What a fine airline!

Now even I would be the first to admit a certain lack of impartiality. Riding, as I am, well restored by a couple of beakers of the concentrated soul of the Italian sun, in the business class cabin of a bmi plane heading back to Tbilisi, I am extremely comfortable, and prone to offering compliments.

However, bmi, now a part of the Lufthansa Group following the remarkable fiscal foresight of its founder, Sir Maurice Bishop, is a wonderful airline.

I have been flying long enough to remember the days when aviation was not only fun, but glamorous. One dressed up to fly; why I am not quite sure in retrospect, but we did. Aeroplanes made extraordinary things possible; they were pretty odd, too. I remember flying from Southend to somewhere on the Belgian coast in a Carvair; the plane looked disarmingly like a tiny or prototype Boeing 747 and carried cars, allowing my Dad to take us to “The Continent” for a holiday or two.

Bmi might have existed then too, I am not sure; I do remember British Island Airways, Air Anglia, Air Ecosse and all sorts of regional derivatives operating some remarkable flying machines.

I did fly with bmi in the recent past; thirty years ago or so, when they were called British Midland, they flew elderly aircraft on dull routes. A Fokker to Amsterdam, an ageing BAC to Palma, that sort of thing; now it is all about A320s and 321s to Khartoum, Beirut and Tbilisi no less. Bishkek and Freetown show up on their route map as well; no end of oddness that bmi flight crews endure. And good for them; folks need to get to these places, and as established carriers pull out for a variety of reasons, smaller folks dive in.

And it is the crew that is actually remarkable. From an old Aviation Salt like me, prising praise loose from my inherent cynicism is not an easy task; these folks deserve it all. I fly a great deal, and it is an odd way to live. Hurtling from place to place at 500 miles per hour in a metal tube seeking a new idea or contract to keep the family and troops in new shoes takes its toll. Particularly on the liver, but that’s another story.

But, bmi wins out. Yes, they have the most fabulous business class lounge I have been in, and yes, they fly to interesting places, and yes, their food is terrific and the wine list entertaining, but get this, their crew’s eyes are open and thinking!

Just minutes ago a flight attendant, noticing that on the passenger print-out they have, no frequent flyer program was marked, he came to me to solicit membership in the bmi program. Above and beyond, I would say, and indicative of this carrier.

In fairness, I have to admit that the night I spent with United, two nights ago to be precise, flying from Chicago to London was fabulous. First Class should be, of course, but this was a terrific trip. A great crew, absolute comfort, five hours sleep and a jug or two of a rather memorable Chablis made for a terrific trip.

As it should, of course, for those paying for First Class passage from Winnipeg to Tbilisi would be parting with the best part of eighteen grand. I understand why folks would pay this; heading away to conclude billion dollar deals, money to burn through an extremely fortunate genetic quirk or even hard work. However, for most, the practical way to enjoy this level of comfort and pampering is the accumulation of frequent flyer points.

Aeroplan; one has to love it.

And that’s why I had no active frequent flyer designation on display for the ever-vigilant bmi flight attendants; I am travelling on points.

Why they fly to Tbilisi is another question. The final leg from Baku will carry only twenty-seven of us there. It is a pity really, because Georgia is a wonderful place.