A major technical problem with one of its long distance planes has forced Bmi to indefinitely suspend its London Heathrow to Mumbai service.
The popular route was launched only last year in a blaze of publicity. Bmi was one of the first carriers to take advantage of the newly liberalised UK-India aviation treaty which has seen traffic grow by leaps and bounds.
The plane being grounded is a wide-bodied Airbus A330 which has a landing gear fault. Bmi has a fleet of three A330s but because the other two are fully committed on other routes the carrier has no spare capacity.
Bmi suspended the Mumbai route earlier this month and is not expected to restart until at least mid-December. “We’re still waiting for a full assessment [of the technical problem] from Airbus,” says a spokesperson, “and rather than cancel it on a week-by-week basis we’ve taken the step to suspend the service indefinitely.”
Adds Nigel Turner, Bmi’s CEO, “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 aircraft.”
“The marketplace is intensely competitive and we have serious concerns about a prolonged period of over three months’ absence.”
“We remain committed to our long-haul network so 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.”
The suspension has come at a difficult time. Travel to India traditionally picks up at this time of year following the ending of the monsoon season. Bmi says it is rebooking affected passengers with other non-stop carriers like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic where possible. The other two non-stop carriers are Air India and Jet Airways but there are indirect options with carriers like Lufthansa and Emirates.
When asked whether Bmi might decide not to restart its London-Mumbai service, a spokesperson replied, “That’s not an impossibility. It all depends on what happens to the aircraft.”
For more information go to flybmi.com.
Report by Alex McWhirter