"Could be a potential fit" - Rutter
Flybe has approached Lufthansa about buying parts of bmi, Mike Rutter, its chief commercial officer, confirmed today (September 29).
Mr Rutter told ABTN at the World Low Cost Airlines Congress in Barcelona, that Flybe was an "acquisitive airline" and parts of bmi could be a "potential fit".
He said the parts of bmi, now 80% owned by Lufthansa, in which Flybe, the UK's biggest domestic carrier, was interested were its regional operations and domestic operations out of Heathrow.
Bmi, which its former chairman Sir Michael Bishop sold to the German carrier this year for a total of £223m, owns 12% of the slots at Heathrow.
Mr Rutter said the approach to Lufthansa was not connected to a similar inquiry by BA.
He said Flybe, which bought the BA Connect domestic services from the national carrier, said the two airlines were "strictly separate".
He said it was up to Lufthansa what it did with bmi, either develop it or sell it but he thought it would be some time before a decision was made.
After Lufthansa acquired bmi from Sir Michael, it opened the airline's books to any carrier interested in buying it.
This has included BA which owns 40% of the slots at Heathrow.
Willie Walsh, BA's ceo, told investors in New York in May the slots at the UK airport were too tempting to ignore despite BA's currently weak financial position.
"In the current environment, it is difficult to argue we should go out and acquire those slots," the Financial Times reported.
"Having said that, it may be the only opportunity we ever get."
Virgin Atlantic, which has 3% of the Heathrow slots, has also expressed an interest in buying bmi in the past.
Steve Ridgway, Virgin Atlantic's ceo, said last October that a tie up with bmi would be a "very compelling opportunity" to make his airline a stronger competitor to BA at Heathrow.
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