Bmi A330-200 business class

BACKGROUND On this route, Bmi offers business class passengers a free chauffeur drive service to the airport from your home or office within 80km of London Heathrow, Aberdeen, Belfast City and Dublin, as well as within 112km of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and 128km of Manchester. But on this occasion I did not take advantage of it as I was staying at an airport hotel.

According to its website: “When flying from London Heathrow you will be greeted by our concierge, who will collect your bags and take you to our newly designed premium check-in zone.  Once at your destination, our chauffeur will greet you in the airport arrivals area and take you to your chosen location.  Then, on your return, a chauffeur will pick you up once more.”

Bookings can be made up to 24 hours before departure and changes can be made up to eight hours before the flight. Tel +44 (0)844 8483 322.

Travellers should also note that Bmi no longer has the A330 as the aircraft was withdrawn from its fleet this spring – the route is now served by an A320 configured with business and economy only, as opposed to three classes with premium economy. 

CHECK-IN I checked in online at flybmi.com the night before for the daily 0915 flight to Cairo, entered my Diamond Club loyalty scheme number, selected seat 3C and printed out my boarding pass. As I was staying at the Yotel at Heathrow Terminal 4 (for a full review, click here) I had to get a train transfer to T1, which including a ten-minute wait, took about 20 minutes. 

I arrived at the terminal at 0650 and made my way to Bmi’s premium check-in area and bag-drop in Zone A, where there were eight desks. (Economy class passengers need to go to Zone B.) Business class passengers can check-in 40kg of hold luggage shared between as many bags as they like on routes between London and Cairo, Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, as opposed to 30kg on most other routes. In addition, they can take two pieces of hand baggage measuring up to 55cm x 40cm x 23cm plus one personal item such as a handbag.

After dropping my suitcase off, which took less than two minutes as there was no queue, I walked to fast-track security a couple of minutes away. There were a few of people ahead of me, and before entering the line my passport was checked. The process was swift – laptops out, coats and boots off, and then into the airside departure area where I followed the signs to the Bmi Diamond Club lounge by Gate 5. 

THE LOUNGE When the lounge opened last June, it was named “No 1 Heathrow” but because of confusion with “No 1 Traveller” lounges at Gatwick and Stansted, a brand that is completely separate from the carrier, it changed it to the “Great British lounge”.  

A member of staff checked my boarding pass on arrival and I went straight through to find a seat. It was quiet and thanks to there being plenty of different work and relaxation areas to choose from, it was easy to find a spot to settle down in by the windows over-looking the runway. 

At this time in the morning (0730) a light continental breakfast was on offer with croissants and toast warming on an Aga, yoghurt, juice (not freshly squeezed), fruit and hot drinks all to hand. Throughout the day there is also a good selection of free alcoholic beverages and mixers, with a self-service English pub-style bar where you can help yourself to beer on tap. 

I was impressed that when I asked, the lounge had iPhone chargers available, so I was able to charge my device before my flight, as I had forgotten my own adaptor. There was a decent selection of magazines and newspapers, plus flight status screen as there were no announcements. Wifi internet access is free throughout and there are several PCs available for those travelling without a laptop. 

The lounge is one of the best I have been in – with high-quality furnishings, natural daylight, plenty of seating, showers, beds and slick, contemporary design. It’s open from 5am to 10pm for business class passengers, Diamond Club silver and gold members, and Star Alliance gold customers travelling to all Bmi international destinations except Dublin. 

For a full write-up of the facilities available in the business class lounge, click here

BOARDING At 0835 the screens indicated my flight was boarding from Gate 50, so at 0835 I headed over there, which took about ten minutes. Boarding hadn’t started when I arrived, so I waited until 0905 when business class and gold Star Alliance members were called, followed by all other passengers according to rows. 

THE SEAT I was in my aisle seat (3C) by 0915. My coat was taken and I was offered a choice of orange juice, water or champagne (Charles Lafitte Grande Cuvée Brut). Blue cotton blankets and pillows were on the seats but no amenity kits as the flight (about four and a half hours) is not considered long enough to warrant them. After a few minutes, headphones and menus were given out, and a member of crew confirmed that I had ordered a vegetarian option. She then took my drink order for after the flight took off. 

The A330-200 was a twin-aisle aircraft configured with three rows of its business class seats configured 2-2-2 (A-C, D-G, H-K) in a slightly staggered formation. The product was fully flat with a width of 26 inches (66cm) and a length of 78-80 inches (198cm-203cm). The upholstery was brown and cream leather, and looked a little worn and the shell casing scratched in places. Some bits also didn’t look that clean, like the tray table and cup holder.

There were three pre-set positions for working, watching films and sleeping, storage space for shoes under the curved part of the back of the seat in front, a pocket with a bottle of mineral water, personal reading lights, an IFE (in-flight entertainment) remote in the right armrest and a slide-out tray table in the middle one. There were also plenty of storage bins above all the seats. 

One thing I thought wasn’t very well designed was the flimsy cup holder that popped out of the front of the right armrest – I was worried that my glass would get knocked off it every time someone walked by. Little green lights at the base of the seats by the aisle indicate when the seat is upright, so crew can easily spot this and ask passengers to raise them for take-off and landing.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Rows ten to 15 (there are no rows four to nine or 13) were premium economy, and were in fact Bmi’s old long-haul business class product. They were also configured 2-2-2 (A-C, D-G, H-K). However, as mentioned above, this product is no longer available as the A330-200 has been withdrawn, and replaced by A320s, which are not configured with this class. Rows 20-41 are economy class in a 2-4-2 layout (A-C, D-E-F-G, H-K).

(The A320 is configured with economy (3-3) and business (2-2) only, with seats in economy providing 31-32 inches of legroom and those in business up to 50 inches of pitch. The IFE system on some of Bmi’s A320s is audio-video on-demand.)

In business, the seats were all much the same, and as there was a good amount of legroom it was not essential to sit in row one if you had long legs. In fact, I preferred rows two or three because you could store items under the seat in front on the floor during take-off and landing, whereas you couldn’t in row one. However, you did get served food and drink first if you sit in the first row.  

THE FLIGHT Newspapers and magazines (The Times, Daily Mail, Telegraph, FT, Time, Hello and Traveller) were offered at 0940, and the captain announced the flight time would be four hours 15 minutes.

At 1010 the plane took off (almost one hour late), and a short while later, landing cards and hot towels were handed out. At 1025, the in-flight chef came to take the brunch orders, and ten minutes after that passengers were given their pre-ordered drink and a bag of Wing nuts.  

The in-flight entertainment system Voyager is not audio-video on demand (AVOD) and I only just realised in time that the first film had started showing at 1045. (I thought it would have been helpful if they had announced this.) There was, however, a pretty decent choice of new releases, including Up in the Air, The Twilight Saga, An Education, A Serious Man, Capitalism:  A Love Story, and Law Abiding Citizen. There were also nine TV channels and video games. (Click here for the latest movies on your flight:)

The meal was served at 1115 on a white tablecloth with metal cutlery and china plates. I had a fruit smoothie, a vegetarian cooked breakfast with scrambled eggs, hash browns, mushrooms and tomatoes and a fruit platter, followed by a choice of tea or coffee. The quality of the fruit was very good and freshly prepared, while the cooked meal was a little greasy. 

The regular menu offered passengers seasonal fruits and pastries to start, followed by: fillet steak with lamb cutlet, rosti potatoes, Portobello mushroom and tomatoes; bubble and squeak with smoked trout; or pearl barley cake with creamed spinach and wild mushrooms, plus rhubarb and custard crumble for dessert. 

The choice of five wines included Anjou Blanc Les Maillones – Gerard Depardieu (yes, produced by the French actor of the same name) and Château Mayne Vieil Fronsac. 

ARRIVAL Landing was on schedule at 1620 local time, despite a delay of nearly an hour at departure. And thanks to being on the left-hand side of the plane, I got a good look at the pyramids, Nile River and Downtown Cairo as we flew over. 

Disembarkation was efficient and there was an eight-minute walk to immigration where I bought an Egyptian visa for £11 (my change was given in local currency). I then joined a short queue for passport control and five minutes later I was at baggage reclaim. There was a wait of about nine minutes until my priority-tagged bag came out. I then headed past another passport check and into the arrivals area landside.  

Taxis to the city centre are E£100-E£150 (£12-17) depending on the traffic, which tends to be very congested. 

VERDICT Although the seats are a little worn and the in-flight entertainment is not on-demand, the crew were very friendly and helpful, the food tasty, and the service efficient. The chauffeur transfer is also a plus for business class passengers. 

PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight in June from London to Cairo started from £902. 

CONTACT flybmi.com

Jenny Southan


Share with your friends










Submit

Post a comment

3 × five =

Bmi A330-200 business class

CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 1 at 0930 for flight BD777 to Jeddah, which leaves at 1130. At the time of writing, Bmi served this route with a direct flight three times a week, but from January 15 it will be downgraded to a one-stop service via Riyadh, meaning the carrier will fly six times a week to the Saudi capital (see online news October 15). The same A330-200 will be used on the route, and the Jeddah flight will take eight hours 40 minutes, with the return lasting nine hours 25 minutes. Online check-in is not available for flights to Saudi Arabia, so I used the self-service kiosk in the priority section of Bmi’s check-in zone.

THE LOUNGE Bmi’s Diamond Club lounge is to the right after security, past the duty-free area. Spread over two floors, it has coffee machines and a self-service snack bar with fruit, croissants, cereals, alcohol and soft drinks. There are two computers (wifi access is available via BT Openzone), a good range of newspapers and magazines, a shower in the men’s toilets and a departures board (my flight was also called by staff at 1055). Business and first class passengers can also use the new Star Alliance lounge (see online review, August 13).

THE SEAT Bmi serves this business route with a two-class layout on its A330-200 aircraft (economy and business). This means a total of 42 business class seats, in seven rows of 2-2-2. There are three rows in the first cabin, followed by the galley, and then a further four rows before economy. The seat is a fixed-shell, angled lie-flat product, and features a table which folds out of the armrest, shoe storage under the seat in front, a water-bottle holder, and a small drinks tray which slides out from the arm (which is precarious if you are in an aisle seat). IFE is on a loop rather than AVOD, with around a dozen movie choices, plus TV and audio channels – noise-cancelling headphones are supplied in business class.

WHERE TO SIT? The main point to note is that seats 1A, C, H and K, and the same in row 4, have no fixed IFE system. Passengers in these seats are offered a portable DVD player, which means that although you can choose when to watch films, the player will take up valuable space on your table, so avoid these seats if you want to work and eat at the same time.

THE FLIGHT The flight was around three-quarters full in business class, and we were offered drinks, newspapers and magazines, and an amenity kit, before taking off more or less on time. The first film run started shortly after the seatbelt sign was switched off, with blockbuster choices including Hancock and Indiana Jones (there was enough time to get two whole films in on this near six-hour flight), and lunch was served around two hours in. There was a choice of four starters, while main courses included pan-fried cod with rocket and potato mash, roast beef with a potato rosti, stuffed peppers, or chicken with goats cheese, and dessert choices were tiramisu, lemon tart, cheese, fruit or ice cream. There is also an “Anytime” menu with snacks including a welsh rarebit bloomer, fruit and ice cream. This was a day flight but I tried out the bed function briefly, and found it comfortable – the fixed shell serves as an effective privacy divider when the seat is in the bed position.

ARRIVAL We touched down 15 minutes ahead of schedule at 1935, and were quickly disembarked. Jeddah’s Corniche, where most of the hotels are located, is around 30 minutes’ drive from the airport.

VERDICT A comfortable business class product, albeit lacking an on-demand IFE system. Jeddah-bound passengers will mourn the loss of a direct service from January, although it will be Riyadh’s gain. At the time of writing, BA was strongly rumoured to be restarting flights to Saudi Arabia in the new year.

Fact file

CONFIGURATION 2-2-2 in business and 2-4-2 in economy.

SEAT PITCH 78-80in/198-203cm.

SEAT WIDTH 26in/66cm.

IFE SCREEN 15in/38cm.

PRICE Return midweek fares from Heathrow to Jeddah in late January (after the start of the new timetable) started from £548 for economy and £2,292 for business class.

CONTACT flybmi.com.

Mark Caswell


Share with your friends










Submit

Post a comment

2 × 2 =

BMI A330-200 business class

Check-in I arrived at
Heathrow Terminal 1 at 0930 for flight BD777 to Jeddah, which leaves at 1130. Bmi currently serves this route with a direct flight three times
weekly, but from January 15 it will be downgraded to a one-stop service via
Riyadh, meaning the carrier will fly six times weekly to the Saudi capital (see
online news October 15). The same A330-200 aircraft will be used on the route,
and the Jeddah flight will take 8hrs 40mins, with the return journey taking
9hrs 25mins. Online check-in is not available for flights to Saudi Arabia, so I
used the self-service kiosk within the priority section of Bmi’s check-in zone.

The lounge Bmi’s Diamond
Club lounge is located to the right after security, past the duty free area. It
is spread over two floors, with facilities including coffee machines and a
self-service snack bar with fruit, biscuits, croissants, cereals, and alcoholic
and soft drinks. There are also a good range of newspapers and magazines, a
couple of computer terminals (wifi internet access is available through BT
Openzone), and one shower in the male toilets. There is a departure board in
the lounge, and the flight was also called for boarding by staff at 1055. Note
that business and first class passengers can also use the newer Star Alliance
lounge at T1 (see our online review, August 13).

The seat Bmi serves this
business route with a two-class economy and business layout on its A330-200 aircraft, as opposed to the three-class economy, premium economy and business
configuration on other long-haul routes such as Manchester-Las Vegas (although these Manchester-based flights will themselves be dropped next year – see online news November 5). This
means a total of 42 business class seats, in seven rows of 2-2-2. There are
three rows in the first cabin, followed the galley, and then a further four
rows, before a curtain separating business from economy.

The seat itself
is a fixed-shell, angled lie-flat product, with features including a table
which folds out from the armrest, a shoe-storage space underneath the seat in
front, a water-bottle holder, laptop power, and a small drinks tray that slides out from the
arm (which is pretty precarious if you are sat in an aisle seat). IFE is on a
loop rather than AVOD, with around a dozen movie choices, plus TV and audio
channels – noise-cancelling headphones are supplied in business class.

Where to sit? The usual rules
apply here about not choosing a window seat if you want aisle access. Other
than that, the main points to note are that seats 1A, C, H and K, and the same
in row 4, have no fixed IFE system. Passengers in these seats are offered a
portable DVD player, which has advantages and disadvantages – it means you can
choose when to watch films but the player will take up valuable space on your
table, so these seats are to be avoided if you want to work and eat at the same
time. On this flight I was originally sat in seat 4H, but took the opportunity
to move just before take-off to the vacant 7D (the person in 4K also moved to
sit next to me in 7G), as I valued the table space more than the ability to
pause a movie.

The flight The flight was
around three-quarters full in business class, and we were offered drinks,
newspapers and magazines, and an amenity kit (with moisturiser, lip balm,
toothbrush, eye mask and socks, tissues, mints, a pen, and a small leather
photo frame), before taking off more or less on time. The first film run
started shortly after the seatbelt sign was switched off, with blockbuster
choices including Hancock and Indiana Jones (there was enough time to
get two whole films in on this near six-hour flight), and lunch was served
around two hours in. There was a choice of four starters including soup, a
salad, an Arabian mezze, or a smoked salmon tarlet. Main courses included pan
fried cod with rocket mash potato, roast beef with a potato rosti, stuffed
peppers, or chicken stuffed with goats cheese, while dessert choices were
tiramisu, lemon tart, cheeses, fruit or ice cream. There is also an “Anytime”
menu with snacks including a welsh rarebit bloomer, fruit, and ice cream. This
was a day flight but I tried out the bed function briefly, and found it
comfortable – the fixed shell serves as an effective privacy divider when the
seat is in the bed position.

Arrival We touched down
15 minutes ahead of schedule at 1935, and were quickly disembarked. Visas are
needed for both tourist and business visitors, and obtaining these can be
fairly time-consuming, so readers are advised to plan ahead. Jeddah’s Corniche,
where most of the upmarket hotels are located, is around 30 minutes’ drive from
the airport.

Verdict A comfortable
business class product, albeit lacking an on-demand IFE system. Jeddah-bound
passengers will mourn the loss of a direct service from January, although it
will be Riyadh’s gain. At the time of writing, BA was also strongly rumoured to
be restarting flights to Saudi Arabia in the new year, and the near-full
premium cabin (completely full on my return journey from Riyadh) shows that
business is once again booming in the country.

Price Return fares from
Heathrow to Jeddah for a midweek flight in late January (after the start of the
new timetable) started from £548 for economy and £2,292 for business class.

Contact
flybmi.com.

Mark Caswell

Seatplan for Bmi’s A330-200 (two-class) aircraft. For hundreds of seatplans and details of the best seats on major airlines worldwide, visit seatplans.com.


Share with your friends










Submit

Share your thoughts

Post a comment

4 × three =