Bishop pawns bmi to make Lufthansa queen of Heathrow

Image: Lufthansa at Heathrow
Lufthansa will soon have effective control of Heathrow’s second largest carrier, following Sir Michael Bishop’s recent decision to allow the airline to acquire his 50% share of bmi. According to OAG schedule data, bmi’s share of total aircraft movements at Heathrow last summer was just under 12% spread across 31 non-stop destinations

Sir Michael Bishop’s recent decision to allow Lufthansa to acquire his 50% share of bmi (still better known to industry people as British Midland) means that Lufthansa will soon have effective control of Heathrow’s second largest carrier. According to OAG schedule data, bmi’s share of total aircraft movements at Heathrow last summer was just under 12% spread across 31 non-stop destinations, comprising eight domestic and 23 international routes. British Airways (BA) had around 41% of flights. Oneworld partner airlines, led by BA, account for about 50% of traffic. Star Alliance carriers are responsible for over 25% of traffic.

Chart: top airlines at Heathrow
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 August 2008

Six of bmi’s routes (to Amsterdam, Belfast City, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester) account for over half of the airline’s movements and capacity at Heathrow. This winter bmi is flying non-stop to 27 destinations from Heathrow with routes to Ankara, Ekaterinburg, Naples and Tbilisi apparently suspended until next summer, though Tbilisi is still being served via Yerevan this winter.

BMED acquisition adds spice to route network

Many of the carrier’s more exotic international destinations (such as Almaty, Baku, Tehran and Yerevan) were inherited when the airline completed its takeover of British Airways franchise carrier BMED during 2007. Bmi’s non-stop network from LHR can be summarised by geographic region.

Region Destination (weekly departures)
Domestic Aberdeen (38), Belfast City (54), Durham Tees Valley (20), Edinburgh (56), Glasgow (52), Jersey (14), Leeds/Bradford (26), Manchester (58)
Mainland Europe Amsterdam (47), Brussels (41), Dublin (47), Hannover (19), Palma (5), Venice (7)
Other Almaty (3), Amman (7), Baku (7), Beirut (7), Cairo (7), Damascus (7), Freetown (4), Jeddah (3), Moscow DME (14), Riyadh (3), Tehran (7), Tel Aviv (7), Yerevan (4)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 3 November 2008

In addition six other destinations are served via an intermediate stop; Addis Ababa (via Damascus), Bishkek (via Almaty), Aleppo (also via Damascus), Khartoum (via Beirut), Dammam (via Riyadh) and Tbilisi (via Yerevan).

According to UK CAA data the bmi group (which consists of bmi, bmi regional and bmibaby) carried 9.854 million passengers in 2007 at an average load factor of 68.7%. This was virtually unchanged from the previous year. BMED carried around 340,000 passengers in 2007 at an average load factor of just 56%. In the second quarter of 2008 bmi’s fleet consisted of 33 Airbus aircraft (11 A319, 11 A320, eight A321 and three A330s), 19 737s operated by low-cost subsidiary bmibaby and 17 small Embraer jets operated by bmi regional. Average aircraft utilisation was 9.7 hours.

bmibaby and bmi regional carry more than 50% of bmi’s passengers

Out of the almost 10 million passengers carried by bmi last year well over half were flown on the airline’s low-cost and regional subsidiaries. Low-cost bmibaby does not operate from Heathrow but does have bases at Birmingham, Cardiff, East Midlands and Manchester and this winter (OAG data for w/c 3 November 2008) will operate 42 routes; 12 from Birmingham, 10 from Cardiff and East Midlands, nine from Manchester and a twice-weekly service between Glasgow and Knock.

Aircraft type (airline) Fleet size 2007 Pax carried* Load factor
Airbus (bmi) 26 4,598,323 66.7%
Boeing 737s (bmibaby) 20 4,279,636 74.7%
Embraer (bmi regional) 16 649,437 59.8%
Total 62 9,527,396 69.2%
Source: Derived from UK CAA Aircraft Utilization Data for 2007
* Passenger figures here relate only to those flown by bmi on its own aircraft.

bmi regional operates four routes from Heathrow (to Durham Tees Valley, Hannover, Jersey and Leeds/Bradford) which represents around one quarter of the airline’s capacity. In total bmi regional is operating 21 routes this winter, 11 of which are international. Brussels and Copenhagen are both served from three UK regional airports while there are also connections between East Midlands and Cologne/Bonn (started in February 2008 when easyJet pulled off the route), Aberdeen and Groningen, Manchester and Lyon (started May 2007), Edinburgh and Zurich, and the previously mentioned Heathrow to Hannover service.

What will Lufthansa do with the baby?

Whether Lufthansa actually wants anything from its bmi ownership other than the Heathrow slots remains to be seen. It is possible that it will put bmibaby and bmi regional up for sale which could be of interest to the likes of Flybe which has already successfully absorbed BA’s unwanted UK regional network. bmibaby may be of interest to easyJet which has already swallowed up Go and GB Airways but is losing ground in the Midlands to Ryanair’s rapid expansion at both Birmingham and East Midlands. Either way, anna.aero will be there to report on developments.


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