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Old Mar 6, 08, 9:20 pm   #1
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BMI ORD - MAN in Premium Economy: How hard can a PE product drop? (also random moans)

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

------

Trip Report BD706 – ORD-MAN
3rd March 2008
(Anger Management for Travelers.. or has the PE product dropped hard?)


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


Here's comes the plane!


The usual wait occurred (which at O'Hare can get very boarding, 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 inital 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 favorite 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 Chardonay into the glass! (ok, I'm a simple person with simple pleasures).As usual, the pretzel things did their rounds.


Burp

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.


Lights down..

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...


OUCH


Thoughts:
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 Mil;es (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...

Last edited by Kevincm; May 7, 10 at 6:48 pm
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Old Mar 6, 08, 11:12 pm   #2
  
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Thanks for an insightful report!

The PE product looks okay, but as you say, these kinds of cut costing have to be stopped. (But with $106USD per barrel, god knows what they will cut next...)

Carfield
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Old Mar 6, 08, 11:48 pm   #3
  
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As a BD Gold myself, my biggest concern is the increasingly difficult-to-use GUVs. Other than the lounge access, and the conversion of miles after 55K, we don't really have any other benefit. From what I understand, the BD ground experience isn't all that great, as confirmed by your trip report (making it even more difficult to use GUVs). Wish that I've tried it myself, so I'm only knowledgeable based on other's TRs, but PE is possibly the best Y+ product around, so maybe BD doesn't feel that it needs to do a lot more?
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Old Mar 7, 08, 7:22 am   #4
  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevincm View Post
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)
I agree- it is a disgrace considering the volume of international traffic out of O'Hare. I travel BA out of ORD quite a bit, and if it weren't for the Terraces lounge, I would connect somewhere else for sure.

Nice job on the report
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Old Mar 7, 08, 9:04 am   #5
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Thanks Kevincm for the report. I see the break has done your state of mind a power of good - not, a wee bit grumpy I see.

I wouldn't give them £200 to upgrade for such a short flight,I don't see the value to be honest.
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Old Mar 7, 08, 10:03 am   #6
  
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Interesting report, I've never flown BMI but am thinking about it. I do wonder though, it seems like you got a pretty nice PE section for the $ paid to upgrade, but you want it nicer..Isn't that getting a bit close to the level of service in C? There still has to be clear product differentiation in order to have different pricing levels (ex: the difference between UA E+ and UA (new) C) If all the little things like amenity kits and real dishes start coming into PE, that devalues the business product..It is Premium Economy after all, not Business Class Lite..
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Old Mar 7, 08, 10:05 am   #7
  
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Nice, detailed report. Thanks for the pics! The PE seats on bmi look sumptuous, really. And, as for the catering, at least the glasses other dishware were nice looking. And, a proper coffee/tea cup (not some big honking MUG-I hate those).

I was reading a TR from someone who flew NZ in their PE, and it was on the Upper Deck of a 747 with the Business Class - same catering even (although meals were brought out altogether, instead of in courses)!!
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Old Mar 7, 08, 12:34 pm   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevincm View Post
preparing for landing at Manchester, which was on the far runway, towards the terminal (odd I thought)....
Why do you think this is odd?


Great photos by the way.
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Old Mar 7, 08, 3:26 pm   #9
  
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Great trip report... Im a big fan on BD PE myself on the MAN-LAS route... when the price is right
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Old Mar 8, 08, 5:12 am   #10
  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mofomat View Post
Why do you think this is odd?


Great photos by the way.
Atypical I'd say, but not odd. IME it's inbound on 6R about 1/6 of the time, and on 24R the rest of the time.
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Old Mar 9, 08, 3:09 am   #11
  
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Great trip report, Kevincm. I loved the photos. Personally, I thought the bmi PE seat looked quite adequate. Perhaps you're saying, just not worth $400 more.
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Old Mar 11, 08, 9:42 am   #12
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Sorry I come back to this thread.. things have been busy

Thanks for all the kind comments and thanks for the comments about the pictures first off! Now lets go point to point...


Quote:
Originally Posted by cstead View Post
As a BD Gold myself, my biggest concern is the increasingly difficult-to-use GUVs. Other than the lounge access, and the conversion of miles after 55K, we don't really have any other benefit. From what I understand, the BD ground experience isn't all that great, as confirmed by your trip report (making it even more difficult to use GUVs). Wish that I've tried it myself, so I'm only knowledgeable based on other's TRs, but PE is possibly the best Y+ product around, so maybe BD doesn't feel that it needs to do a lot more?
Alas, the way I fly, Gold is a very far off dream (20k a year - I know, low flying - unless I get my mega redemption in soon... in which case its a lot more this year). The BD ground experience at ORD is ... well... non existent almost. (I found the treatment at MAN on the way out MUCH better).

Should BD leave the PE product alone? If we're talking hard product, yes...
Should BD innovate further? If we're talking the rest of the product.. absolutely!

Quote:
Originally Posted by BA1321 View Post
I agree- it is a disgrace considering the volume of international traffic out of O'Hare. I travel BA out of ORD quite a bit, and if it weren't for the Terraces lounge, I would connect somewhere else for sure.
Bingo BA1321. I had my father going through ORD a week before (on VS... and he's not a fan of the airport - he also had not kind words for the JAL Lounge there). Unfortantly, a lot of my journeys begin/end at ORD, so I'm stuck with that airport (unless I switch to UA)...

Quote:
Originally Posted by HIDDY View Post
Thanks Kevincm for the report. I see the break has done your state of mind a power of good - not, a wee bit grumpy I see.

I wouldn't give them £200 to upgrade for such a short flight,I don't see the value to be honest.
HIDDY... Moi? Grumpy? Next you'll say I got that from the UA IceQueen Express! ... Or that I go around Chicago looking for a shop called Pucci? (Over the bridge from the Wrigley Building on North Michigan Avenue and look up - I have the graphical evidence at home )

Quote:
Originally Posted by UCBeau View Post
Interesting report, I've never flown BMI but am thinking about it. I do wonder though, it seems like you got a pretty nice PE section for the $ paid to upgrade, but you want it nicer..Isn't that getting a bit close to the level of service in C? There still has to be clear product differentiation in order to have different pricing levels (ex: the difference between UA E+ and UA (new) C) If all the little things like amenity kits and real dishes start coming into PE, that devalues the business product..It is Premium Economy after all, not Business Class Lite..
The PE seat was excellent... the on-board crew were excellent (and comical when boarding)... but its the little touches and little features that have been chipped away... and that's what I suppose I'm getting at. The Hard Product itself (seat) is excellent and nearly unparalleled in most ways (until OpenSkies gets it 52" PE Seats), but little things are chipping away at that hard product (like the next to useless ground services, lack of amenity kit... )

(and yes, there was a amenity kit last time! In a nice padded blue bag as well!)

Quote:
Originally Posted by gsupstate View Post
Nice, detailed report. Thanks for the pics! The PE seats on bmi look sumptuous, really. And, as for the catering, at least the glasses other dishware were nice looking. And, a proper coffee/tea cup (not some big honking MUG-I hate those).

I was reading a TR from someone who flew NZ in their PE, and it was on the Upper Deck of a 747 with the Business Class - same catering even (although meals were brought out altogether, instead of in courses)!!
Trust me.. proper coffee was appreciated... and it tasted like coffee, not brown water... (I don't do tea - my friend does - she's the person who will bring her own teabags to the USA, to teach some of our friends how tea should be served). Making a second round of coffee was also very much appreciated.

As NZ, BD brought the meal out in one tray - no issues there.. (Ice cream of course followed later...)

The filled glasses were good too...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mofomat View Post
Why do you think this is odd?

Great photos by the way.
Quote:
Originally Posted by TrayflowInUK View Post
Atypical I'd say, but not odd. IME it's inbound on 6R about 1/6 of the time, and on 24R the rest of the time.
Mofomat and TrayflowInUK, I'm used to coming in from the other direction normally - I haven't seen that sort of operation in Manchester before (of course from now onwards, every flight from MAN I have will take off from 6R...)

Quote:
Originally Posted by modularmayhem View Post
Great trip report... Im a big fan on BD PE myself on the MAN-LAS route... when the price is right
... Come on down! - a bit more on the money side in a mo...

Quote:
Originally Posted by restlessinRNO View Post
Great trip report, Kevincm. I loved the photos. Personally, I thought the bmi PE seat looked quite adequate. Perhaps you're saying, just not worth $400 more.
I think that's where I'm heading to. Before the refit, it was $250 for quite franklly the good customer service, a Daily Mail, and a slightly better seat).

Last time it was $350 (post refit), and I considered it to be good value then (and after the weekend I had last time - very welcome). I suppose by pushing up to $400, I'm starting to feel the pinch. In addition, the lack of kits, and the dreadful ground handling at ORD made me feel a tiny bit cheated.

Its not the big things that are making me think twice - it's the little things... the $/£ next time will unfortunately dictate what I do.. (unless a bargain PE fare turns up... which on BMI is entirely possible...).

Saying that, I'm planning at trip to MSP next... so the next report might be a bit sooner (and with the fares where they are.. this could be my first redemption! )
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Old Mar 11, 08, 11:31 am   #13
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Mofomat and TrayflowInUK, I'm used to coming in from the other direction normally - I haven't seen that sort of operation in Manchester before (of course from now onwards, every flight from MAN I have will take off from 6R...)

Ok. I thought it was the "R" bit you thought was odd.

As TrayflowInUK has pointed out, due to the prevailing winds, most of the time the approaches at MAN will be from the east onto 23R. If the approach is from the east, and dual runway operations are in progress, landings will be on 23R, with departures from 23L. If the prevailing wind necessitates arrivals from the west, 05R will be used for landings, with 05L used for departures.
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Old Mar 11, 08, 2:28 pm   #14
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Thanks Mofomat

And especilly for HIDDY and other Mucci's ...

Signs that Pucci is everywhere

(North Michigan Ave, Chicago)

Last edited by Kevincm; Mar 13, 08 at 8:23 am Reason: Contextual Edit!
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Old Mar 11, 08, 3:16 pm   #15
  
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Nice work kevincm. Only just found the thread, but great report
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