Bye bye baby: Bmibaby no more

Okay apologies for the Bay City Rollers reference in the headline, but for an airline that has always had a sense of fun and is itself branded on a Ronettes song pun I think it seems fitting. 

Bmibaby operated its last flight yesterday evening, ending just over a decade of flights by the UK low-cost carrier. Its fate had been sealed after Lufthansa could not find buyers for the unit it had inherited from its acquisition of BMI and which IAG had no appetite to take on.

BMI established the airline in March 2002 operating out of its East Midlands airport home, one of a series of budget carriers European network operators launched to counter or exploit the rise of low-cost travel. While outlasting most of these such carriers – names like Go, Buzz, Snowflake and Centralwings all disappeared in the last decade – Bmibaby has now followed a similar fate. 

Indeed of the low-cost carriers launched by European network carriers in the last decade, it is only Germanwings and Vueling that remain standing. Germanwings is itself subject to a wider decision by Lufthansa – expected in the spring – on its future branding as it ponders how to restructure its intra-European network and to merge its in-house narrowbody operations with Germanwings. That could leave Vueling as the last of these names standing – though ironically Iberia began with the Clickair name and brand when it launched its low-cost unit and only later changed when the carrier merged with Vueling. I asked Vueling chief executive Alex Cruz earlier this year why he thought his carrier had stayed the course. His answer: independence. “The starting point was we are going to let the people go and do it, and that was a big leap of faith,” he says.

While a sad day for Bmibaby and its employees, the airline can take some satisfaction from having played its part in the extraordinary rise of low-cost travel in Europe over the last decade.

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