British Midland has scored victory over British Airways in the first capacity hearing for a new route entrant, after complaining of an effective duopoly by BA and LOT on London-Warsaw.

At a scarce capacity hearing in April, the UK CAA forced BA to concede that its plans to replace its Boeing 757 with a 767 on its twice daily London/Heathrow to Warsaw service this summer would have to be put on hold. The hearing ruled that British Midland can start daily return Heathrow to Warsaw flights from 10 July, using a 737-500.

The ruling ends the effective duopoly of BA and its codeshare partner LOT on the route. Once the service starts, British Midland will have a 7 per cent share of flights on the route, BA 46 per cent and LOT the remainder.

As a result of the ruling, Poland will be under intense pressure to renegotiate the Air Services agreement between the UK and Poland, which restricts the number of flights between the two countries.

The ruling has encouraged British Midland to evaluate a Heathrow to Budapest service. British Midland is already a designated carrier for the route. 'It is just a question of where it fits into our expansion plans,' said Tony Davis, British Midland's general manager for industry affairs and pricing.

BA, still keen to further its east European ambitions, is poised to sign a 'strategic partnership' agreement with Hungarian carrier Malev. The deal will not lead to an equity holding, says Malev. Dr Miklos Bencze, board member in Malev, denied BA had been singled out from Swissair and Lufthansa as a partner but admitted that an alliance agreement with a western European airline is imminent.

Source: Airline Business