bmibaby adds more sunshine and ski routes; 40% of capacity on UK domestic routes

Image: Millionth Customer
bmibaby this month celebrated the millionth passenger from Belfast. The airline currently operates seven daily flights to four UK destinations.

To the casual observer the decision by bmi British Midland to create its own in-house low-cost carrier was a clear response to Go’s announcement in late 2001 that it intended to make East Midlands (EMA) its third UK base (after London Stansted and Bristol). As the timeline below shows bmi was so keen to try and dissuade Go (at that point no longer owned by British Airways) from entering its ancestral home market that it even announced plans for the rival airline a whole week before coming up with a name.

In the end Go beat bmibaby into the air at East Midlands by just six days, but seven years later bmibaby is still going (though what its new owners Lufthansa might want to do with it is unclear) while Go’s network was absorbed in its takeover by easyJet in 2002, and this summer will comprise just 10 destinations.

Date go ‘event’ bmibaby ‘event’
13 Dec 01 Announce EMA as new base
11 Jan 02 bmi announce LCC from EMA
18 Jan 02 bmi reveal name of LCC to be bmibaby
22 Jan 02 Six routes from EMA go on sale
23 Jan 02 bmibaby reveals logo and first seven destinations
28 Jan 02 bmibaby puts routes on sale
30 Jan 02 bmibaby announces Prague as eighth route
14 Mar 02 First EMA flights to ALC and AGP
15 Mar 02 First EMA flight to EDI
20 Mar 02 First bmibaby flight from EMA to AGP
Image: BMI at Toutlouse
bmibaby launched Manchester-Toulouse services last month. It expects to carry 26,000 passengers on the route, which it operates three times per week, over the peak summer period.

Between 2003 and 2007 bmibaby’s traffic grew by over 50% from 2.7 million annual passengers to 4.3 million as the fleet grew to 20 737s (15 -300s and five -500s). Last year traffic fell by 10% as the airline trimmed capacity to meet falling demand, but was able to keep its flown load factor at around 74% for the third straight year. In terms of passengers bmibaby accounted for around 43% of all passengers on bmi services last year (including bmi mainline and bmi regional).

Five bases tried; Manchester now has most routes

Since its inception bmibaby has opened five bases of which one (Durham Tees Valley) has since closed. The remaining four bases at East Midlands, Cardiff, Manchester and Birmingham have all seen the number of routes operated yo-yo up and down over time.

Chart: route network
Source: research

Until this summer Birmingham had been the top base for several seasons in terms of destinations served but several routes have been axed at the airport during the last few months (including Bordeaux, Krakow, Lisbon, Madrid, Milan, Rome and Warsaw) and this summer Manchester leads the way with 15 routes. Although Manchester has the most routes East Midlands and Birmingham are both bigger bases in terms of weekly departures this summer.

Chart: Top 12
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 6 July 2009

In total this summer the airline will serve 27 airports across Europe with Lisbon (two weekly flights), Toulouse (three) and Almeria (three) the airports with the least weekly flights. The airline does not currently serve any destinations in Germany, Italy or Scandinavia though routes to Milan, Munich and Rome have been operated in the past.

Domestic focus reduces impact of seasonality

With quite a substantial domestic network accounting for 40% of the airline’s peak summer capacity it is no surprise that after the four bases the next busiest airports are also in the UK, namely Belfast and Edinburgh. The airline’s busiest non-UK destinations are Amsterdam, Malaga, Palma and Alicante. This focus on domestic routes enables the airline to suffer less seasonality issues than other UK-based LCCs such as or Monarch. To help with winter demand bmibaby will start new ‘ski’ routes to Grenoble from each of its four bases in mid-December.

Chart; SEasonlity
Source: UK CAA

During 2008 the airline started several new routes, most of which have since been abandoned. These include East Midlands to Gdansk and Warsaw, Cardiff to Gdansk and Warsaw, Manchester to Madrid, and Birmingham to Krakow, Milan Bergamo and Warsaw. This summer’s raft of new routes appears to have abandoned Poland and focused on the tried-and-tested Mediterranean ‘summer-sun’ market with new routes to Almeria (from East Midlands), Mahon/Minorca (from Cardiff and East Midlands), plus Manchester to Toulouse (thrice-weekly) and Manchester to Amsterdam (double-daily).

Both of these Manchester routes have previously been operated by If Lufthansa wanted to find a buyer for bmibaby one interesting scenario might be a sale to Both airlines are strong outside of London and the combined fleet would consist of some 50 Boeings (737s and 757s) with an annual passenger volume of some seven million passengers. There is little network overlap and it might generate considerable economies of scale. Just an idea…


  1. FK says:

    A well-developed summary of the EMA startup for both GO and WW. Particularly appropriate on what would’ve been Go’s 11th birthday today!

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