UK-based BMI celebrated a milestone recently - 20 years of European open skies and bmi's first flight from London Heathrow to Amsterdam. Deregulation began in 1986 after pressure from bmi and other airlines. "We were one of the main protagonists of a drive that led to an increase in choice, value and service for air travellers during the 1980s and 1990s," said bmi chairman Sir Michael Bishop (left) speaking at a press briefing to mark 20 years of bmi's Heathrow-Amsterdam service.
As bmi reflects on the changes in the market in the past 20 years - such as increased competition, a tripling of UK passenger traffic, an increase in the number of carriers and diversification in the market - it is also planning for the next 20.
And just as it pushed for deregulation of the European market in the '80s, so it is now lobbying government to open the market between the UK and the USA. Currently only four carriers are allowed to fly between London Heathrow and cities in the USA: American Airlines, British Airways, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. As Heathrow's second biggest airline, bmi is hoping that this market domination will change soon.
After "five to six years of lobbying [government] on the North Atlantic", negotiations are closer to their objective than they have been for some time, according to Sir Michael. Sir Michael said it was clearly ridiculous for the bastions of the free world to have such restrictions.
And bmi is clearly ready for the day an agreement is ratified between the UK and the USA. Speaking at the briefing, deputy chief executive Tim Bye said: "Within the last six to 12 months we have been re-doing our [US] market analysis." He said that bmi has narrowed its potential routes from 30 to around 12 in is "first-cut" evaluation.
BMI has also been focusing on long-haul routes to boost performance.