Friday, July 18, 2008

Bristol International - First Impression (Departure)

Before you even get to Bristol International Airport (BRS) you do get a sinking feeling. The airport is miles from a motorway and the old A38 is no turnpike. Google Maps seriously underestimated the average speed so it was just as well I left home 30 minutes early.

But the airport qualifies a good rating simply because it is small but not so small as to lack amenities.

The Glasgow car bomb incident has spoiled the best laid plans of the architects, so drop off or set down (curiously missing from the signage which stresses pick up only) is in a temporary area beyond the terminal. Yes, follow the signs to “Pick Up” and you can also “Set Down”. I would think this lack of logic in the signage could be really confusing for foreign travelers - remember this is supposed to be an International airport!

The terminal building is compact with a small arrivals area beyond which are the checkin desks. Easyjet had huge queues, quite off-putting. Air France didn’t, most pleasing! I carry a backpack and small carry on suitcase. This combination is fine on wide bodied intercontinental jets but doesn’t work on short haul connector flights, there is simply not enough room on board. At Birmingham (BHX) they have a work around. You “green tag” your larger bag and drop it off after passing through security and before boarding the plane, to be retrieved at the foot of the airplane's steps on arrival. A great plan that works well.

Bristol won’t let you do this. They have decided that the "one bag one passenger rule" should stay in effect. So I had to check in one bag as far as Paris and then retrieve it by going through immigration, etc. An annoying and unnecessary deviation from an otherwise easy journey.

I was granted fast track access to security because I am a frequent traveler but all this did was cause me a lot of bad will from the not so frequent travelers who thought I was “jumping the queue”. Frequent fliers have to have thick skins! The departure lounge was full of waiting passengers, with about four or five shops, a bar and a coffee shop to entertain. Again I was able to sidestep all this as my frequent flier status allowed me to enjoy the Servisair lounge facility. This is brand new and therefore quite spacious - much better than Birmingham, I have to admit.

As far as I can tell all flights must be boarded by bus. Not a jetway in sight. That being said the bus driver didn’t jerk the steering, stamp on the brakes or otherwise do all the unnecessary maneuvers they do at Paris Charles de Gaulle.

The flight took off on time and was comfortable (Air France uses a turboprop ATR 42). I look forward to the return and how I find the arrival side of the airport. Again, apart from the distance from good transportation (road and rail) and the one bag through security rules, I give Bristol a good rating. The latter could be easily improved, the former would not be so easy.