Tuesday, 3 August 2010

London - Yerevan direct flight: bmi out, Armavia in?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing rumours that bmi will stop operating its direct London-Yerevan-London flights from September or so. Instead, Armenian national air carrier Armavia will launch its first ever Yerevan-London-Yerevan direct flights from around early autumn.

I asked bmi to clarify this info: whether it's true or not, and if yes, what were the reasons for such decision. Allegedly, bmi flights to Yerevan direction were not profitable enough, and bmi decided to keep only Tbilisi route. There have been some, however, who pointed out to me that this cannot be the case, as many Diaspora Armenians and others use bmi’s London-Yerevan-London to fly from /to the USA and other destinations. And this must be profitable, they insisted.

bmi representative denied the rumours and came back to me with the following statement: “there are no plans to remove this route from the bmi network”.

However, when I shared bmi’s response with knowledgable sources in London, the reaction was that despite bmi’s denial, 'the rumours are true and the plans are progressing'. There might be few pleasant surprises for passengers when new Yerevan-London-Yerevan route launches this autumn, I learned.

When I checked bmi’s website today, before posting this entry, it was possible to make bookings for London-Yerevan-London return flight up until a year in advance, 25 July 2011. As of today, there are no formal indications of London route on Armavia's website.


Onnik Krikorian said...

You know, I wasn't happy at all with BMI when I went to Washington D.C. via London. The plane they used for the Yerevan-London leg was too small so they informed people that they were overweight and would have to stop in Brussels for refueling unless they had a good wind behind them.

Well, they did have a good wind behind them and we didn't, but that as well as the fact the plane left late was not a good experience. On the other hand, not impressed by Armavia either.

Still, one good thing about this. If Armavia get landing rights in London it means they've shaped up and can meet the international standards necessary.

artmika said...

Ideally, I would prefer both bmi and Armavia in, as it would create at least some kind of competition in the market of direct London-Yerevan flights, but everyone around says that, as of now, there is no way it would be profitable to have two carriers.

Personally, I had more or less OK experience with bmi, although the aircrafts are small (BA was much better) and food quality worsened over years both in economy and business. Never flied with Armavia, would be interesting to try. I have heard a big range of opinions re experiences with Armavia, from very positive to very negative.

Recently, discussing Armenian aviation with people in know, I expressed my doubts about standards and safety, but was reassured that as a member of International aviation agency (or something like that) and having rights to fly internationally, including Europe, means that Armavia is complying with all standards, and checks are strict. Have to be honest, if London route deal goes ahead, this would reassure me more.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason is the costs at Zvartnots.
Round trip for a next week flight from LHR-EVN-LHR is GBP690 while for the same period LHR-TBC-LHR is GBP430. That's almost 50% cheaper. I know that the fuel prices are very high at Zvartnots. The planes prefer to fly with full tanks in order to avoid refilling in Zvartnots. This results heavier planes and hence higher costs which are reflected in ticket prices. This is also evident from what Onnik is saying.
I am not surprised in this, Zvartnots fuel business belongs to Baghdasarov who is also the owner of Armavia.
Maybe it would be cheaper to fly to TBS and then take a cab to Yerevan. Although I heard that the boarder crossing is now made a nightmare.
Too many coincidences aren't there? The country and people suffer as a result.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Anonymous, there's also a flight Yerevan-Tbilisi. Cost me $160-170 return when I used it in May so it would still be cheaper.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that who operates the EVN-TBS flights?
It ia lucrative business as there are no flights between Russia and Georgia. Georgians living in Russia fly via EVN.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Anonymous, it's Armavia. 35-minute trip too although yes, you've still got to get to the airport at least an hour beforehand and travel from the airport when you arrive. Still, I prefer it to being stuck on a crowded van for 5 or more hours.

And yes, it's all about Tbilisi-Yerevan-Russia, but I'm not complaining... :)

artmika said...

Today was a launch of Yerevan-Birmingham flight by Armavia. Originally rumoured Yerevan-London flight plans have been delayed but in process, I've been told.

Anonymous said...

Well I am very pleased to express my satisfaction with the BMI flight to Erevan. It was an excellent aircraft ( ampler leg room than in other planes) , excellent service, not a complaint. Also when I flew the plane was not full and almost all passengers were Armenians , which made it that much agreeable. The only question is that the fare is not inexpensive, it is over the top when one considers that a distance of 3500 Km costs as much as flight to cover 7900KM . But the difference in expense was and is worth it.

artmika said...

See also + comments section for further updates. There has been more developments since re possible Armavia operated Yerevan-London direct flight via Heathrow. I will update as soon as learn more details.