bmi, the second largest operator at Heathrow after British Airways, has been forced to drop its daily service to Mumbai as serious technical problems grounded the Airbus A330 used on the route.
A routine maintenance inspection discovered a cracked wing and main landing gear problems. The aircraft had to be withdrawn from service, for what is now proving to be a difficult engineering task. The two further Airbus A330 aircraft operated by bmi were checked as soon as they were on the ground, but there was no evidence of the technical problems affecting aircraft registration G-WWBM.
The airline continues to have discussions with the manufacturer Airbus about the reasons for the technical failure, as well as the length of time to achieve its repair. bmi has been actively seeking an alternative unit as cover during the prolonged absence of the Airbus A330, which is now into the fourth week of a repair job that could extend to mid-December. However, exhaustive searches have been unable to locate a suitable aircraft that would satisfactorily meet the operational requirements of the airline.
bmi chief executive officer Nigel Turner said: "It is with great sadness and of personal disappointment to me that we have been forced to make this very difficult decision. We have tried without success to locate a suitable replacement unit, but the uncertainty of the length of time we will be without the aircraft has also not helped the situation.
"This uncertainty is also impacting upon our ability to confidently sell seats from Heathrow to Mumbai. The marketplace is intensely competitive and we have serious concerns about a prolonged period of over three months absence. A sustained absence will place us at a considerable disadvantage against the competition that we face on services to Mumbai when we are able to recommence operations.
"This is only a temporary setback to our long haul route network growth and we remain committed to the development of that part of our business. That is why we have made no reductions in operating crew levels including the 66 cabin staff positions involved in the Mumbai operation. Any job losses will be minimal and all confined to India-based positions."