Budget airline bmibaby is due to be grounded later this year, which means flights and hundreds of jobs are risk of being lost. This follows the carrier being taken over by International Airlines Group (IAG) last month, when it also acquired bmi Regional, in a transaction with German carrier Lufthansa. Now the airline group, which is the holding company for British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia, is holding consultations with unions about closing bmibaby in September.
IAG has continuously said that bmi Regional and bmibaby aren’t part of its long-term plans. It says progress has been made in finding a potential buyer for bmi Regional. However, they haven’t had the same luck for bmibaby, even though both Lufthansa and IAG made attempts to find a buyer for several months. Therefore, bmibaby has started a consultation to review future option. Subject to the consultation, one of the options proposed is closing the carrier this September.
In addition to the changes, bmibaby services to and from Belfast will be axed from June 11. On the same day, the airline’s services from East Midlands to Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Geneva, Glasgow, Newquay, Nice and Paris, as well as Birmingham to Amsterdam and Kock, will be scrapped as well. However, the services operated by the bmi mainline to London Heathrow won’t be affected.
bmi interim managing director Peter Simpson says that they recognise these are tough times for employees at bmibaby, who have tirelessly worked during a lengthy period of uncertainty. Despite the airline having delivered high levels of customer service and operational performance, it has continue to struggle financially. It lost over £100 million over the past four years, he noted. During the consultation process, they will have to be realistic about their options. They will make reductions to the airline’s flying programme from June as a preliminary measure and to help stem losses as fast as they can. They apologise to all customers affected and will provide full refunds. They are doing all they can with other carriers to mitigate the impact of the changes.
The GMB union says this news has been devastating, particularly for the East Midlands, where hundreds of jobs are at risk of being axed. Regional organiser Colin Whyatt says the devastating news puts 800 jobs at risk, and almost half of them live in the East Midlands. Additionally, 1,200 jobs from the reorganisation of bmi will be lost. bmibaby was reorganised last year, and the union’s members hoped a buyer would come along. Two potential bidders pulled out, and these jobs will go unless a new bidder comes along in the next 90 days, he added.
Meanwhile, Flybe has decided to move into former bmibaby routes and without consulting staff on the matter. Pilots’ union Balpa has criticised the decision following the news of bmibaby’s possible closure later this year. General secretary Jim McAuslan has warned his union will do whatever it can to protect jobs. bmibaby pilots are frustrated and disappointed that they are prevented from speaking with, who appear to be, potential buyers to explore how they can contribute to developing a successful plan for the business. This frustration has turned to anger after the news from Flybe that the carrier has moved onto many bmibaby routes without any chance for staff to look at alternatives and other options. The union’s priority is to protect jobs, and they will use whatever means necessary to do so, he added.
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