Tried & Tested

Bmi A321 Economy 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.

I arrived into Heathrow’s Terminal 1 at 0845 and headed straight for departures, which is about eight minutes’ walk from the Underground exit and accessed via a lift up to the concourse.

The Bmi economy check-in area is in Zone B and there were three desks for check-in/bag-drop open. (Business class passengers have a separate area nearby.) I was processed quickly.

A small security channel is right next to check-in. There weren’t many people ahead of me so I was airside by 0900 after transferring my liquids to a plastic bag, taking my shoes and belt off, and laptop out, as usual. I passed the hour or so until boarding in a café drinking coffee and reading the paper. A very hassle-free experience so far…

BOARDING The gate opened at 1030 and at 1040 I made my way there, which only took about five minutes. However, it turned out I could have relaxed a little longer over my cappuccino as boarding was delayed. The waiting area was very cold but fortunately there were plenty of seats so I didn’t have to stand, despite there being a lot of other people waiting.

At 1115 parents with children were asked to board, followed by business class and gold cardholders. Finally, economy class passengers were called and I was in my seat by 1130 after a 45-minute wait.

THE SEAT The A321 that serves the route is configured 3-3 in economy across rows nine to 28 and 2-2 in business across rows one to eight. I was in window seat 23A, some distance behind the wing. Exit rows are nine and 17 on this aircraft (Bmi’s other A321 is in a similar layout but has five more rows, 22 being by the exit instead of 17). There are only two pairs of seats in row 16. To see the seatplan, click here.

The economy product is upholstered in royal blue fabric and each seat came with a pale blue blanket, a pillow, in-flight entertainment (IFE) remote in the armrest and a footrest fixed to the back of the seat in front. Although there were a few crumbs on my seat cushion I was lucky not to have anyone sitting next to me so was able to spread my belongings out after take-off.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? It’s best to avoid middle seats, and those sitting right at the back in row 28 could suffer some disturbance from people using the washrooms behind them. Exit row seats offer the most legroom. If you like to have unobscured views out of the window, avoid those seats over the wing in rows nine to 15.

THE FLIGHT Take-off was 70 minutes late, at midday, and at 1215 over-ear headphones were handed out to all passengers. Although these were two-prong ones, my own better quality single-prong in-ear headphones still worked when plugged into one of the holes.

Shared IFE screens were mounted above seats so there was no choice of movies – and on this flight I had to put up with Clash of the Titans (this came on at 1230), which in the end I refrained from watching in favour of some reading. The picture quality wasn’t the best on the monitor above the row ahead of me (22) so if I had wanted to watch the film I would have needed to focus on the one above row 19.

A drinks service started at 1235, with wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks offered free of charge. Lunch was brought around at 1300 and options were of beef stew, or for the vegetarians such as myself, mushroom ragout with crushed new potatoes and roasted red and green peppers.

Also sitting on my tray alongside the cardboard and foil dish containing my main course, was a plastic packet containing a slice of red Leicester cheese, some crackers, a mini Mars Bar, some caramel cheesecake, and a cup of water with a foil lid. A second round of drinks was also offered with the meal, which, overall, was perfectly decent.

The movie came to an end at 1400 at which point crew began clearing tables and putting rubbish in bags. The plane started its descent into Moscow Domodedovo at 1515, and the captain came on to ask passengers to put their tray tables up, seats upright and hand in their headphones.

ARRIVAL Landing was 50 minutes late at 1830 local time (1530 UK time) and disembarkation via an airbridge was quick. Immigration was located on a lower level within the terminal and passengers were required to fill in a “migration” form on the counter. The queue ahead of me wasn’t too long so I was through within about ten minutes. My bag then arrived on carousel four about five minutes later so I was into arrivals by 1850.

Note that it is 60-90 minutes’ drive to the city centre and that visitors from the UK are required to have a valid Russian visa in their passport. For more information visit

VERDICT A decent economy class product with friendly crew and an enjoyable meal with a generous amount of free alcoholic and soft beverages. Although the IFE system was on shared overhead screens, it is a plus for kids to have anything at all to watch on a relatively short-haul flight such as this (3.5 hours) – a plus for me as it keeps them quiet. My only gripe about this journey was the late departure and arrival of the flight. Even the arrival process was quick.


  • SEAT PITCH 31in/79cm
  • SEAT WIDTH 17in/43cm
  • SEAT RECLINE 4-5in/10-12.5cm
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return economy class flight from London to Moscow started from £348 in April.

Jenny Southan

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