Monday, May 21, 2012

Last BMI Hoorah: Seychelles to Dubai via Addis Ababa


Our flight was scheduled to depart at 4.30pm and we tried to get a late checkout but the hotel was fully booked with guests already waiting for their rooms in the morning. It wasn't such a big deal as we enjoyed a slow lunch while enjoying the last wonderful views. We didn't take up the offer nonetheless, it was a nice gesture by the hotel to inquire whether we needed a shower to freshen up before we left the resort.

We got to the airport about two hours before departure. There was a group of ladies in front of us in the business class line and it took more than 15 fifteen minutes to check them in at which point, I was sweating thanks to the heat.

Ethiopia Airlines uses the Air Seychelles lounge which surprisingly was really nice. There was also a shower in the lounge that was much needed after sweating during check-in. The lounge was empty except for us as we were the only flight leaving around that time. I killed the remaining time tasting some of the local alcohol rum and whiskey on offer in the lounge.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Last BMI Hoorah: Hilton Seychelles Northolme


There are 2 Hilton properties in Seychelles – the one in Northolme is on the “main island” and the other Labriz which require a boat transfer. We had initially had wanted to stay in the one at Labriz but couldn’t get availability on our free night certs. I was initially slightly disappointed as the Hilton in Labriz seemed to be nicer but at the end of the day, we were happy with our choice. 

Instead of getting a taxi or arranging a transfer from the Hilton, we decided to rent a car since it would have cost the same as the return transfer and it allowed us to explore the island. It was an easy thirty minute drive to the hotel. 

WOW was our reaction when we got out of the car. The folks at the reception were waiting for us where we were offered a welcome drink before quickly checking in and giving us a tour around the resort before showing us to our room.

Since all the rooms are the same at the hotel, there are no upgrades provided which wasn’t a big deal since the rooms were great. The hotel is situated on a cliff which gives most room great views of the ocean.  Our favorite feature of the room was the bathtub large enough for two that was equipped with water jets.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Last BMI Hoorah: Addis Ababa to Seychelles


I was excited about transiting through Addis Ababa as this would be our first time in Africa even though it was only for transiting for 2 hours.  I wasn’t expecting that much green when we were on descent towards Addis Ababa.

Our 737-800 parked at a remote gate where ground agents were waiting for us asking which flights we were flying on next and assigning which bus for us to get on. We were brought to the newer Terminal 2 where another ground agent escorted a bunch of us to our departure gates. It was still 1.5 hours before our flight to Seychelles and I was annoyed we weren’t just brought to the lounge.

We made our way ourselves to the Cloud Nine Ethiopia Lounge for Star Gold and Business Glass passengers. We were hungry at this point since breakfast ~6 hours ago didn’t really do it but there was nothing really that appetizing at the lounge. We killed the hunger with some local snacks and Ethiopian beer.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Last BMI Hoorah: Mumbai to Addis Ababa


There was just another group of passengers in front of us in the business class line. It took them a couple of minutes more to finish their check-in as their luggage appeared to be overweight. Our check-in however didn’t take as long as we were promptly provided boarding passes all the way to Seychelles with luggage checked through all the way. 

Going through security however wasn’t as efficient. There were separate lines for gents and ladies and even though the lines didn’t look long, it took us a good thirty minutes before we made our way past security. There were no separate lines for business or first class passengers. 

We decided to visit the Lufthansa lounge first, since the Lufthansa lounge was close by after we passed through security. The lounge agent wanted to collect the lounge invitation provided by Ethiopia for their contract lounge issued during check in but I refused since we did want to visit the contract lounge later. They tried to explain that Ethiopia would be charged twice but I wouldn’t hear any of it since I could enter the lounge with the Star Gold status or our business class boarding pass.
The Lufthansa lounge was furnished similarly to their other lounges but seemed more run down. It was too early at 4 am for any alcohol and we just settled for water and tea. 

45 minutes later we proceeded to the Clipper lounge which was the contract lounge used by Ethiopia Airlines. The lounge was well furnished but was packed with passengers. There was nothing from the buffet that interested us and we just decided on water. 

At the assigned boarding time, we headed to the departure gate only to see the crew still at the departure gate. This is a never a good sign as it would be a couple of minutes more before boarding would begin. Sure enough, fifteen minutes water, boarding did sorta begin after the crew had entered the aircraft. We walked to another boarding area where we were told to wait. Boarding then began literally by row from the back to the front of the plane. There was no priority boarding for the Star Gold or business class passengers. While it was finally time for business class passengers to board, there was still a line in the jetway. What I assume to be the station manager realize there were business class passengers in the line and he pulled us all aside and escorted us pass the economy class passengers who gave us dirty looks. What a chaotic boarding!

The ET Crew
Our Mumbai to Addis Ababa flight was originally scheduled to be operated by a 757 but got switched to a 737-800 a week before. First impression was that this was that the 737-800 was new, clean and cool with the new interiors. It went downhill from there.  The cabin was infested with mosquitoes and our pre-flight entertainment consists of killing them. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Last BMI Hoorah: Exploring Mumbai


We just had a day in Mumbai which ended up just being the right amount of time to spend in Mumbai to "enjoy" the sights and chaos. We did look around for tours, guides and cars online before the trip but ended up just getting a car directly with the hotel since we wanted the the flexibility although it was slightly pricier at ~$80 USD for an Innova for ~3.5 hours. We did get some hotel points out of it though!

The hotel had provided print outs of the main tourist attraction with the driver adding in some commentary and suggestions on the route and what to see.

Dhoby Ghaut

Victoria Station

Gateway of India

Taj Hotel

Hanging Gardens

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Last BMI Hoorah: Sofitel Mumbai


Our pre-arranged transfer from the airport to the Sofitel was waiting promptly when we exited the arrivals area. We were provided a cold bottle of water and towel for the ~20 minute drive to the hotel. The roads were pretty empty (and quiet with no honking) since it was already around 10 pm.

The hotel was waiting for us when we arrived. Check in took longer than expected as they had trouble pulling the free night certs from Lydia's Advantage Plus account. Thankfully common sense kicked in after an annoying 20 minutes later and me proving on my laptop that Lydia had the free nights and we just had to sign some papers that they would manually pull the free nights later.

I had emailed the hotel in advance informing we were celebrating Lydia's birthday. On check-in, Lydia was surprised with a HUGE bouquet of roses and a cake was brought to the room the next day.

We had booked the cheapest room and was upgraded one category higher due to our Le-club Platinum status. I didn't realize that there was a lounge only after check-in so I didn't push for a more significant upgrade. We were escorted to our room where where the features of the room were explained. Our welcome gift of a fruit bowl, chocolate and AMAZING macaroons were waiting for us.

The room was relatively small side but modernly furnished. The beds were the comfortable Sofitel beds that were firm the way we like it. The one complain I do have with the room was the shower. The water pressure was too low and on the first night, brown water came out for a second when we tried to use the bath tub.

Last BMI Hoorah: Singapore to Mumbai on SQ


This trip started for us in Singapore where I had just arrived from a business trip to the US worrying about delays and missed flights that would have put this holiday to disarray. Before the fun could begin, I was in all the 3 terminals at Changi first arriving in Terminal 3 from my US flight and was sent to Terminal 2 to check-in for our flight to Mumbai after being informed that they could check us in but couldn't take any check-in luggage for flights departing from Terminal 2. Thankfully this was Changi where it was only 30 minutes later, I was back inside airside and hopped over to Terminal 1 to surprise Lydia who was coming on Air Asia from Penang (she was expecting me in the Silverkris Lounge).

We spent the next couple of hours in the Silverkris Lounge in Terminal 3. There is an identical Silverkris Lounge in Terminal 2 but we like the one in Terminal 3 better was it is more airy and you can see outside into the rest of the airport. After lunch and a much needed shower, I still had to finish up work before I could really switch to holiday mode.

I had prebooked our seats in the "business class mini cabin" of 772 which turned out to be a good idea. There was only another couple in our cabin with the front business class completely full. As usual, Singapore Airlines was Singapore Airlines.

Last BMI Hoorah: Introduction


I had about 80,000 BMI miles that I had to used up thanks to IAG's puchase of BMI. Sure, I could have just left the miles but it seemed a better value just using them up than having them converted to British Airways Avios. I was also reluctant of booking a trip far in the future as I wasn't sure where we would be and whether we would be able to travel or not with a move to Austin for work coming soon.

After looking at our options and flight availability, we "squeezed in" a short getaway to Mumbai, Seychelles and Dubai in between a business trip to the US and a wedding in Australia. Lydia also had exams in a couple of weeks and figured this would be a good break before her final crunch time. More importantly, we were spending this trip celebrating her birthday as I would be in Australia during her actual birthday.

On the Star Alliance network, Seychelles is served only by Ethiopian Airlines through its main airport of Addis Ababa. I was looking forward to trying out a new airline! For the outbound, we started of the trip in Singapore, where I was getting back from a business trip to the US, and spending 2 nights in Mumbai before flying straight through to Seychelles via Addis Ababa. For the flight back home, we would be flying to Dubai (again via Addis Ababa) and onwards to Bangkok and Penang for Lydia and Kuala Lumpur for me on Thai Airways. We did think about stopping over for a night in Addis Ababa but were put off by the visa application and it didn't seem like there was anything interesting to see/do.

Booking the flights was relatively easy although the agents did have to check with their supervisors as to whether to routing/MPM was legal since Seychelles was in the same zone as the rest of India/Maldives. The trip ended up costing 78,750 miles in total and ~$700 USD in taxes which was amazing value since a real ticket would have cost 2-3 times more.

Hotels for this trip was paid for entirely by vouchers which were going to expire. Lydia had expiring Accor Advantage Plus free night stays which we used for in Mumbai. We used our free nights from the Q4FN Hilton promos for the stay in Seychelles and Dubai. The rooms in Hilton Northolme Seychelles were going for ~400 Euros a night (a price definitely out of our price range) and this was great use of the free nights!

I was reminded by a post on flyertalk that we needed yellow fever vaccine shots even though we were just transiting through Addis Ababa. It was a good reason to just take the shots and the shots were good up to 10 years. We were happy we could now travel to places like Brazil, etc without worrying about having to go take the shots.