Bmi’s decision to pull off the Glasgow route from March 27 will impact on Glaswegians seeking to make international connections at Heathrow.
It is a particular problem when passengers interline with Star Alliance carriers ANA, SIA and United. That is because they use fellow member Bmi for the domestic link in and out of Heathrow.
With Bmi soon to be out of the running, these Star carriers have either turned to British Airways to carry Glaswegians to Heathrow or have solved the matter by rerouting them.
US airline United, for example, will now route its Glasgow-Chicago passengers via New York (using Continental for the transatlantic leg) while ANA will instead scrap its domestic feeder from Glasgow and direct passengers to the alternative Bmi service out of Edinburgh.
What it means is that economy class fares from Glasgow will rise. Why? Because Bmi provides preferential fares to fellow Star members to allow passengers to make regional connections. The actual rates can be very low and probably explains why Bmi claims to be losing £1 million on month on the Glasgow-London route.
BA is unlikely to offer such low fares to rival airlines.
Three examples of the economy class changes:
- SIA to Singapore. In March if you take SIA out of London you pay £607 while, connecting from Glasgow with Bmi will cost £735. But in April, SIA will charge £615 out of London whereas the price from Glasgow (now using BA to make the connection) rises to £781. In other words, the ticket from Glasgow increases in price by £46 now that BA is providing the Heathrow link.
- United to Chicago. Travel in March and a ticket from London will cost £395 as against £515 from Glasgow using Bmi. But in April, United will charge £402 from London but out of Glasgow the price leaps to £780. Why? Because instead of routing passengers via Heathrow with BA it has decided to route them with fellow carrier Continental via New York.
- ANA to Tokyo. During March ANA charges £696 from London and £882 from Glasgow. From April the London price moves to £854 but ANA will no longer offer a transfer option from Glasgow. Passengers are directed to Edinburgh instead from where their Tokyo ticket will cost £879 which is just £25 higher than the London price and actually £3 cheaper than what they would have paid in March out of Glasgow.
And that is not the end of the story because when Glaswegians opt for BA they will now arrive into T5 (as against T1 if using Bmi). So they must allow longer to change planes because Star carriers use either T1 or T3 in Heathrow’s central area which is some distance away from T5.
A spokesperson for United admitted that its fares beyond New York might increase in the short term. But the feeling was that prices would fall more in line as the marketplace settles down in the coming months.
In the meantime the solution for budget-minded passengers based in the Glasgow region may be to use Oneworld carriers via Heathrow or fly out of Edinburgh instead.
Report by Alex McWhirter