SNP calls for British Airways transparency on BMI bid


By a Newsnet reporter

SNP MSP Colin Keir has written to British Airways owner IAG calling on them to make public the additional remedies the company has submitted to the European Union Competition Commissioner in its bid to buy BMI.

Mr Keir, whose constituency Edinburgh Western covers Scotland’s largest airport, said the company must operate at the highest levels of transparency – and urged IAG to reveal its plans for the 16 slots that currently operate between Edinburgh and Heathrow.  The flights are heavily used by business travellers.

10 of the slots are operated by British Airways, the remaining six are operated by BMI.  The Edinburgh Western MSP is concerned that the proposed deal will leave British Airways with a monopoly on flights between Edinburgh and Heathrow, the largest airports in Scotland and England.

In his letter to IAG, Mr Keir writes:

“The proposed deal, without robust remedies to ensure the commencement of replacement services by a new entrant, would immediately create a British Airways monopoly.  I am concerned that in the absence of a viable new entrant, service frequency will be dramatically reduced.”  

The European Commission will decide on Friday whether to approve the deal.

Mr Keir, who has written twice to the OFT and Commission, and also lodged a motion in parliament about this matter, said:

“Scottish passengers must not be left with a second-class service, which is why it is vital IAG operates at the highest levels of transparency and reveal its plans on the future of the BMI air links between Edinburgh and Heathrow.

“Should this takeover go through, it must not result in a poorer quality service or reduced flight options.

“Whilst we need more direct flights from Edinburgh, Heathrow remains a vital connecting hub for onward connecting travel.  The 16 slots are vital to Scotland’s economy and it’s crucial that all 16 remain.

“It’s pivotal that we retain competition in Edinburgh, especially in light of recent research showing when BA became the sole operator of the Glasgow-Heathrow route, passenger fares increased by 34 per cent while flights were cut by half.  We must not allow this to happen in Scotland again.

“I have written to IAG urging the company to make public the new caveats it has submitted to the EU competition commissioner.

“I have asked the British Airways owner to reveal what its plans are for the 16 slots and if it plans to give any of these up to encourage competition.

“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.”