Gold Run - Mr Kevincm goes to Washington (by EI and US) - Part I - BHX-DUB

by Kevin Marshall January. 15, 2009 5576 views

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Yes, it's muggins again. Unlike the passionately addicted Moomba who's forgotten what a Y tray meal looks like :p or Kiwi Flyer who does more miles than I can dream of, it is yet another trip in steerage for me. Some of course query the value of a Y class trip report - others just laugh at me idly for subjecting myself to this madness. I like to appeal to those who need comedy.

My normal rules apply to my trip reports - in other words, sarcasm abound, bad Brit humour, amusing anecdotes, random moans and YouTube videos that make no sense to anyone (well … someone with a bad sense of humour). Comments welcome in the box below :)

As I'm all for trying something new every now and again, I'll be featuring some videos and music from my playlist to what I was listening to as I was flying - depending on what I remember

Of course I should plug my photoblog which has the pictures for this trip, split into bite sized segments for you to enjoy ;)


So where were we last time…

Ah yes - the lack of 3155 miles to hit the magic BMI Diamond Club Gold to hit Star Gold.

As a lot of us on the European continent know, mileage running in the EU is 1) expensive thanks to taxes every 5 meters and 2) mileage earning is pants in the lower fare buckets, thus to get decent mileage, you have to fly J or C… with the cash needed to do those s0ort of runs.

So the aim of this run was threefold, yet simple:
1) Get me to gold
2) Get me on a flying start for gold next year
3) Try and do it with the minimal possible spend

See? I don't do complex ;)

Choices, Choices…

The choice… SWISS or US Airways? Do I do a J class special and minimise the pain, or go for the full on masochistic experience that is a 757 across the pond with a few extra segments?

I was all set for a J class overnight in Barcelona when US Airways started throwing silly fares flying from Dublin to Washington Regan National. Combine that with an easy start from my home airport (BHX), the struggling pound anywhere, and the math doesn't lie. It was US Airways or bust!

After a bit of fiddling with the booking engine, I was getting multi-segment returns for $71 each way+ tax and the usuals.

Now leaving me with a booking engine can be dangerous…. as I discovered some segment hops were very good value. Modifying the segments proved to be … a dangerous mistake for my sanity (as good as my sanity is at 4am in the morning)

So the mile earning itinerary is:
DUB-PHL - US Airways
PHL-LGA - US Airways Express
LGA-DCA - US Airways Shuttle
DCA-BOS - US Airways Shuttle
BOS-PHL - US Airways Express
PHL-DUB - US Airways

An interesting note for doing these: Segments in the BMI Diamond Club program score 600 miles a pop. Therefore with 1 segment priced up the same as 2, it was mad not to take them up on the extra hops.

Alas, I don’t live in DUB… I’m nearer BHX. I could haul my backside down to LHR, but I'm not in the mood. Thankfully Aer Lingus have handy little BHX to DUB hop (yes – there is Ryanair route there that arrives a whole 5 minutes early, but even I have some limits) so its 8 segments over 3 days. I think that's a new record even by my standards.

See map. []
Ok .. this is difficult to work out, but on the left is the muddle that is LGA, BOS, PHL and DCA. On the right is the muddle that's BHX and DUB. Easy? Whadaya mean no? Sigh.. you can have some maps too on each leg. Aren't I nice? ;)

To cut down costs, again I'll be travelling with the small backpack only (as EI charges for checked luggage, so one bag it is - the one that I've managed to mangle at Chicago O'Hare a few trips ago), with the poor Macbook (the keyboard top is not wearing well), some lenses, a couple of cameras and a couple of clothing changes.

Of course visiting the USA requires filling in of an ESTA form :rolleyes: which of course… actually, no - I won't go into this. It's just hassle to visit the land of the free™

So… what can possibly go wrong? :D. Lets do the “Gold Run” (where’s Bob Holness presenting BlockBusters when you need him?) to Super Obama Land

A tonal change before we go any further

This trip took place the day after the US Airways 1549's bird strike incident at LaGuardia. My compliments and kudos to the Captain and crew involved for landing the plane, getting everyone off safely. May those involved have a speedy recovery. As part of this trip report goes through LGA, I'll report on what I see..


5am in the morning. Argh. Why didn’t I do a simple Swiss run? After packing out what was needed, it was a stroll to the nearest bus stop, and within a few minutes (even at 5:40 in the morning) the 82 turned up on scheduled. As its dead ‘clock, there’s near enough no-one on the bus, and it was a normal sluggish ride to New Street station.

There was the option of reducing my costs further and taking the 900 bus from the city centre to BHX, but even I have limits.

Birmingham New Street Station - Mordor's outpost in the Heart of Birmingham

Of course for taking the train - this means transiting through the dark bowels of Mordor Hauptbahnhof (also know as Birmingham New Street Station). A ticket machine swallowed £3.10 and spat out a ticket at me. Thankfully, with it being first thing on a Friday morning, there was next to no queues or a wait for a train, and off I went

London Midland Birmingham New Street – Birmingham international airport
Class 350 “Desiro”

Nothing out of the ordinary for a morning train service – mostly empty, but there wee enough people for a ticket inspection to be carried out (one of the few times it’s paid to be me. Within 10 minutes, I had pulled in to Birmingham International Train station, and proceeded upwards to the Air-Rail link.

Birmingham International Airport.

BHX is however an oddball of an airport, partially due to its location halfway between London and Manchester and the shortish runway, Therefore, with a mixed population it gets a fair mix of long haul airlines (Emirates, Air India (when they want to run a service), Continental, PIA, Turkmenistan and US Airways in the summer). However, it contains a lot of charter, holiday traffic and of course the low cost carriers that the UK seems to be enamored with. Thus it seems that although it is semi aircraft nerd friendly with an observation lounge pre security, but the full on shopping experience post security, with no natural light, no… nothing really apart from a BAA style shopping experience. Of course attempting to find a plug in this airport is akin to asking for the moon on the stick – it doesn’t happen.

There are a few little things I like about BHX, one of them being a bit of joined up thinking of how to link the terminal and the train station together.

After getting to EI’s check-in desks (I’m old fashioned – I don’t do this newfangled OLCI thing unless I have to) I found no queue, and was checked in with no bags, with a question asked of window or isle I’d like to be assigned into. I was issued my boarding pass and went through security. Again there were practically no queues for security and I was straight through, however I have to ding the airport for charging for ziplock bags (aka Kippy bags) at 4 for a £1… defiantly an expensive mistake if you haven’t prepared…

My ride – Ryanair users might notice the odd things attached to the airport are called is an Airbridges… it means you don’t have to go outside :p

Leg 1 of 8
Aer Lingus EI263, Birmingham International Airport – Dublin Airport
Airbus A320-200, Seat 15F
200 miles flown, 0 miles earned

Map:Map []
Map generated by the wonderful Great Circle Mapper []

Amazingly, I had kept my new years resolution number, and successfully avoided yet another RyanAir flight (alas, I cannot be bothered, nor do I have the energy to engage in the RyanAir game of pay by Electron card, print your own boarding pass, pay for oxygen, etc. I'd rather pay the extras in the first place and be happy… which worked out to as massive… 96p.)

Boarding was a split affair, with the rear half of the plane called, then the forward half. Load factor was a about 66% - I couldn’t see a middle seat occupied at all. Crewed with 4 Flight attendants, service was split over 3 carts , so pretty good brisk service for those who wanted it before the crew went into a huddle for duty free (surprisingly for once – yes I did take part, and brought myself another model – yes. I’m sad enough to collect them ; ) – all done within 15 minutes of take off. They then split into a 3 at the back, 1 at the front, with one roving up and down the plane every now and again.

Captain came on the over loudspeaker, with flight stats (20,000ft) and a specified early arrival at DUB (from 1 hour to 45 minutes – a short hop)

There are some reassuring things in the world. Aer Lingus’s BOB is of them. Unfortunately, as the pound has crashed against the Euro, this idea went out of the window fast.

The flight itself was a mildly choppy affair – considering the cloud level, about right for the weather we’ve been having. On landing, there was a short taxi to the gate – and a hold to clear some luggage off a taxiway before meeting the stairs for disembarkation at the D Piers

Thoughts : EI are best handled in small doses – certainly not the stellar carrier they once were. From what I could see, they offered a quick and good service on in the air that has been no worse than other carriers over such a short distance. But then again, it is pretty hard to balls up a 45 minute flight….


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