Two of the carrier's A330-200s will begin operating from Johannesburg next month

BMI British Midland is dropping one of its two transatlantic services after securing a short-term lease deal with South African Airways (SAA) for two of its three Airbus A330-200s.

The airline says it will suspend daily services between Manchester and Washington DC next month, but insists the move is a seasonal change and the route will be reactivated next year. Daily Manchester-Chicago services will continue.

BMI has three A330-200s, two of which are leased from International Lease Finance and deployed on the transatlantic services. The third aircraft, leased from Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise, has been idle at Manchester for a year awaiting an expansion of BMI's long-haul services. This has been stalled by the lack of progress in a renegotiation of the US-UK bilateral that prevents BMI operating to the USA from London Heathrow.

The SAA deal is a semi-wet-lease contract which will see BMI providing training captains to operate the aircraft with SAA co-pilots and a flight-training programme for SAA. The two aircraft will join SAA next month, one on a five-month lease and the other on a year's contract, to operate services between Johannesburg and Milan and Paris.

BMI chief executive Austin Reid says: "BMI's advance bookings on flights to Washington DC are reflecting the seasonality of the route and fall short of an economic operation during the winter period. We came to the conclusion that a better option would be to meet the needs of SAA for a second A330 and to suspend the Manchester-Washington service."

Reid says while Manchester-Washington DC services will resume in June, "we cannot ignore indefinitely the financial implications of sustaining scheduled services from Manchester without an equal opportunity to serve Heathrow".


Source: Flight International