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No No Novotel
Novotel Hotel (Birmingham Airport)
Member Name: koshkha
Novotel Hotel (Birmingham Airport)
Advantages: It's so close you can practically wave to the pilots as the planes take off
Disadvantages: Stupid print-run nonsense, stinky sink and unnecessary sofa bed set up
~Me and Novotel~
Any review of a hotel will come with baggage - just like the occupants of the hotel's rooms. I view the Novotel Birmingham airport through the rose tinted glasses of a gold membership of the Accor group's loyalty club - in other words I'm a loyal user of this chain and it's not unusual some months for me to spend almost as many nights in their Amsterdam branch as I do in my own bed at home. On the other hand, I'm not a morning person and I was booking the hotel in order to take a 6 am flight from the airport. So my positive influence was that I like Novotels and my negative influence was that I didn't REALLY want to be there at all because I hate getting up early.
I use Birmingham airport most weeks but this was the first time that I'd taken such a ridiculously early flight. Knowing that the Accor group has pretty much got the monopoly in on-site airport hotels at Birmingham, I asked our travel agent to book the Novotel. I'm not a fan of Ibis and I'd never stay in an Etap. I was pretty shocked that the room would be £133 without breakfast (not that I'd have had time to eat a breakfast) and I'm pretty sure that I got ripped off by our lousy travel agency at work. I arrived at about 10 pm, parked up in the short stay car park number one which I always pre-book, and headed across the drop-off car park to the entrance to the hotel. NEVER leave your car outside this hotel or you'll get charges so high you might be tempted to just abandon your car altogether. It's best to use the long stay or short stay car parks and you can always save by pre-booking your stay.
~You never get a second chance to make a first impression~
The Novotel is the closest hotel to the airport. It stands on the edge of the drop off car park, looking like a big deep blue mirrored box. The entrance is up a ramp off the far end of the drop off car park and my first impressions on entering the lobby were quite good. It looks clean, modern and fresh with some funky furniture and a bustling restaurant off to the side. I went to the check in desk to get my room key and was asked if I'd like to pay straight away or when I checked out. Knowing that I'd be leaving at 5 am and that anything I can avoid having to do at that sort of hour would be a help, I said I'd pay straight away. The receptionist took my card, handed me the credit card receipt and told me I could get my invoice in the morning. I asked what on earth was the point of paying up front if I couldn't have an invoice and why couldn't she give me one. Apparently their 'systems' meant she couldn't. I find that absolutely pathetic. I asked her "So why offer me the chance to pay now if you can't give me the invoice?" Suddenly her English which had been very good up to that point seemed to escape her.
I harrumphed off to my room, muttering under my breath that they were totally pathetic and should know better. I headed for my room, knowing pretty much that it would be like every other Novotel room but I had a surprise - or rather a few surprises, some good, some bad.
~Same old same old~
The décor was no surprise - absolutely standard Novotel with lots of very neutral colours - beige walls, beige blackout curtains, brown and beige carpet. There's lots of light wood in the bed surround, the storage furniture and the desk, lots of white bedding and a few bright red cushions. I have no problem with any of that - it's entirely what I expect. What I didn't expect was to find that the sofa bed had been set up. I booked a room for one person but they'd set my room up for a family of four. I found this really annoying because it meant I had to clamber over the bed to get to the curtains and I couldn't really use the desk without squeezing into the space between it and the bottom of the sofa bed. The bed surround was slightly different from the one I'm used to but slightly worse since the bed side 'shelves' were so tiny I could barely fit my phone, my book, my tablets and a glass of water in the space. The Novotel desk is a swivel system where part of the desk can be rotated to find a suitable position for watching the TV or doing whatever else might require you to move the desk (such as....... I have no idea). However with the sofa bed out, it wasn't going to swivel anywhere
The television was wall mounted and the right size for watching from the bed - I'd guess it was around a 24-28 inch screen. Anything bigger or smaller and I find it hard to watch. Frustratingly I didn't get free internet which would normally be included when I stay at other Novotels since I have a gold card for the Accor Club. I'm just not willing to pay hotel prices for Wi Fi so I used my dongle instead.
Other facilities included a wardrobe with an ironing board inside, a storage unit with various shelves, a laptop-sized room safe, a small minibar, and of course a kettle with tea and coffee. I didn't need any of these things but it was good to know they were there.
The bathroom was a bit surprise. I don't know if it was because the room was set up for a family or whether it's standard at this hotel, but the toilet and shower were separate. The toilet was in a small room and didn't have a hand basin. Maybe I'm just a bit picky but if you put the loo apart from the main bathroom - so presumably someone can have a shower whilst you have a pee - then there needs to be a basin to wash your hands or there's no point in separating them. It's just not hygienic. The shower room was light, bright and had an excellent rain-shower head. I prefer to have the choice of a shower or a bath but if I have to have only a shower, at least it's good if it's a nice one.
Unfortunately I had a nasty surprise in the sink. My first impression was that it was a newer, funkier sink design than normal but after I cleaned my teeth I was frustrated to not be able to drain the water from the sink. I wiggled the lever but nothing happened and the plug didn't pop up. I resorted to tugging it out with my finger nails and was rapidly disgusted by a stinky rotten eggy miasma of nasty vapours. I can only assume that the sink had been blocked for a long time and things were getting rotten and stinky down in the pipes. It was really unpleasant. My other annoyance with the bathroom was the challenge of trying to find the light switch to turn the bathroom lights off. I eventually found it on the master switch but I feared I would have to sleep with the lights on.
~Even at 5 am I was spoiling for a fight~
As a result of not being able to reach the curtains to close them properly, I was left with a gap in the curtains and light streaming in all night long which interfered with my sleep. The bed was comfortable enough though obviously I'd have slept better if I didn't need to get up at quarter to five in the morning. I got dressed, packed and headed down to reception to get my invoice and leave.
I complained to the guy that I thought it was silly to ask people to pay and not give them an invoice and he launched into a monologue about 'overnight print runs' or some such rubbish. I stopped him and told him that their service should revolve around what customers want and not how their computers work and if they can't do invoices 24 hours a day at an airport where more people need that than in most 'normal' hotels, then they shouldn't offer to let people pay up front. I think you could say we 'agreed to differ' on that point and I stomped off to get my plane.
I like Novotel and I normally get great service, friendly and professional staff but I was very disappointed by the Birmingham Airport branch. The nonsense with the payment put me into a paddy even before I got to the room. The sofa bed hogging half the room raised my ire and the stinky sink was the last straw. One bad Novotel won't change my overall loyalty but I won't return to this one in a hurry.
Summary: It won't stop me staying with Novotels in general but this one was very below par