bmi has confirmed it is to lease two Boeing 757-200 aircraft to further expand its mid haul strategy from Heathrow. The aircraft will be used to increase capacity and to significantly improve schedules to the existing destinations of Almaty and Freetown. In addition, the airline’s new Heathrow to Tel Aviv service, which commences on 13 March with an Airbus A320, will also benefit from an upgrade in capacity to the Boeing 757 shortly after the route is launched.
From 1 May new non-stop links from Heathrow to both Almaty in Kazakhstan and Freetown will be introduced. Flying times to the Sierra Leone capital will be reduced by over an hour and a half and the route will also be enhanced by the addition of an extra flight, taking the total to four flights a week. The introduction of non-stop flights between Heathrow and Almaty will reduce flying time each way by two hours. The new Heathrow to Tel Aviv service will be upgraded on six days a week to a Boeing 757 which will considerably increase capacity on the route. Bishkek, previously operated via Yerevan, will now operate via Almaty, thus reducing the onward flight time compared to the previous intermediate point as well as benefiting from the larger Boeing 757 aircraft.
The introduction of these two Boeing 757s into the bmi fleet will also enable schedule enhancements and increases in capacity to existing Airbus A321 operations. Services from Heathrow to Ekaterinburg and Yerevan will now not operate to destinations beyond, thus increasing their point to point capacity and improving flight schedules. A much improved daily schedule between Heathrow and Tehran will also be introduced. The changes will enable bmi to offer far more attractive schedules as well as improving connection timings and offering a wider range of destinations via Heathrow, particularly with flights to and from the USA.
Nigel Turner, chief executive officer of bmi, said, “We strongly believe that in order to continue the development of the mid haul network, now is the time to upgrade capacity and the aircraft range on certain routes that will clearly benefit from non-stop services. We also think it is important to make the timing improvements we have identified in order to maximise their convenience and competitiveness as well as extending the range of connections that are available at Heathrow.
“The delivery of suitable Airbus A330 aircraft is a little way off and we do not want to delay the range of service enhancements unveiled…. By leasing the two Boeing 757s, pending the sourcing of suitable A330 aircraft, we are able to accelerate our Heathrow growth and ensure that we can maintain the momentum of our mid haul route strategy, laying strong foundations for future developments in this important market.”
The two 757 aircraft have been damp-leased from Astraeus for an initial two year period with an option to extend. Two separate cabins will offer a mix of business class and economy service.
The introduction of the network changes will result in the suspension of services between Heathrow and Dakar.