Posted by: travelrat | March 24, 2010

Birmingham Airport (BHX)

Birmingham, 16th March 2010 

Many people have given voice to the desire for a ‘third London airport’, and I’ve always questioned why. London already has two airports, and, although some people find it hard to accept, London isn’t the only city in the British Isles, or even England.

Now, Birmingham, having a more or less central location, is accessible to so many more people. Although London was, traditionally, the hub from which the rail and trunk road network formerly radiated, the focus is slowly switching to Birmingham. The Virgin Rail system centres on Birmingham, as do the National Express coaches and the motorway network.

Birmingham does already have an airport, from which people from the Midlands and further afield can fly to many places in Europe. Not only is it central to most places in England, but it’s just off the M42 motorway. It took me just under three hours to drive there from Salisbury, and I wasn’t in a hurry; I took the more direct route, rather than the SATNAV-directed quicker, but longer route.. On my return, my eventual destination, Grange over Sands, in Cumbria was, again, just under three hours’ drive away, and I stopped for lunch on the way.

It was fairly quiet, unhurried and uncrowded when we visited, although the driver of the shuttle bus from the car park said things could get ‘a little frantic’ later in the season.

We were flying to Amsterdam with the low-cost airline bmibaby (www.bmibaby.com), which, although it’s one of our ‘no frills’ airlines, still deals with its passengers with courtesy and efficiency. They do insist, however, that hand baggage must conform to the laid-down dimensions exactly. That, I have no complaint with, even though it did take a little ‘persuasion’ to get the ‘little red bag’ to fit in the frame. And, the people who sold it to me swore it complied with airline specifications. I do, however, have a smaller bag I can use on future occasions.

I suppose some might take exception to the prices charged for food and drink on board, but really, if you don’t want to pay those prices, it’s only a 50-minute flight, so you’re hardly likely to die of hunger or thirst if you forgo the refreshments.

The bottom line is that I recommend you do your sums before selecting your airline. Ask yourself do you really need to check baggage, eat or whatever and, if so, would it be cheaper to choose an airline where these things are included in the fare?

Another bit of received wisdom is that ‘low cost flights tend to land you at old military bases miles from the city, with few facilities’. Not this one … it uses Schiphol Airport, Holland’s main hub, from where one of the frequent trains to central Amsterdam cost only 4.50 euros.

 


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