A Last Star Alliance Fling? To Chicago with United Airlines and Air Canada
To London and Lounges
- An Apology and The Introduction
- To London Heathrow, BMI Lounge, Star Alliance Lounge (this entry)
- United UA923 London Heathrow – Washington Dulles International
- TSA Shenanigans, United UA221 Washington Dulles to Chicago O’Hare
- InterContinental Chicago, North Michigan Avenue
- One Time Exception: Chicago Water Taxi
- Hyatt Regency O’Hare
- United UA474, Chicago O’Hare to Toronto Pearson International in United First
- Maple Leaf Lounge, Air Canada AC856 Toronto Pearson International to London Heathrow
- Homeward bound
- No more Star Alliance?
2am. On a Birmingham Morning… with me not awake.
The more things change, the more they stay the same some say. For me, it is a fact of life. Early flights mean the early coach to London from Digbeth Coach Station.
I called the taxi and lugged my stuff outside, thinking I had everything. The taxi came quickly, and soon enough the taxi was making its way through the heart of Birmingham when I suddenly realised not everything was right. A frantic paw around revealed an epic problem – the lack of a passport. A quick turn around, and it was back to the flat to grab the passport (still in its usual hiding place) and back in the cab.
All I’m going to say is this: I’m glad I found out in my home city, and not on the M40… or at Heathrow Airport itself…
I paid the cabbie off a substantial amount for the 3 trips as he was driving to the coach station, and the cab pulled up outside the coach station… where the coach was preparing to depart (with a minute to spare).
The coach driver looked at me and said “Leaving a bit late aren’t we?”
I showed my tickets and the cause of the trouble, and I was let aboard with a smile – something difficult to do sometimes at 2:46 in the morning.
National Express Route 210
Birmingham Digbeth Coach Station to London Heathrow Central Bus Station.
Pretty much after I got aboard and found a seat, the doors were closed, and the coach set off to Birmingham International, Banbury and finally London Heathrow Central Bus Station.
Normally, this coach service to the London Airports is a quiet sleeper service for those who want to get to Heathrow or Gatwick early. Sadly, there were loud chatterboxes sitting a few rows back from me. Thankfully, my cheapie £1 Noise Isolation headphones drowned them out.
The coach made its way in the dark to Birmingham Airport, where it seemed there a fault developed with the overhead light above my seat where it dimmed and darkened of its own accord. Wonderful. All I could do was angle it away, which seemed to do the trick.
The other issue was the aircon or heating – or both units fighting each other, along with some of the passengers who wanted it warmer whilst others wanting it a bit chillier. Guess there’s no pleasing anyone really..
Still the coach pottered its merry way to Banbury and then onto Heathrow, arriving pretty much on scheduled.
I thanked the driver profusely, and loaded up the bags, off into the wonder that is the underground mess of the Central Terminal Area.
After making my way along the travelators and lifts to T1, I headed to the United Premium Check area where the lovely ITCS people were waiting. My Passport swiped by the security company, and I was let on my way.
It was then a case of heading to the desk where my bags were tagged, my addresses taken, and an escort to the Zone Y bag drop so that I proved that wasn’t modifying my bags after check-in (the excuse has changed from “they’re doing work” to “security purposes”).
T1 Security was its usual fast self, and I was in the air-side area quickly. This being this is one of the last times I’ll be at LHR before the sale is complete of BMI to IAG (BA), it was appropriate to head to The Great British Lounge final time (before they rebrand it. Again).
Lounge Stop: The Great British Lounge – British Midland International
Of course, this is our BMI. That meant a short wait whilst they sorted out a couple of issues in the kitchen before I was let in.
After the agent got off the phone, I was welcomed warmly, and directed inwards to the lounge. I’ve written about this lounge a fair few times, and my view of it have not changed in the least – it’s a wonderful space, but the food options early in the morning aren’t exactly stellar by any stretch of the imagination.
Still, it being 5:40 in the morning, it was quiet. And that was appreciated. I headed to the window to watch the world go by as the inky black of the night turned in a waking dawn and watching the early arrivals being to taxi around Heathrow.
The lounge staff that was there – were attentive, and did a great job making sure food and beverages were well stocked. And it was peaceful – something that is sometimes missing from a lounge.
And yet there is one sign that someone else owns BMI still… although that is to change…
However, there is a minor problem. As the BMI lounge is near gate 5, and my flight will be departing in the extended Europier (Gate 38… or rather 238), I decided to head off early and switch to the Star Alliance lounge.
I thanked the staff, and for once – filled in the guest book to say thankyou to the BMI Staff.
Overall: The BMI Great British Lounge remains one of the highlights of T1 for the international traveller, and if you have a BMI Ticket (or a BA Gold/Silver Card), it should be on your stopping list. Hopefully even as the lounge metamorphoses back into a British Airways lounge, it keeps some of its distinct character.
Of course heading to the Star Alliance lounge means crossing the shopping mall that is Heathrow T1. Sadly, this also means a quick top up of Duty Free for my American friends before heading to the Star Alliance Lounge. Such is life.
Star Alliance Common Lounge
Where the BMI lounge is well lit, and wonderful, the murk that is the Star Alliance lounge awaits. But it’s not exactly a bad lounge… it could just do with a few more lights installed in places.
Don’t get me wrong, whilst it makes it atmospheric, it can mean you’re hunting for stuff if it falls out of a bag.
The one thing that the Star Alliance lounge has over the BMI lounge has is catering – which is substantially better than the BMI lounge. As this is the final stopping point before flying, it was a case of charging the phone, and tucking into breakfast whilst creating mad blog entries.
Well, it’s my tradition. I’m allowed a few mad entries. That and the Vodka and Orange probably helped me to wake up. Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows really. All I knew was that I had Sausage and Bacon rolls with far too much mustard. And that’s not a bad thing per say at 6:30 in the morning.
Seeing 7am had passed, it was time to bag up my trash, and head to back end of beyond – commonly known as the Europier extension.
Overall: How much do a few lights cost to install? For Star Alliance travellers, from the 31st May – this is your home. Remove the moody lighting and who knows… the lounge might improve…
Heading to Gate 38, it’s a case of looking at the work of T2 that are in progress, and cursing BAA for not installing enough travelators in this place. Or to put it bluntly, BAA have a shuttle bus service that runs from near the Star Alliance lounge to the far 30’s gates – I think they’ve recognised it’s getting a bit silly now.
Upon entering the gate lounge, there was another security check, and after a short wait – boarding commenced for this morning slog across the pond.
Next: UA923 to Washington Dulles