Stansted: bmibaby flights to Belfast to be axed from next month

LOW fare carrier bmibaby is set to close later this year, it was confirmed today, with its Stansted-Belfast route among a number to be axed from next month.

Ownership of bmibaby, and sister company BMI Regional, transferred to International Airlines Group, the owners of British Airways, last month, when it completed the purchase of BMI from Lufthansa.

IAG had consistently said that bmibaby and BMI Regional were not part of its long-term plans and consultations have now started with unions about the closure of bmibaby closure in September.

“Progress has been made with a potential buyer for BMI Regional, but so far this has not been possible for bmibaby, despite attempts over many months by both Lufthansa and IAG,” said IAG today.

“bmibaby has therefore started consultation to look at future options including, subject to that consultation, a proposal to close in September this year.”

Peter Simpson, bmi interim managing director, said: “We recognise that these are unsettling times for bmibaby employees, who have worked tirelessly during a long period of uncertainty.

“bmibaby has delivered high levels of operational performance and customer service, but has continued to struggle financially, losing more than �100 million in the last four years. In the consultation process, we will need to be realistic about our options.

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“To help stem losses as quickly as possible and as a preliminary measure, we will be making reductions to bmibaby’s flying programme from June. We sincerely apologise to all customers affected and will be providing full refunds and doing all we can with other airlines to mitigate the impact of these changes.”

All bmibaby flights to and from Belfast will cease from June 11, although this will not affect BMI’s services to London Heathrow.

bmibaby services from East Midlands to Amsterdam, Paris, Geneva, Nice, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newquay, and from Birmingham to Knock and Amsterdam, will end on the same date.

Colin Whyatt, of the GMB union, said: “This is absolutely devastating news which puts 800 jobs at risk, almost half in the East Midlands.

“bmibaby had been reorganised last year and GMB members hoped it would be sold. Two potential bidders have pulled out and unless a new bidder comes forward in the next 90 days, these jobs will go, on top of 1,200 jobs lost from the reorganisation of BMI.”

Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the pilots’ union Balpa, said: “This is bad news for jobs. Bmibaby pilots are disappointed and frustrated that, even though there appears to be potential buyers, we are prevented from speaking with them to explore how we can contribute to developing a successful business plan.

“The frustration has now turned to anger following the news that Flybe (which is part owned by BA) has moved onto many of these bmibaby routes without any opportunity for staff to look at options and alternatives.Balpa’s priority is to protect jobs; and we will use whatever means we can to do so.”

IAG warned last month that the takeover of BMI was likely to lead to up to 1,200 job losses. Positions facing the axe are at BMI’s head office at Castle Donington in Derbyshire and at regional airports, although IAG said that, without the acquisition, all 2,700 jobs at BMI could have been lost.