Glasgow-Heathrow route in doubt

British Midland International
(BMI) has announced that its five-time daily route between Glasgow Airport and Heathrow, London, could face the chop, prompting fears about the future of Scottish industry. The airline, which is based at Castle Donnington, says that rising passenger fees at Heathrow, equating to a £7 increase over last year, are partly responsible for the bleak forecast.

Whilst BMI has not said when the route will be axed, an educated guess would be late March or early April, when Heathrow introduces the £7 hike in the domestic passenger charge. The price increase, announced in December, was previously described by the airline as “unreasonably discriminating” against travellers, and an “outrage.” BMI intimated that Heathrow was placing high charges on domestic flights to pander to long-haul carriers, such as Emirates and British Airways (BA).

However, even if passenger fees were kept at their current rate of £13.43 after April 1, BMI would still lose upwards of £1m a month on its Glasgow-Heathrow flights. The airline referred to the route as “weaker,” but withheld any information that might explain why the connection was failing. Competition from BA is a likely culprit, as the two airlines operate the same route from Glasgow.

Stuart Patrick, of the Glasgow Chambers of Commerce, said that Heathrow’s links to international airports are the route’s main attraction, and the removal of the connection would leave Scots with “no choice” regarding their choice of airline. Stuart Patrick also noted that Heathrow’s capacity problems meant that there would be no free aircraft slots available for another airline to pick up the route. BA would be effectively invulnerable from competition at Glasgow.

Despite the doom and gloom, BMI says that “no decision” regarding underperforming routes has yet been made. Scottish transport minister, Keith Brown, is hoping to capitalise on BMI’s hesitation by asking Westminster to help support the airline, or take steps to ensure that Glasgow does not become isolated from the UK’s busiest airport.

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