New routes launched to Middle East and Moscow
Bmi is cementing its future as a mid-haul carrier with new services to the Middle East and Moscow this spring
Katherine Gershon, the carrier's sales and marketing director, said it sees its core business as a mid-haul airline and is expanding on profitable routes to the Middle East.
"It's 18 months since we acquired British Mediterranean Airways and we are becoming predominantly a mid-haul airline," she said.
"We are going twice daily to Tel Aviv from the end of March, and we are daily to Moscow, Cairo, Beirut, Damascus, Riyadh and then on to Jeddah."
Ms Gershon said Bmi still had a strong domestic network but that it now played two roles.
"There is the point-to-point traffic to and from Heathrow, but there are also passengers flying into our hub and on to our mid-haul network," she said.
Ms Gershon said that about 20% of passengers were transferring from one Bmi flight to another at Heathrow, with the proportion of passengers from Star Alliance carriers being higher.
The airline has made several important cuts to its services this year, following on from closing its flights from Manchester to destinations such as Chicago and Las Vegas.
The Heathrow slots that have been freed up by the cuts are now being used to increase frequencies, though not necessarily at times that are convenient for UK passengers.
"Some 40% of traffic on a route such as London Heathrow to Beirut is originating in the US, either on United Airlines, our Star Alliance partner, Air New Zealand from Los Angeles, or airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, so we look at convenient connecting times for them as well as the UK," she said.
Bmi's long-haul aircraft, the A330, which is configured in three classes with 30 premium economy seats and 18 fully-flat business class seats, will be used on routes such as Tel Aviv.
"We are going head-to-head on the Tel Aviv route with British Airways and El Al," Ms Gershon said. "BA has a four-class configuration on the route so I don't think the flat bed will be wasted on only a four-and-a-half-hour sector.
"If there are people prepared to pay for Club World then they will certainly be tempted by our flat-bed product, which is priced considerably lower than the Club World flat bed.
"It may be a short sector but it means you value every minute you can sleep. Our premium economy seats, which are the old business class seats, have 50 inches of leg room compared with BA's World Traveller Plus, which is 38 inches."
Bmi is also improving its lounge offering at Heathrow Terminal 1. At the moment it has three lounges - one for domestic flights, one for international, and the Star Alliance lounge, although you have to be a gold card Star Alliance member to access this.
"The whole lounge plan got thrown out with the T5 debacle," Ms Gershon said. "We should have moved into our new international lounge in November last year, but instead building work didn't start until last month.
"It will now open on 1 June this year and we've designed it so there can be dining before night flights. The old international lounge was focused on Europe and didn't have a kitchen. The new one will have showers and areas where you can work, rest and eat. We don't have the budget to create something like the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, but I think people will be impressed."
In addition to the new chauffeur drive being rolled out on routes from Heathrow to Moscow and Saudi Arabia, this service is now being offered for fully-flexible business class ticket holders on routes such as Cairo.
At Terminal 1 there will be six branded parking bays for the E-class Mercedes to pull into by the end of March.
Bmi will operate its twice-daily service from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv on an A321 aircraft from 30 March, with a two-cabin configuration of 31 business class seats and 118 economy seats.
From 3 May it will use its A330 aircraft, which has 18 business class fully-flat beds, 30 premium economy seats and 170 economy seats.
Free chauffeur drive will be available at both ends of the route on bookings made from March on selected business class fares only.