Sir Richard Branson complains about the “Big Three” US airlines and the competitive activity by United against Virgin America. This is the same Richard Branson that owns 51% of Virgin Atlantic, with the remaining 49% owned by its forthcoming joint-venture partner Delta.
It’s approaching one year since the parent company of British Airways, International Airlines Group, officially completed its purchase of bmi from Lufthansa. bmi’s former Heathrow operation has been fully integrated into BA for nearly six months. Of the two other airlines acquired from Lufthansa, bmibaby has been shut down and bmi regional has been sold to Sector Aviation Holdings.
The merger represented a significant milestone in BA’s history and a once in a lifetime chance to grow at a capacity constrained London Heathrow, so it’s worth looking at what has happened to former bmi routes and the current state of play at Heathrow.
1. London Heathrow Route Cancellations
Unsurprisingly, given the very poor revenue performance of bmi a very large number of former bmi routes (which in turn used to operate under a BA franchise, BMED, before being bought by bmi) have been cancelled by BA. Here are the routes, in order of date of cancellation:
Damascus (29 May 2012)
Addis Ababa (10 June 2012)
Dammam (16 September 2012)
Bishkek, Khartoum (1 October 2012)
Tehran (12 October 2012)
Yerevan (13 October 2012)
Amritsar, Casablanca, Marrakech (28 October 2012)
Tbilisi (31 March 2013)
2. bmi’s additions to the BA route network
These former bmi routes are now a permanent part of the BA route network: Agadir, Almaty, Amman, Baku, Belfast, Beirut, Bergen, Dublin, Freetown, Hanover, and Stavenger.
With the exception of Agadir, Bergen, Stavenger and Freetown, these routes operate from Heathrow Terminal 1.
Since the merger BA has also increased flights to Amman and Beirut from 7 to 10 weekly and Bergen and Stavenger has been increased to twice daily.
3. New BA routes from London Heathrow
At the time IAG purchased bmi, much was made of the fact that BA would use the slots to expand its route network from Heathrow, particularly to Asia. So far this has only been partly realised, as most new routes are short-haul routes. A key reason behind this is that BA is awaiting delivery of the 787 and this is also initially intended to replace Boeing 767 long haul routes to the East Coast of the USA. However, BA has used the additional slots to operate these new routes from Heathrow:
Marseille from Terminal 1 from 28 October 2012 (this is a transfer from London Gatwick).
Leeds-Bradford from Terminal 5, and Rotterdam and Zagreb from Terminal 1, from 9 December 2012.
Monrovia via Freetown from Terminal 5 from 6 November 2012.
Six flights a week to Seoul from Terminal 5 from 5 December 2012.
Three flights a week to Chengdu from Terminal 5 from 22 September 2013.
Seasonal weekend summer flights from Terminal 5 to Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca.
4. BA reverts to a three terminal operation at London Heathrow
One consequence of the merger is that BA has reverted to a three terminal operation at London Heathrow with its operation split across Terminals 1, 3 and 5 with most of the former bmi mid-haul routes and BA routes to Cairo and Tel Aviv departing from Terminal 1.
Whilst BA showed an interest in moving part of its operation to the new Terminal 2 which is due to open in 2014, it seems that this will not be happening and when Terminal 1 closes following the opening of Terminal 2, BA will consolidate its operation in Terminals 3 and 5.
As expected, following Delta’s acquisition of a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic from Singapore Airlines, Delta and Virgin Atlantic have applied for anti-trust immunity for transatlantic flights from London Heathrow.
Delta will continue to operate a joint-venture with Air France-KLM for transatlantic flights to points beyond London Heathrow.
British Airways has this evening confirmed that it has converted 18 of its 28 options for Boeing 787 aircraft into firm orders for delivery between 2017 and 2021.
The airline currently has 24 Boeing 787 aircraft on order for delivery from this year and this takes the total number of 787s to be delivered to BA to 42, meaning that the 787 will represent a substantial part of BA’s long-haul fleet. This is a clear vote of confidence by BA in the 787.
There probably isn’t an airline route in the world where travellers have more choice of airlines routings than London to Australia. As non-stop routes between London and Australia remain a technical impossibility and fuel prices mean that is likely to remain the case, a stop en route has always been required.