Bmi drops remaining short-haul business class cabins

Bmi dropped its business class cabin on most short-haul routes back in 2005 (see online news May 26, 2005), but kept the offering on key short-haul routes from London Heathrow to Belfast City, Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow. However from January 27 the short-haul business class cabin will be dropped altogether, and replaced with a one-cabin economy and flexible economy offering.

The new flexible economy offering (fare codes C, D, J and Y) includes fully flexible tickets, access to executive lounges, and free food and drink in-flight (hot breakfast Panini, fresh muffin and a hot drink before 0930, and  “a range of complimentary food and drinks” throughout the rest of the day).

Bmi also points out that the new flexible economy fare will guarantee passengers a seat at the front of the plane (albeit without a curtain separating economy and flexible economy passengers), and will attract a lower rate of APD than the previous business class option.

Lufthansa-owned Bmi says it is has made the decision “to meet changes in our customers needs”.

“With many corporate customers currently no longer being able to afford to fly in business class, this new product will mean customers can receive preferential treatment at an affordable price.”

Note though, that that current automatic free food and drink benefit for Gold, Silver and Blue Plus Diamond Club members (no matter what class of travel) is to be dropped, so all passengers travelling in standard economy will have to pay for F&B from now on.

In addition the Blue Plus membership tier is to be phased out altogether, although existing members will retain their status until the end of the membership year. Bmi says that this means members will only have to earn 16,000 status miles to move from Blue to Silver rather than 3,000 from Blue to Blue Plus and a further 16,000 from Blue Plus to Silver.

Note also that reward flights on flexible economy fares will be charged the same number of miles as the current business class (although the lower rate of APD will be charged) and will be booked into I class.

The carrier says that it has “no plans to make similar changes on any of our other services”, adding that “Our business class service continues to be very popular with customers on our longer routes.” readers have already posted their disappointment with the move on our forum, with one poster calling it “very sad news”, and another saying that “enthusiasm in [Bmi’s] frequent flyer programme will suffer hugely”.

Bmi has also today announced new flights from Heathrow to Vienna, in co-operation with Austrian Airlines (see online news January 18).

For more information visit

Report by Mark Caswell

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  • This is a huge disappointment. The race to the bottom is surely nearing the end.

    I enjoyed bmi’s domestic business cabin as a haven of peace, and from time to time was treated to their mid haul configured cradle seat, which was a pleasure to fly on.

    The removal of food after 0930 for elite (Gold/Silver and BluePlus) cardholders is a huge blow for bmi’s competitiveness; at least BA still provides a full breakfast domestically until 10am and a full complimentary bar serving wine, spirits, tea/coffee and a modest snack (cookie or snack mix). Everything will have to paid for on bmi from now on.

    The loss of food was less heavily felt by BA elite customers, as the spread in the BA Galleries/First lounges (especially exLHR) is excellent, compared to bmi’s paltry plastic cheese offerings in its IKEA style lounges. T5 also boasts the excellent Plane Food Picnics if you are in need of a proper meal.

    I don’t actually think this will impact bmi’s Frequent Flyer Diamond Club; the scheme is already one of the most generous in existence and that will continue to be the case.

    RIP bmi Domestic Business: another victim of Gordon Brown’s relentless desire to tax premium travellers ever more heavily.

  • PS It is RIDICULOUS to suggest this has been introduced because “many corporate customers [are] no longer able to afford to fly in business class”. The cabins are often sold out!!

    As to the statement “this new product will mean customers can receive preferential treatment at an affordable price” it is complete rubbish as most of these flexible economy fares will be exactly the same as the non-flex Business Class fare which was previously sold.

    All that has changed is that the APD charged can now be changed to the standard amount, increasing bmi’s margin. Another example of Labour’s Treasury policy impacting the market and backfiring. They will now receive less in tax revenue!

    This move parallels bmi’s deceptive “sale” which actually did not offer any real saving over the normally available standard discounted tickets (some of the discounts were as low as 1% off – I kid you not!).

  • It is rather sad, and means those on long haul flights interlining wont get business class for the first and last hop. I’m saddened that it means less frequent flyer points received on these flights. This presumably will simply be treated as full economy class not business class, even though the fares are identical.

    It seems that within Europe, business class will either go to a flexible economy (with food and lounge access) or perhaps a serious business class – with wider seats, more pitch and a decent recline – more akin to US domestic first class.

    Almost everyone I know who used to fly business class within Europe doesn’t miss it on the flight, they just miss priority security, luggage and lounge access – the seating has always been a joke.

    Compare it to flying domestically in Australia (similar travel times) where Qantas has a monopoly on business class, and there are seats you can recline enough that you can grab an hour or so of rest after a long day.

    So BMI has decided to go flexible economy, but is the approach to enhancing yields for other short haul business classes to create cabins with a (smaller but) permanent business class configuration, with far better seating, perhaps no more than a quarter of the cabin, and let economy class be priced between discount and fully flexible?

  • The beginning of the end. Once a “normal” airline starts charging for F&B, they then need to go the whole hog and compete with the budget airlines or just stop altogether. There is no room for a hybrid that is neither fish nor foul. I saw this with the now defunct Nationwide Airlines in South Africa. In their day, they were brilliant–leather seats throughout, warm and friendly staff and good time keeping. But then, all of a sardine, they started charging for F&B. Their fares didn’t change–they were the same as they had always been. Customers ain’t stupid-they go for the best deal. If they’re paying a hefty premium, best they get premium service and demonstrably so. A classic case of bean-counters overcoming common sense.

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