British Airways and its low-cost subsidiary Go have agreed major maintenance contracts with FLS Aerospace. The move comes as BA retrenches its maintenance operation after several years of attempting to turn it into a standalone profit centre.

The five-year Go contract is a ground-breaking deal for both sides, with FLS providing or managing the entire airframe and engine maintenance and component support requirement on the airline's fleet of Boeing 737s.

Go is to start services on 22 May from its London Stansted base to Copenhagen, Madrid and Rome.

British Airways has also concluded a deal with FLS for a package of maintenance activities at London Gatwick. The third party maintenance company, which already undertakes work for BA at the airport, is to provide all heavy maintenance on the 10-strong BA fleet of Airbus A320s for four years and the seven-strong McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 fleet until the aircraft are retired - probably in 2000. It will also repaint the entire narrow-body fleet over the next two years.

The switch to third party maintenance for fleets with only small numbers of aircraft is part of a much wider reorganisation of BA's maintenance activities.

A letter to staff from Colin Matthews, the airline's engineering managing director, has confirmed that it has relinquished unprofitable heavy maintenance work for other airlines, "allowing engineering to improve the quality of service to British Airways". One airline source says the move had partly been taken in the face of growing disenchantment over the service they were receiving at an operational level in BA.

The operation has also been returned to cost centre status. The company had previously turned maintenance into a profit centre, possibly as a prelude to a sale.

Source: Flight International