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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