Bmi celebrated its first flights to Cairo this week with a ceremony at the British Embassy in Egypt. As reported on businesstraveller.com (see online news February 8), the airline took over Bmed’s route network earlier this year. Bmi retained the majority of the airline’s flight paths, although it has discontinued flights to Alexandria.
Previously Bmed had been an independent franchise partner of British Airways, flying under the British Airways livery and operating with BA prefix codes, but as well as Bmed paying a percentage of its revenue to British Airways, it also lost out on flying to Cairo, where British Airways already had a service. Now the new flights depart London Heathrow (LHR) Terminal 1 at 0915, arriving Cairo terminal 1 at 1600, returning from Cairo at 1650, and arriving LHR 2010.
Cairo airport (CAI) is currently undergoing considerable investment, and has been run for over two years under a management contract with German airport operator Fraport. Terminal 1 is not only home to the new Bmi flights, but also Air France, Egyptair and El Al, while the older Terminal 2 (which is due to be upgraded) has British Airways, along with the Gulf Carriers, Swiss and Lufthansa. The airport is also readying itself for direct flights from Delta Airlines next year.
A third terminal is currently being constructed, which will be opened in June 2008, with a new Le Meridien Hotel to be built and linked by a footbridge to the terminal. At present there are two on-site airport hotels: Novotel, and the old Moevenpick Hotel (now Le Passage Hotel).
According to Jean-Pierre Tabet, chief commercial officer of Cairo Airport Company, the airport had 10.8 million passenger movements in 2006, with 2007 expected to have seen double-digit growth to around 12.5 million, fuelled by a huge amount of inward investment from the Gulf, as well as considerable investment from the UK (the largest investor outside the Arab countries).
Bmi also announced a codeshare with Egyptair on the route, taking the total number of flights up to 14 a week. Those passengers flying with Egyptair, which is in the process of joining Star Alliance, will be eligible for frequent flyer privileges.
In other news, Bmi and United Airlines have agreed to broaden their codeshare agreement, adding five new US destinations including Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, San Francisco and Denver. The agreement has been made possible as a result of the Open Skies agreement between the EU and the US which comes into effect for the summer traffic season next year. Codeshare flights will start on March 30, 2008, and are on sale now. Bmi also announced its intention to expand the codeshare arrangement further to include a range of domestic US destinations beyond these gateway cities.
Finally, Bmi announced that it would add a third destination in Saudi Arabia in early 2008, with the commencement of flights to Dammam, a major centre for the petroleum industry. The service will be operated by an Airbus A330, with 42 business and 156 economy seats. The thrice-weekly schedule (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday) departs London Heathrow at 1130 and arrives in Dammam at 2235. The return schedule (Tuesday and Thursday) departs Dammam at 0001 and arrives LHR at 0555, and on Sunday departs Dammam at 0050, and arrives at LHR at 0645.
For more information visit flybmi.com.
Report by Tom Otley