Bmi Regional launches partnership with Sixt

Sixt BMI

Bmi Regional has partnered with car hire company Sixt.

The joint venture will give Bmi Regional passengers access to special rates and offers on high-end brands such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes- Benz at the airline’s 32 destinations. Hotel reservations can also now be made on Bmi’s website through a portal that leads onto booking.com.

Commenting on the partnership, chief commercial officer at Bmi Regional Jochen Schnadt said:

“With car hire it means passengers can now enjoy a door to door high quality experience with bmi regional, all booked via our website bmiregional.com.  Sixt is a high end, quality and service oriented product, specialising in the rental of a wide range of top makes including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Maserati and Volvo and Volkswagen to name just a few. 

Like Bmi Regional, Sixt is also an independent company (Sixt is family managed, and bmi privately owned) meaning both businesses can be nimble and innovative in meeting our combined clients’ needs.”

Sixt’s senior executive vice president of international marketing, Regine Sixt, said:

“We’re delighted to welcome Bmi Regional as a partner of Sixt.  It allows us to offer passengers exclusive rates on a wide range of vehicles and very soon on all mobility products like car sharing from DriveNow and MyDriver and the affordable Chauffer Service.”

bmiregional.com

Little Red’s transfer traffic disappoints

The idea behind Little Red was to feed domestic passengers to and from Virgin Atlantic long-haul services at London Heathrow.

Since the demise of Bmi (a key domestic feeder airline) Virgin Atlantic has been reluctant to rely on rival British Airways to provide it with transfer passengers hence its Little Red offshoot.

But a report in The Scotsman suggests that Little Red has not succeeded as well as might be expected.

Only 27 per cent of Little Red passengers have been making connections at Heathrow.

With the exception of Manchester, the majority of passengers flying the two Scottish routes (namely Aberdeen and Edinburgh to London) have been heading just to the capital.

A spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic told The Scotsman that it “was carrying a lot of connecting leisure passengers from Manchester while travellers from Aberdeen and Edinburgh were tending to end their journeys in London.”

But the spokeswoman claimed that, “It takes time for an airline to get going – after six weeks it’s still in its infancy and we’re seeing some healthy loads, especially from Edinburgh.”

Nevertheless Little Red had months to promote its Scottish routes and in its first month of service it was offering free connecting flights to London provided passengers flew onwards with Virgin Atlantic. So one would have thought Little Red would have turned in a better performance.

As for Little Red’s purely domestic operation, it is no surprise that Edinburgh is doing well in terms of passenger numbers. Little Red’s pricing is keen. At certain times of the day one might end up paying LCC (low-cost carrier) prices.

See ‘Platform’ in the June issue of Business Traveller for an air-rail comparison featuring Little Red and East Coast.

For more information visit virgin-atlantic.com

Report by Alex McWhirter

Bmi’s Diamond Club to wind down from October 27

Bmi’s Diamond Club loyalty scheme will effectively close at the end of October, following the integration of the carrier into BA’s Heathrow operations.

From October 27, members will no longer be able to earn or spend destination miles on Bmi or partner airline flights, nor will they earn miles with partners including hotels, BAA Worldpoints, etc.

Buying destination miles will also no longer be possible, nor will upgrading using miles, and members will no longer earn status miles on flights.

In fact the only Diamond Club benefits that will remain, for now at least, are access to BA’s Heathrow T5 lounges for existing elite tier members who haven’t already opted to status match with BA’s Executive Club, and the ability to earn miles through the Bmi credit card, for transferral into Avios (click here for more information).

From October 28 members will need to visit diamondclub.org to check their balances. All non-UK members will need to transfer their Diamond Club miles into Avios by December 31, at which point their accounts will close and what’s left of the scheme will become UK-only.

The exception is for members living in Australia and New Zealand, who will see their accounts “frozen”. Bmi says it is “currently reviewing options” for customers in those countries.

The October 28 date is significant as it signals the start of airlines’ winter schedules, and it is also when the newly-independent Bmi Regional is due to officially launch (see online news September 18).

For more information visit flybmi.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Virgin to appeal IAG’s purchase of Bmi

Virgin Atlantic says it will appeal against the European Commission’s decision to approve IAG’s purchase of Bmi from Lufthansa.

The Commission gave its approval for the deal last month (see online news March 30), in what Virgin called a “lightning speed decision”.

Sir Richard Branson said Virgin would “challenge every aspect of this process which if allowed to stand, will undoubtedly damage the British airline industry for years to come”, adding that the Commission had “seemingly ignored all of the strong cases made by politicians, business groups and airlines, to enable one big company to become even more bloated”.

Virgin confirmed it will bid to operate all of the 12 “remedy slots” given up by British Airways at Heathrow as part of IAG’s purchase, but said that “they alone are completely inadequate to address the damage which is being done by the deal”.

Branson also called for the remedy slots not to be broken up between more than one airline, warning that “You cannot provide serious competition in a piecemeal way and we believe it is crucial to use the slots together to create some sort of critical mass with a strong message to the consumer”.

At the time of the Commission’s approval, IAG said it expected the deal to completed around April 20.

Since then BA has started to sell flights for several Bmi destinations on its website (see online news April 4), and last week Bmi announced that Diamond Club members would no longer be able to earn or redeem miles on Lufthansa Group Airlines from April 19.

For more information visit virginatlantic.com, iairgroup.com, ba.com, flybmi.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

BA’s takeover of Bmi to result in “up to 1,200 redundancies”

British Airways has opened a consultation with unions for full integration of the airline into BA’s operations at Heathrow, admitting that the deal could result in up to 1,200 job losses.

The carrier says that Bmi is losing £3 million per week, and says that without its acquisition of Bmi, which was given approval by the European Commission last month, the airline was “facing closure with the potential loss of all 2,700 UK based jobs”.

BA says its consultation proposes “the full integration of Bmi mainline into British Airways securing approximately 1,500 jobs”, but warns that it could result in up to 1,200 redundancies.

Around 1,100 Bmi cabin crew, pilots and engineers would be transferred to British Airways, and up to 400 passenger service jobs would be secured at Heathrow T1. The majority of redundancies would come from roles based at Bmi’s head office at Castle Donnington, and at regional airports.

BA said the consultation “will seek to reduce the number and mitigate the impact of the proposed redundancies, including the potential to offer vacancies within British Airways at Heathrow”, and added that it was looking at “potential job opportunities with industry partners in the Midlands, such as Rolls-Royce”, as well as potential jobs at its engineering facility in Glasgow from January 2014.

CEO Keith Williams said that “job losses are deeply regrettable but inevitable”, adding that “This deal is good news for our customers and will offer new destinations, new routes and new schedules in due course”.

The European Commission approved BA’s purchase of Bmi in late March, subject to several conditions including the relinquishing of 14 pairs of slots at Heathrow (see online news March 30). The deal is expected to be completed by April 20.

For more information visit ba.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

IAG reaches “agreement in principle” to buy Bmi

The holding company for merged airlines British Airways and Iberia has reached an agreement in principle with Lufthansa for the sale of loss-making carrier Bmi.

In a statement IAG said that “The sale and closing of the deal remain subject to conditions including a binding purchase agreement, further due diligence and regulatory clearances”, and added that it “envisaged that the purchase agreement will be signed in the coming weeks and the aim is for the transaction to be completed in the first quarter of 2012”.

However Virgin Atlantic has also released a statement saying that it too has made a bid for Bmi, and says that it is “working with Lufthansa on the next stage of the purchase”.

The carrier said it “remains committed to the acquisition of BMI and believe that our offer will lead to the best outcome for the millions of consumers that fly in and out of Heathrow every year”.

Virgin also claimed that “British Airways’ hold over Heathrow is already too dominant  and we are very concerned – as the competition authorities should also be – that BA’s purchase of BMI would be disastrous for consumer choice and competition”.

Today’s news follows last week’s announcement that Bmi is in “advanced discussion” to sell its Aberdeen-based subsidiary Bmi Regional to a UK-based investor (see online news October 28).

For more information visit iairgroup.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Bmi “outraged” by new BAA charges

Bmi says it will fight proposals by airport operator BAA to increase domestic departure charges at London Heathrow by 50 per cent from next April.

The carrier says that the hike in charges for domestic passengers departing from the London hub will see the rate rise from £13.43 to £20.25, an increase of over 50 per cent.

The new fees comes into effect on April 1, 2011, and follow the controversial increase in APD charges at the start of this month (see In Focus in this month’s edition of Business Traveller for more details).

In a statement Bmi’s CEO Wolfgang Prock-Schauer said:

“We are outraged at this BAA plan to increase prices. These planned higher charges are unjustifiable when domestic passengers do not use the same facilities as international passengers. The charging structure from Heathrow is therefore favouring longhaul airlines and neglects the need of local British airlines serving the domestic markets.

“The new charges will not only lead to higher prices for domestic flights but also price travellers onto other forms of transport which, on some routes such as Heathrow- Belfast, is simply not feasible. Comments made by political decision-makers that domestic passengers should use trains can only be labelled as cynical taking into account the over-water journey to and from Belfast and the length of train journeys to and from Scotland.”

Prock-Schauer labelled the increase “totally unacceptable”, and said he was “deeply concerned that these higher charges will be a major blow to the economies of Scotland and Northern Ireland who heavily depend on air connectivity to and from Heathrow”.

In response to the comments by Bmis, a spokesperson for BAA said:

“We welcome BMI’s comments on the British economy and have explained that the way we charge airlines has to reflect our costs. Domestic passengers benefit from Heathrow’s facilities and services with common departure lounges, security and access to and from the airport. There is no material difference in the costs of handling domestic and European passengers and we are reflecting this in our new structure which is charged to airlines, not passengers.”

For more information visit flybmi.com, baa.com.

Report by Mark Caswell