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The end of ‘mid haul’ aircraft at British Airways as it withdraws the ex-BMI A321 fleet?

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One of the anomalies of the British Airways fleet was its ex-BMI A321s. Put simply, these were short-haul aircraft equipped with ‘almost flat’ beds in Business Class.

The fleet was acquired in 2012 when British Airways bought bmi British Midland.

BMI A321 retired by British Airways

Over the years, a number of these aircraft were converted to a standard Club Europe short haul configuration. Four of them kept the original BMI flat bed cabins, albeit undergoing refurbishment. These were the aircraft registered as G-MEDF, G-MEDG, G-MEDJ and G-MEDU.

BA’s niche business class cabin

What made this fleet special was the Club cabin. Like the all-business class A318 used on flights from London City to New York, the ex-BMI aircraft did not have the standard short haul aircraft seating.

Instead of the usual Club Europe cabin with a blocked middle seat or the yin-yang long haul Club World cabin, the ex-BMI A321s had an alternating 1-2 and 2-1 business class seat:

…which meant that, if you were lucky or planned in advance, you could nab yourself a ‘throne’ seat with a full half-row to yourself:

British Airways withdraws its ex-BMI A321 flat bed business class aircraft

This was clearly an upgrade from Club Europe on other aircraft. British Airways used the fleet for longer and more premium ‘mid haul’ routes.

Whilst not completely lie-flat, they offered a compromise between the short and long haul fleets, offering additional comfort on some of BA’s longer routes. The following routes often saw these mid-haul aircraft:

  • Amman
  • Beirut
  • Cairo
  • Moscow
  • Tel Aviv

They were also seen on certain short haul sectors to fill a few hours between arriving from one mid-haul destination and heading off to the next one.

It looks like these aircraft are being retired. Multiple readers – mainly booked to Amman – have told us that their mid-haul flights have switched over to the standard short haul configuration.

For example, Moscow will use an A320 whilst Amman gets an A321neo. Competition from Virgin Atlantic means that Tel Aviv will use a Boeing 787 with long haul seating.

With the exception of Tel Aviv, this also means a move to Club Europe catering rather than the Club World catering that has traditionally existed on these routes. I imagine the short haul aircraft replacing the A321 fleet simply don’t have the galley space to offer more comprehensive service.

This is, to be honest, unacceptable. The A321neo has the tightest seating of any short-haul British Airways aircraft. For a five hour flight it would be unpleasant, even in Club Europe.

For Amman, British Airways should simply throw in the towel and let its oneworld partner Royal Jordanian take over. When Rob reviewed Amman to Heathrow on Royal Jordanian in 2018 he got a flat bed on a brand new Boeing 787.

In flight entertainment and other Club World services will also be dropped on these flights. They will be bog standard Club Europe flights.

British Airways to withdraw ex-BMI A321

Destined for the scrap heap?

These aircraft are not particularly old. The oldest has been flying since 2002 whilst the youngest mid haul aircraft is G-MEDU, which has been around since 2009.

The lifespan of an aircraft is partially determined by its pressurisation cycles. One flight, with a pressurisation and depressurisation, counts as a single cycle against an aircraft’s age.

In 2008, Airbus announced its intentions to support the A320 family of aircraft up to 60,000 cycles, or 60,000 individual flights.

As the ex-BMI fleet were used on longer routes they will have fewer cycles than an A320 used on shorter domestic and European flights.

They may, however, be reaching the aircraft’s designed flight-hour limit, which is targetted for 120,000 hours.

Alternatively, British Airways may simply be biting the bullet and refitting these as standard short haul aircraft. There isn’t much logic to this, however – why spend money to hugely reduce the customer experience? The airline will struggle to retain premium customers on the routes where these aircraft used to fly.


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Comments (49)

  • Metatone says:

    Why spend money to reduce the customer experience?
    It’s a question we’ve been asking of BA management for years.

  • Ian M says:

    Sad news, I’ve flown on these a number of times in Club World on the Moscow and Beirut routes. I take it BA will therefore stop selling these flights as ‘Club World’

  • Gerry H says:

    Why does BA continually shoot itself in the foot? They should drop the “to serve” bit from “To fly, to serve”.
    There are parallels here with the BBC. Both are/were respected British institutions who simply aren’t listening to their customers anymore.
    I won’t fly BA by choice now and I will no longer watch the BBC news. Sad times.

    • Dubious says:

      ? To be fair the BA marketing team they never said it was the customers they were serving.

    • Dickie H says:

      40 years ago there were only 3 TV channels, 2 of which were operated by the BBC. Today, with their channels for news, entertainment, toddlers, an on-demand offering etc etc the BBC recognise today’s competition and seem to be covering a broad range of bases well enough on a limited budget.

      The difference with BA is that their slots continue to be protected at Heathrow, so they can continue to treat their customers as an afterthought.

  • Chris L says:

    Could Aer Lingus make use of these A321s? They have a number of long haul routes using narrow body jets with a similar business class layout.

    • Jonathan says:

      No, needs to be the new (lighter, more fuel efficient engines) A32xLR to do the transatlantic routes from Dublin.

    • Mawalt says:

      DME and SVO flights are normally served by 787-7 and its normal CW service (First also available), the catering in CW really improved last year. I have flown to Moscow on BA numerous times and have never been on an A321s

      • Alex Sm says:

        There is no such thing as 787-7… and Moscow routes have been served by 787s very rarely unfortunately, maybe 20% of all flights at the most

      • Mr. AC says:

        SVO cancelled until further notice. Additionally, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 787 scheduled to SVO at all (flown that specific route 10+ times). It was always the A321.
        The writing was on the wall, however – the business class seat was nice and indeed fully flat, but broke under me once and switched modes by it’s own volition often. The tray table also came off entirely after a light pull. Not good stats.

    • Charlieface says:

      TLV and maybe even CAI or AMM would work from DUB.

  • Gringo says:

    Disappointing news. As someone who has flown CW to TLV on BA a fair few times, I would not be happy with a CE service for 4+ hours and would gladly switch allegiance to Virgin who are now flying this route, albeit with less favourable flight times.

    • B P says:

      I don’t think Tel Aviv is affected. At least so far. Looks like Amman, Cairo and Moscow for now. Still a stupid move though. Wouldn’t it be more honest to market the premium (and I use that word lightly) cabin as World Traveller Plus?

  • Ben says:

    TLV is staying CW – I guess there’s too much competition on the route. Got a notification that my October and April flights were cancelled and instead moved to a later 787 flight.

    It’s a shame these mid haul planes are going – the routes were always excellent ways to use the Lloyds Avios upgrade vouchers – I used a number of my vouchers ok the TLV route and if you rang up and picked the A321, you’d pay the economy price for a CW booking as these planes didn’t have premium economy…!

  • Alex M says:

    “Whilst not completely lie-flat” – if memory serves, the seats were completely flat last time I flew to Mow…

    • Genghis says:

      +1

    • Mr. AC says:

      +1 Partly because of this, BA was ahead of Aeroflot on the Moscow routes. No longer – AFL’s business class is excellent otherwise, so they’ll be getting my business on the route from now on. Already doing their status match (albeit it’s a tricky one since it requires ~2500£ spend on a cobrand card which you can only get while being physically in Russia).
      Now if Virgin were to give it a go…

  • YC says:

    What are the chances of calling BA to change flights to Royal Jord if flight number has now changed? Booked with avios + lloyds

    • memesweeper says:

      If there’s a significant time change, and Jordanian is more convenient, you might.

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