UK budget carrier BMIbaby is to reinforce substantially its East Midlands Airport operation, days after EasyJet opted to withdraw from the base.

BMIbaby is to station another three Boeing 737 aircraft at the airport and open eight new routes, as well as raise frequencies on certain popular services.

The carrier will open links to Barcelona, Cork, Malta, Venice, Dubrovnik, Alghero in Sardinia, Bastia in Corsica, and a domestic flight to Newquay.

BMIbaby says the changes will increase its capacity at East Midlands by 40%.

Most of the new routes will be introduced next spring, ahead of the 2010 summer schedule, although Cork flights will start this December and Venice in February.

The carrier will increase flights during the winter and next summer on routes such as Prague, Geneva, Faro, Malaga, Alicante, Palma and Nice.

BMIbaby managing director Crawford Rix says the expansion, taking the carrier's East Midlands network to 24 destinations, "further demonstrates our commitment" to the base.

"We recognise the size of the East Midlands market and its future potential," he adds.

EasyJet has three aircraft at East Midlands but, in contrast to Rix, feels that long-term prospects at the airport are not strong enough to justify remaining there.

Routes served by EasyJet from East Midlands include Venice, Geneva, Prague, Nice and several Iberian resorts.

UK low-cost carrier Jet2 has also opted to establish an East Midlands base next year.

BMIbaby has come under the ownership of Lufthansa as part of its acquisition of BMI, and the budget airline's future is subject to review by the German carrier.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news