By a Newsnet reporter
A planned takeover of BMI by International Airlines Group has led to a complaint to the European Commission amid claims that it could hit air links between Scotland and Heathrow.
Both Richard Branson’s company Virgin Atlantic and Colin Keir MSP have made a formal complaint to the European Commission and the UK Office of Fair Trading in a bid to have the deal blocked on grounds of competition and consumer services.
Colin Keir, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Western, cited research showing that the purchase of BMI by International Airlines Group (British Airways) would have a dire effect on air links from Scottish airports.
According to Virgin Atlantic flights will be cut and fares could rise by a third between Scotland and London.
When BMI withdrew flights from Glasgow to Heathrow in 2011, BA got a monopoly on the route, average passenger fares increased by 34% while flights were cut by almost half.
Mr Keir, has written twice to the OFT & Commission and also lodged a motion in parliament about this matter and whose constituency covers Edinburgh Airport, said:
“If the BA deal goes through, hundreds of thousands of Scottish passengers and businesses would be restricted to one airline – that can’t be good for competition and passenger choice.
“Competitive air links between Heathrow and Edinburgh are crucial for our city’s economy, businesses and the one million passengers who travel between the two airports each year.
“If the research is accurate, when BA became the sole operator of the Glasgow-Heathrow route passenger fares increased by 34% while flights were cut by half. That’s why it’s crucial that we retain competition in Edinburgh.
“The impact would also increase the travel cost of some 300,000 small businesses that are reliant on affordable connections to London.
“I’ve written to the European Commission and the Office of Fair Trading calling on them to scrutinise the deal and prevent it from going ahead.”
Also voicing his concern is Alyn Smith MEP who said that the resulting monopoly on flights to Heathrow airport from a number of Scottish airports could spell “bad news for Scottish passengers”.
Earlier this week the SNP MEP joined with all of Scotland’s MEPs in writing to Competitions Commissioner Joaquín Almunia, raising their shared concerns about the implications of the takeover.
Commenting, Alyn said:
“Clearly, I would rather Scots passengers flew direct to their destinations, but the fact is a significant number of travellers use Heathrow as a staging post. The proposed acquisition of British Midland Ltd (BMI) by IAG could have a significant damaging effect on choice and competition for passengers in Scotland.
“If this move goes ahead IAG would have a monopoly on the Edinburgh-Heathrow and Aberdeen-Heathrow routes: this could lead to reduction in service and increase in price.
“This could also prove problematic logistically for passengers who have connecting flights with all flights from Aberdeen and Edinburgh being forced through Heathrow’s Terminal 5.”