BMI’s new bosses urged to maintain Capital’s air links

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AIRLINE bosses were today urged to give a guarantee that British Airways’ deal to take over rival BMI will not lead to a poorer service for passengers using Edinburgh Airport.

The SNP highlighted research that showed BA has a worse punctuality record on its services between Scotland and Heathrow than BMI on the same routes.

The International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns British Airways, announced just before Christmas that it had reached an agreement to buy BMI from German airline Lufthansa for £172.5 million. It followed a prolonged tussle between IAG and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic over who could acquire BMI.

But the deal sparked concerns about a BA monopoly on Edinburgh-Heathrow flights, and the possibility of the number of flights being cut, with the airline opting to switch some of its newly-acquired Heathrow slots for more lucrative long-haul routes.

Now the SNP has also voiced fears about the future reliability of the service, pointing out that in 2010 BA’s percentage of flights on time between Edinburgh and Heathrow was lower than BMI’s and average delays were longer.

SNP MSP Colin Keir, whose constituency of Edinburgh Western includes Edinburgh Airport, said: “BA’s record lags behind a much more punctual BMI. I urge BA to ensure passengers are not left with a poorer service.”

He said air links to Heathrow were vital for the economy and assurances were needed that further domestic slots would not be withdrawn.

Although the sale of BMI has been agreed, the deal has yet to be approved by European Union regulators.

Edinburgh South West Labour MP Alistair Darling warned in November that, if the deal went ahead, it would be a return to the 1970s when only BA provided a service from Edinburgh to Heathrow.

Business leaders have also signalled the importance of guaranteeing London air links.

Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive Liz Cameron said: “IAG have committed to ‘maintain a comprehensive domestic schedule’ and this is welcome.

“IAG must continue to assure businesses of their commitment to maintaining or improving connectivity to and from Scotland.”

An IAG spokeswoman said: “BA is already the largest operator between Scotland and Heathrow and this deal would enable us to safeguard these links.”

BA pointed out the figures showed BMI had cancelled more flights and said BA’s punctuality had recently improved.