bmi, the UK”s second largest airline, today launched a daily service between the major airports of London and Moscow, Heathrow and Domodedovo. The operation is a partnership with Transaero who also have a daily service transferring its eight year Gatwick operation. Both airlines are privately owned. Transaero is Russia”s second largest international carrier and whilst using Boeing 737s on this route also operates six former Virgin Atlantic Rolls-Royce powered Boeing 747 ” 200s.
Asked by ABTN whether persistent rumours that bmi was in negotiations for a sale to Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic, bmi CEO Nigel Turner denied it. ”bmi is not for sale,” he said, which also removes stories that minority shareholder, and Star Alliance partner, Lufthansa, might bid for a majority interest.
He said that the airline had suffered from the 10 August effect ”to the extent of five to six million pounds,” and that it did have a knock on effect for September and October. ”Things have now returned to normal”. Profits for the year looked like being flat with a slight increase in passenger numbers.
For the future Mr Turner commented that were no immediate plans for the Airbus A330 whose engineering problems have caused the withdrawal of the Heathrow ” Mumbai route. Tim Bye, deputy ceo said that until it was clear when the aircraft was cleared for service it was not possible to define the future. ”No other suitable aircraft are available,” he said. ”We had the highest load factor on the route, 73%, but with three other competitors it is highly competitive. We are waiting to hear from Airbus engineering. There has been a delay of a month.”
The new Moscow route marks the first stage in bmi”s plans to develop medium haul destinations. Cairo is a focus, as well as St Petersburg and two other Russian cities. With the Airbus A320 the airline has upgraded business class and now claims to have the best cabin service in the market between the UK and Russia, with proper two plus two seating, a 41 inch seat pitch, inflight entertainment and superior catering. BA has the normal European product, 34 inch and convertible seats, whilst Aeroflot has 38 inch. This will be the future medium haul standard with a light meal served in economy, soft drinks and a pay bar.