BMI plans to overhaul A321 cabins

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UK carrier BMI, which is undergoing a £200 million ($309 million) restructuring programme, is planning a medium-term revamp of its Airbus A321 fleet.

"Especially on our mid-haul services, we want to offer a really competitive product," says BMI chief executive Wolfgang Prock-Schauer. "Our goal is to be one of the best in class when we fly these mid-haul routes."

This project, still in its infancy, will represent a major fleet refurbishment and could take up to two years to roll out. New business-class seats form part of the plan and "naturally we will upgrade our [in-flight entertainment] system", says Prock-Schauer.

But he is yet to be convinced about on-board mobile phone connectivity. "There are mixed views on it. We have the advantage of watching the experience of other carriers," he says.

BMI has seven A321s in its fleet, configured with two classes, and it is due to take delivery of a further three in 2012.

In the meantime, the airline is rolling out a "quick refurbishment" of its interiors, which Prock-Schauer says is already in the completion phase.

BMI is also looking to harmonise its livery to the design Prock-Schauer refers to as the "whale". BMI has ended up with three colour scheme variations - its old colours, the new livery and an interim scheme from the former BMed fleet. "Now we have the time and are willing to invest more and paint the aircraft properly," says Prock-Schauer.

Prock-Schauer has no plans to invest in new aircraft until the airline's turnaround plan is complete. "When we are profitable, then we will start evaluating aircraft types. This is not my priority. My priority is to return to profitability," he says.

As well as the A321s, BMI operates 11 A319s, seven A320s and an A330 on its Heathrow-originating routes. Budget arm BMIbaby has a fleet of 14 Boeing 737-300s and -500s, while BMI Regional's all-Embraer fleet comprises four ERJ-135s and 14 ERJ-145s.