News

Bmi downgrades domestic flights

30 Sep 2008 by Mark Caswell

The
economic downturn has prompted Bmi to downgrade services on four domestic
routes. Smaller planes will be used and flights will be retimed.

It’s also
resulted in Bmi taking the unusual step of removing aircraft details from its
website so, at the time of booking, passengers no longer know which plane type
will be operating their flight. This move affects all Bmi flights network-wide.

The
affected routes are those linking London Heathrow with Aberdeen,
Durham (Teeside), Jersey and Leeds.
All four services will become less attractive to passengers starting with the introduction
of the winter timetable on October 26.

Not only is
Bmi cutting capacity by up to two-thirds but schedule changes make flight
timings less convenient. This could prevent passengers from making a day trip
and might mean that taking the train, rather than opting for Bmi, will get you
to your destination earlier in the day. 

It could
also mean tickets will become more expensive as the price of a flight is
directly related to available capacity.

On these
four routes Bmi currently operates a mixture of Airbus A319s (which the carrier
says accommodate between 130 and 144 passengers) and smaller Embraer 135 or
145s (seating between 35 and 49 seats). The Embraers tend to be rostered for
Bmi’s weekend services.

But from
October 26 the small Embraers will appear on most daily flights in place of the
A319s. Passengers will find that the Embraers have extremely slim cabins making
seating more cramped and space for cabin baggage more limited.

That might
not present much of a problem for day trippers, but could present problems for
premium class passengers making transfers to and from long-haul flights at
Heathrow as they often take along bulky cabin baggage. Bmi is a main feeder
carrier at Heathrow to and from its Star Alliance partners such as Air Canada, ANA,
SAA, SIA, United, Thai and so on.

A further
problem is that passengers will be kept in the dark about which plane will be
operating their flight. Passengers booking direct via Bmi’s revamped website
will find that, unlike the situation with other traditional carriers, aircraft
details are no longer displayed against flight numbers.

Only when
checking-in online will passengers discover the type of plane which will be
operating their flight. But for many travellers that might be too late.

Says a
spokesperson for Bmi, “These moves are in response to current market
conditions. By using smaller planes it means we can avoid having to reduce
flight frequency which would then inconvenience more people.

“[Not
displaying the aircraft type of the website] makes commercial sense for us as
we retain an element of flexibility over which aircraft are deployed on which
routes. For that reason we believe there is less chance of a misunderstanding
if the specified type of aircraft is removed from the booking process on the
website.”

The
schedule changes mainly affect Durham, Jersey
and Leeds. Passengers flying to/from Durham (Teeside) or Leeds
will find that Bmi has put back the first flight of the day. It means day
trippers will have less time at their destination while there may be fewer
connecting opportunities and/or longer transit times at Heathrow. 

Take the
case of London-Leeds flight BD411, the first flight of the day from Heathrow, which
currently departs at 0810 and arrives in Leeds
at 0925.  From October 26 this service
(still the first flight of the day) now departs at 0955 and will not reach Leeds until 1055 so a passenger may not reach downtown
until almost midday.

Flight
BD411 from Leeds to Heathrow currently departs at 0645 and reaches London at 0750 in good time for making connections or
providing an early arrival into Central London.
But this service will be retimed to depart Leeds
almost two hours later at 0840, arriving at Heathrow at 0940 which,
realistically, means you would not reach the city centre until 1100.

With best
journey times ranging between 130 and 145 mins the competing fast train
services to/from Kings Cross provide earlier arrivals in Leeds and Darlington
(gateway for Teeside).

New timings
between Jersey and Heathrow (where Bmi flies twice daily) mean that Islanders
can no longer use Bmi (the only carrier connecting Jersey
with Heathrow) for a day trip to the capital.

Currently
Bmi’s first flight of the day (BD563) departs Jersey
at 0845 and arrives in Heathrow at 0950. The return service BD564 departs
Heathrow at 1905 landing in Jersey at 2010.

But from
October 26, BD563 (still the first Bmi flight of the day) will not depart Jersey until 1255 which would give a Heathrow arrival of
1400. BD564, the last flight of the day, which currently leaves Heathrow at
1905 (with a Jersey arrival at 2010) has been brought forward to 1625 (landing
in Jersey at 1725).

For more
information visit flybmi.com.

Report by
Alex McWhirter

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