Stansted/ Norwich: Future of bmi subsidiaries still in doubt as IAG confirms up to 1,200 jobs losses

THE �172.5million takeover of bmi by the parent group of British Airways is set to lead to up to 1,200 job losses, the airline announced today, but the future of two bmi subsidiaries operating in the East of England remained unclear.

BA opened consultations with unions on proposals to integrate the main bmi business into its operations at Heathrow Airport after the acquisition was given regulatory approval by the European Commission last month.

Positions facing the axe are at bmi’s head office at Castle Donington in Derbyshire and at regional airports, although BA said that, without the acquisition, all 2,700 jobs at bmi, which is losing �3million a week, could have been lost.

The jobs of 1,100 cabin crew, pilots and engineers at Heathrow and up to 400 passenger service roles at Heathrow’s Terminal One have been secured.

But unions expressed dismay at the scale of the job cuts, saying they would try to mitigate the losses.

Under the takeover by BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), which also includes Spanish carrier Iberia, IAG agreed to give up a number of bmi’s take-off and landing slots at Heathrow, including routes to Nice, Cairo, Moscow and Edinburgh.

IAG’s acquisition of bmi from German carrier Lufthansa has been bitterly opposed by Sir Richard Branson’s airline, Virgin Atlantic, which complained that the deal would give BA an over-strong presence at Heathrow.

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BA said today it would be working on potential job opportunities with industry partners in the Midlands, such as Rolls-Royce, and would look to create jobs at its engineering facility in Glasgow from January 2014 when the contract for bmi aircraft heavy maintenance work outside the UK expires.

BA chief executive Keith Williams said: “Bmi is heavily loss- making and is not a viable business as it stands today. Our proposals would secure around 1,500 jobs that would otherwise have been lost.

“As we look to restructure the business and restore profitability, job losses are deeply regrettable but inevitable. We will work with the unions to explore as many options as possible and are already working with industry partners.

“This deal is good news for our customers and will offer new destinations, new routes and new schedules in due course. For customers with bmi bookings to or from Heathrow this summer, it is business as usual and customers can continue to book with confidence.”

The future of BMI’s regional division, which includes flights between Norwich and Aberdeen, and its low-cost arm Bmibaby, which includes services between Stansted and Belfast, remains uncertain.

Lufthansa has an option to sell the businesses separatel before completion of the deal with IAG, and discussions with potential buyers for bmibaby and bmi Regional are continuing.

Unite national officer Oliver Richardson said: “Bmi’s future has been secured but we are very saddened at the scale of the job losses being proposed.

“Unite will be fighting to maintain as many jobs as possible and ensure that, where vacancies exist, people can be placed into suitable roles within BA.”

Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the pilots’ union Balpa, said: “Our hearts go out to the large number of bmi HQ-based staff who appear to have borne the brunt of today’s announcement, but each job loss is a personal tragedy.

“We will be pressing for maximum redeployment opportunities for all bmi pilots, including bmi mainline, bmibaby and bmi Regional, inside BA.”

GMB official Gary Pearce said: “While this is disappointing news, it is not entirely unexpected. GMB will be working with BA to minimise the job losses and to make a success of the merger.”

Excluding its regional services and budget arm bmibaby, bmi carried three million passengers in 2011. It flew to 34 destinations in 25 countries and had 27 aircraft, employing (before today’s job announcement) 2,700 staff.

BA carried 32 million passengers last year and flies to 151 destinations in more than 70 countries. It has 239 aircraft and employs around 37,000 people.

On gaining EC approval for the deal, IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said it was “great news for Britain” and also for British business and British consumers.

On Wednesday this week, BA announced yesterday that hundreds of its workers at Gatwick Airport are set to lose their jobs or be transferred to another company under cost-saving plans.

The carrier said 400 ramp workers, including baggage handlers, will see their jobs outsourced, while 170 customer service staff and management support employees will be laid off under the proposals.