Bmi Regional has this week stopped selling business class tickets and will instead introduce an enhanced all-economy product throughout the aircraft.
Colin Lewis, the independent carrier’s director of marketing, told Business Traveller that the new economy class would be a “premium” offering, the branding of which was still to be confirmed.
Speaking at this week’s Business Travel Show in London, he said: “We’re moving to an all-premium class rather than business and economy — it’s going to be all one service, all economy.
“Essentially, the number of business passengers was marginal. You got better food and drink, you got off the aircraft earlier, you had a higher baggage allowance, but 80-90 per cent of business passengers don’t have bags to check-in unless they are connecting to a long-haul flight.
“The customers voted with their feet.”
As part of the “premium” economy service, the airline is refreshing its complimentary food and drink selection. It will no longer be offering sandwiches.
Lewis said: “Now there will be Bmi breakfast, Bmi brunch, Bmi bistro branding around it and it will be a little more modern, a little fresher, a little more of its time.”
The airline has also reintroduced online check-in on selected routes.
Bmi Regional boosted its Aberdeen-Oslo service to double-daily this week, and on March 3 is launching a twice-daily Newcastle-Brussels route (see news, October 22).
Last month, it introduced services from Stavanger in Norway, the country’s oil and gas hub, to the Norwegian destinations of Harstad/Narvik airport, Tromso and Kristiansund, and to Gothenburg in Sweden (see news, January 24).
Lewis said: “Our strategy is three-pronged — wider customer groups out of Bristol with a focus on the business traveller; a business and domestic travel focus out of Aberdeen with a focus on energy; and Norwegian [routes] with a focus on energy and a bit of leisure.”
He added: “The next step is ensuring that Bristol gets more connectivity, building our position in the energy business, and also connecting into longer-haul hubs.
“We’ve got a lot of interesting things in terms of codeshares coming on track which will be really strong for business travellers. We’ve looked back on some of our former partnerships and tried to rebuild those.’
A formal announcement on this will come in the next couple of weeks.
Last year, Bmi Regional secured full ownership of the Bmi brand, and chief executive Cathal O’Connell said it was considering dropping the Regional suffix (see news, April 2013).
Lewis said: “We have the rights to the Bmi name and that would be one of our items to look at. It’s an interesting exercise because 80 per cent of people just call us Bmi, so we may bow to the inevitable. It’s definitely something we’ll look at this year.”
But he added: “There needs to be something in it for the consumer — our customer group are savvy travellers so if we just change the name, there’s no benefit to anybody, you’re just dropping seven letters.
“I think we have to combine it with something that has a strong benefit for the customer, things like tightening up the offering both on the ground and on board.”
The airline is also considering whether it might introduce a loyalty scheme.
Lewis said: “As an independent carrier they are expensive to run and somewhat dubious in value. Essentially campaigns are around two things — reward or recognition. If we were to focus on anything I think it would be recognition because we have a lot of regular travellers.
“We’ve also looked at larger schemes and they are of interest but they are costly to run. There are no set plans but I think the network will shake itself out and I’m sure we will have an answer by the end of the year.”