BMI, the loss-making London Heathrow-based Lufthansa subsidiary, is planning a medium-term revamp of its Airbus A321 fleet as a part of a £200 million ($309 million) restructuring programme designed to staunch heavy losses.
The carrier in 2008 racked up £156 million in losses and its 2009 performance was even worse, although not specifically detailed within its parent group's figures.
Chief executive Wolfgang Prock-Schauer says the A321 project is in its infancy, but 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 as does an upgrade to the in-flight entertainment system, although Prock-Schauer has yet to decide about providing on-board mobile phone connectivity.
"Especially on our mid-haul services, we want to offer a really competitive product," says Prock-Schauer. "Our goal is to be one of the best in class when we fly these mid-haul routes."
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 in the completion phase. BMI is also looking to harmonise its liveries to what Prock-Schauer refers to as its "whale" design livery.
The livery is not new, but BMI has ended up with three colour scheme variations - its old colours, the whale 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.
Part of BMI's cost-cutting plan has involved reducing domestic service frequencies, but running flights at prime times with bigger aircraft. In the longer term, Prock-Schauer says BMI may return to North Atlantic service. "Our focus will be to further reduce our domestic flights and this capacity will shift to our continental Europe and Middle Eastern routes," says Prock-Schauer.
He adds: "We are evaluating certain projects on the North Atlantic. That could be a complementary offering because of the huge traffic flow from the Middle East, via London, to North America."
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 14 737-300s and -500s, while BMI Regional's all-Embraer fleet comprises four ERJ-135s and 14 -145s.