Tried & Tested

Bmi A320 Business class

10 Mar 2011 by AndrewGough

CHECK-IN Bmi serves Moscow Domodedovo twice daily from London Heathrow Terminal 1, departing London at 1040 (arriving at 1740) and 2235 (arriving 0535 the following day). Return flights depart Moscow daily at 0630 (landing in London at 0750) and 1820 (arriving at 1940). Flight time is about four hours, 20 minutes.

The drive from Moscow city centre to Domodedovo airport took about 50 minutes and I arrived at 1700, which meant I had 80 minutes until my flight. The departures area was very busy. Desks for my flight were 74-76 – one for bag-drops, one for economy and one for business. There was also a number of self-service kiosks available.

After a ten-minute wait and a preliminary passport check I was provided with a boarding pass, my suitcase checked and a pass for the Bmi/Transearo lounge issued. I then followed the signs to Zone A where security is located. There is a fast-track lane for premium passengers but there was still a good 15-minute wait at passport control before passing into a depressing screening room where shoes had to be taken off and pink or green plastic feet covers put on.

Passengers then had to walk into a clunky-looking body scanner and hold their arms in the air, before collecting their bags from the X-ray conveyor. It was a fairly quick process, if somewhat undignified.

Once airside, I had a quick look around the duty-fee shops – which were surprisingly expensive with prices all in US dollars. For example, a litre of Russian vodka was US$25, whereas in a local supermarket in Moscow it was much cheaper. I resisted buying anything and knew I’d also be losing out somewhere down the line at least once with the exchange rates.

THE LOUNGE From the shopping precinct it is a two-minute walk to the lounge, and I arrived at about 1800. Inside there was plenty of comfy armchairs, cream and brown sofas, views of the runway, free wifi, a smoking room, two-prong power points in the walls near the chairs, Russian newspapers, and strangely, free hardback copies of Russian editions of classic novels such as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

The food and drink selection was modest, with crisps, nuts, sandwiches, cereal, coffee, tea, beer and soft drinks available from a self-service bar. There were no spirits or wine. Many of the tables had not been cleared so I had to do this myself.

BOARDING As there weren’t any announcements, staff in the lounge said they would inform me when to board. A screen displayed this as starting at 1815 from Gate 11A, which is accessed from the level below via an escalator. But by 1830 staff still hadn’t told me to go down – despite there only being a handful of passengers in the facility – and as the flight was no on its final call I decided I had better leave anyway. 

There was a separate aisle for business class passengers and after a couple of minutes wait I was allowed through to board the plane. En route, I overheard a member of staff saying that economy class passengers would receive a lighter meal (snacks and a drink only) than normal because there had been a fire in one of the warehouses at London Heathrow. But the business class meal was to be as normal.

THE SEAT I was in my seat (4F) by 1840 and offered a glass of champagne (that turned out to be warm) or orange juice. To my disdain, the seat had not been cleaned at – there were crumbs all over it and the pillow on it was creased and covered with hairs. I did my best to brush of the crumbs and swapped the pillow with the one on the seat next to me as it seemed no one else was sitting there.

The product, upholstered in blue fabric with velveteen armrests, on this A320 was pretty old – the lumbar support and seat cushion extended out too far out for me, at five-foot three-inches, to be comfortable, and the button to adjust the recline didn’t work. I had to ask a stewardess to help me put my seat in the upright position for take-off and in the end she needed to give it a shove with her foot.

Business class is configured 2-2 (A-C, D-F) across rows one to six, although there is only one pair (A-C) of seats in the front row. There was a range of magazines (Total Film and Hello etc) in bulkhead pockets. Legroom was generous, at 50in/127cm, and a small personal screen popped out of the armrest.

To see the seating plan, click here.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Seats A-C and D-F in rows one and two have restricted legroom because of the bulkhead. Other than that, they are much the same so it will simply come down to your preference for a window or aisle position.

THE FLIGHT Once I was settled, I was offered a choice of newspapers – the FT, Daily Mail, Telegraph or The Times, a set of noise-cancelling headphones, a bottle of water and a navy blue blanket. We pushed back at 1850 and were given the safety demonstration as we taxied to the runway. Take-off was at 1905.

The dinner service began at 1935 with a round of drinks – although these too were not cold and there was no ice – because of the fire at Heathrow, apparently. I asked for a glass of red wine and the stewardess who passed it to me then said: “Did you order a vegetarian meal? I have seen it, it looks really good – like vegetarian spring rolls, although that doesn’t really sum it up…”

To pass the time until my intruiging-sounding meal arrived, I plugged into the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system and checked out the selection of eight films. It turned out the system is not AVOD (audio-video on-demand) though on this plane, so had to make a decision over what to watch quite quickly so as not to miss the beginning. The picture quality was very poor so it was not the best viewing experience.

My dinner was presented to me at 2000 and it did not live up to the hype. It fact it was pretty awful. There were two identical salads with a pot of “crack and pour” vinaigrette (imported from Australia) that spurted all over my notebook when I opened it. Next to these was a plate of soggy mushrooms and courgette rolled around some chopped carrot and rice with a smidgen of tomato sauce on top. More like sushi in appearance than spring rolls, but how anyone could think it looked appetising was beyond me. There was no dessert or crackers and cheese. The highlight was probably the choice of warm rolls that came around.

ARRIVAL The plane started its descent into London Heathrow at 2300, landing about 45 minutes later at 1945 local time, meaning we had made up most of the time we lost by departing late. Disembarkation was prompt and I was able to get through passport control and collect my suitcase from baggage reclaim by 2030.

VERDICT A decent flight in terms of arriving on time, friendly crew and the amount of legroom you get in business class. But I was very unimpressed by the food and my seat was dirty and uncomfortable. I would expect better from business class, even if there was a fire at Heathrow that affected some of the catering on this occasion.


  • SEAT PITCH 50in/127cm
  • SEAT WIDTH 19-20.5in/48-52cm
  • SEAT RECLINE 12-12.5in/30.5-32cm
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from London to Moscow started from £1,401 (including chauffeur transfer to Heathrow) in April.

Jenny Southan

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