although I'm not sure if any of the others feature BHX. The PF & FFR section has three pages of index.

It would certainly be of interest to many fellow members if more members could post reviews of flights they've taken from their local airports, and from any other airports of course.
 

justplanecrazy

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Apr 22, 2012
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Just a quick post to say how impressed I was with BHX last night. My flight FR9162 landed at 10.55pm and by 11.45 I was home (Shirley) switching the kettle on and that was with a packed security hall (we only had hand luggage but bags from our flight was going round on the belt as we walked past) and waiting for the monorail.
 

thunderchild

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I too had a good experience travelling through BHX the other week; check in with Thomas Cook was fast and so was security - fifteen minutes after arriving I was in the departure lounge. Coming back was also swift but in fairness the return flight was delayed and didn't arrive until 1:30am. Immigration and baggage reclaim was also very quick; a bus back to the long stay car park was ready and waiting and after jumping on the toll road was back home before 3am. Also experienced taking off on the new runway extension for the first time. :s_thumbsup n :s_thumbsup :s_thumbsup
 

Brum X

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Re: Flying from Brum? Tell us where you're going

Great to see BHX efficient last night, even though the place was very busy when our flight from Las Palmas arrived. Another flight from Las Palmas had arrived (Thomson), A flight from Basel Mullhouse (England charter) A Monarch flight from Larnaca and a TCX from Dalaman.
Carousel 4 started in 10 mins from when i arrived from passport control, i was out of the arrivals area in less than 20 mins (Great stuff)
Passport control was very busy with people queing on the stairs/escalator at one point, but there were around 6/7 people on the desks and a guy directing people to use the E-gates which were working.



Also on the outbound flight from BHX on the 1st September, Menzies and the airport security team working efficiently to offload a drunken guy who had started an argument with a couple whilst waiting to board the aircraft, he was allowed through the gate, however once he was at the bottom of the steps(No Airbridge) he started to shout abuse to all of us whilst we were boarding the aircraft(It was quite funny at one point).
All i then saw was a Police range rover, rush across the apron to the aircarft who then arrested the man and escorted him away, once on board the aircraft, the pilot apologised for his "Disgusting" behaviour and announced the flight would be delayed until his baggage was offloaded.
 

Ray Finkle

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Re: Flying from Brum? Tell us where you're going

I never understand why people get into that state before boarding an aircraft, I like a little glass or two of something when going on holiday but I'm always careful not to have too much. Good to see the authorities dealt with it promptly.
 

thunderchild

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Travelled BHX-DUB-BHX over the weekend - no que at all at the Aer Lingus check in and was offered the chance to check my carry on bag in for free! Had a quick bit to eat in the Costa by arrivals before heading through. Security was very fast - not even 5 minutes although in fairness I think I got through just before the Monarch afternoon rush started! Grabbed a few bits from the WH Smith in the old Eurohub - I can't stand the one in the main departure lounge as it always horrendously packed. Made my way down to the end of the international pier and watched the EK 777 load up - interesting to see pax being boarded by the rear stairs; is this common? No real excitement on the apron although good to see AF using an A321. Flight was relatively smooth and coming back I enjoyed my first trip on a prop plane and have to say the ATR was actually more comfortable than the A320 I went out on!
 

jfy1999

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BHX has been coming in for heavy flak on Skytrax--as have the vast majority of UK airports--scoring only 4 out of 10 on average. Yet on Google Reviews and Flightdiary it gets much better press, scoring around 74% on each.
 

Ray Finkle

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A quick run down of our recent BHX experience.

Departed just after 5am last Sunday (29th) on G-TCDG. We arrived at the airport just before 2am and the Thomas Cook queue was growing steadily, by 02:15 it was pretty lengthy. Considering the time of day the young lady at check in was very pleasant and as we made our way upstairs the queues at the Monarch desks for their 6am departures were getting lengthy.

Security was very quick at less than 5 minutes, for most of us. The staff were courteous but can be very 'direct' when guiding people, I assume this is to keep things moving to avoid queues but I can see how some may take this as rudeness. World Duty Free is still in the middle of the refurb, I'm sure it will look great when done. As most of the shops were still closed we made our way to Wetherspoons.

We departed from stand 54R which is at the far end of the pier, as we were the only flight departing at that time it was very quiet. The Qatar area looks great and it was nice to be using the same gate that Emirates use to see the three air bridges up close. The flight was very smooth and Thomas Cook were excellent as usual, one of our party is an extremely nervous flier and the cabin crew made a special effort to comfort them as best they could. It was my first time on one of their A321's (having only been on TCX 757's previously) and G-TCDG was very smart. Our Arrival into Zakynthos, from the north, was ahead of schedule and after having our passports checked the baggage was already coming through and we were soon on our way.

Zakynthos Airport, like most Greek Island airports, is very basic but is better than others that I have used in the past (Kos springs to mind). On arrival there was a Brussels A319 an Condor 757 with us making it three. Upon departure there was the same Condor and Brussels aircraft along with two more TCX A321's arriving after they had departed. For a Greek Island airport the check in process was surprisingly efficient with staff opening more desks as queues started to build. The departures area again was very basic but it was clean and the upstairs 'bar' did a great sausage roll.

We came back today on G-TCDZ, departing north from Zakynthos. This aircraft is a bit older than the one we went out on and I noticed that it didn't have any IFE, or it just wasn't being used. It doesn't bother me personally and the kids have their ipads so it was more of an observation. Again the Thomas Cook crew were excellent, on both flights the captain kept us well informed about our departure, coming on again when we reached cruise to give us information about where we currently were and what routing we would take, then giving us another quick chat before starting descent.

We arrived on RWY15 around 1pm ish and parked on 56L, we got a cracking view of the Emirates A380 as we taxied behind. We were through UKBF in less than 10 minutes, luckily we were sat close to the front of the aircraft and got off pretty early, as when I looked back the queues were building as other flights that landed behind us were joining too. I didn't log the times but I'd say we were at the baggage belt for about 10 minutes before it started and our two bags were off in the first batch. Unfortunately one of our parties bags was one of the last off but even so we were there no longer than 20-25 minutes.

All in all we had an excellent experience at BHX, although we do tend to arrive early 'just in case' so that may have helped. Thomas Cook were great, as I have found them in the past and the flight was full both ways. Zakynthos is as stunning as the other Greek Islands I have visited.

Next flight is with Norwegian in October (y)
 

Brum X

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BrumX Travel report all the way from my home in the city centre back to the arrivals hall at BHX 1 week later. You will have to be patient as i have lots of pics and want to talk you through as many as i can to give you a feel of my experience. This section will be about BHX and Norweigan and the other section will be for Las Palmas Airport and Norweigan. I will post the Las Palmas pics over the weekend and at the end of it all i will give BHX/LPA and Norweigan marks out of 10. Hope you enjoy.

Right i am off on my holiday, i left really early to get to the airport by public transport from Birmingham City Centre.


7 mins to wait for my bus to BHX, 900 to Coventry via BHX/NEC
Journey Time 25 mins
Fare £2.30 Single

Arrived at BHX.


Check In Area was busy.



My Flight is right at the bottom of the screen.

Norweigan have a small check in area at BHX which is not ideal as this happens, the que ends up snaking all through the check in area. I decided to put my feet up and have a coffee in Cafe Nero until the que went down and then joined at the back. Whilst i was waiting in the que i felt water dripping on my head, i looked up at the ceiling and there was a panel missing with water dripping from the roof. Not a good impression BHX, tut tut



Passed through security very quickly which made up for my wet head.


And was soon in World Duty Free where i treated myself to a £75 bottle of fragrance to smell nice on my holiday. Well you never know who you might meet.

Departure lounge to the right of this area was very busy, i went to the loo and quickly headed towards the seating area on the International Pier.


This has got to be the best kept secret at BHX, most people do not know you can enter this area if your flight has not been called. How wrong are they. It is quiet, Air Conditioned, lots of seats and great for plane spotting. Happy Days.



Norweigan Advert in boarding gates area.


Aircraft i spotted whilst waiting for my plane to land.



 

Brum X

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Part 3:

And here she is


And before you know it Swissport are on it, very impressed (y)


After 20 mins, we start to board the aircraft via the walkway, although not on a jetbridge. I prefer going on the tarmac and you will see why in a minuite.


I keep snapping away, i just dont care. :joyful:



Thomas Cook A320 also departs to southern europe.

Awesome

 

Brum X

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Part 4:

I am safely in my seat 31F which i had pre booked there and back.

And to my pleasure, i have the whole back row all to myself. :smuggrin::smuggrin:

Aircraft was 70/75% full, not bad.





The engines start and we are off heading down towards RWY 15 for a south departure, passing this A330.


Passing the BHX fire station



We wait for a Flybe Dash 8 to land and the cabin goes eearily quiet as the anticipation of what is about to begin starts to sink in, LOL


We enter Runway 15, oh hello to the plane spotters in Sheldon Country Park.



 

Brum X

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Part 5:

And we are OFF, thundering down Runway 15, everything rattling and shaking


And make a perfect take off from the runway, at this moment Ray Finkle is also snapping away on top of the multi storey car park opposite the control tower. Awesome


Bye Bye Birmingham



Passing over the M6 or is it the M42 ??



I had plenty of leg room, well you would with 3 seats all to yourself. Happy Days





To my Frustration though, the only TV screen that was out of order was the one right at the back. ;-(


It is a good job though that i got myself a copy of this to read on the plane. To Aviador and all LBA followers, this months addition feature LBA and in particular have an interview with the operations manager for Jet2 at Leeds Bradford Airport. Very Interesting.


2 Hours into the flight


3 Hours into the flight




And we arrive at Las Palmas in 3 hours 40 mins.

If you would like to see more, i do it all again from the moment i arrive at LPA to the moment i arrive back at LPA one week later for my return flight back to BHX to the moment i walk into the baggage reclaim to collect my baggage.
 
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