Gunter Endres/LONDON

FOLLOWING ITS franchise link with British Airways on the Eastern Mediterranean market, British Mediterranean Airways is planning an expansion of its services in the region, but has ruled out the acquisition of widebody aircraft.

The two airlines reached a franchise agreement in August (Flight International, 4-10 September), after an occasionally bitter battle over the market. BA's mounting losses on the route, because of restricted frequencies, forced it to concede ground, while British Mediterranean has accepted that it could grow only if it had BA on its side.

According to British Mediterranean chairman Lord Hesketh, the alliance provides it with the best of both worlds "-giving us the franchise benefit of the great strength of the British Airways worldwide network-but leaving British Mediterranean as an independently owned and managed British carrier".

BA will move out of the market on 26 October, after which British Mediterranean will provide six weekly services to Beirut, with five weekly extensions to Amman and four to Damascus, with crews and the airline's leased Airbus A320 flying under the BA identity.

Under the agreement, the network will be extended later this year to include a twice-weekly service to Alexandria in Egypt. A further expansion is planned for the middle of 1997, with flights to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, Tbilisi in Georgia and Tashkent in Uzbekistan.

British Mediterranean is negotiating with Orix for the lease of a second 126-seat A320 from November, with a third likely to be acquired in April 1997.

The airline's previous plans to acquire widebodies and add services to points in Saudi Arabia, hotly opposed by BA, are now unlikely to be realised.

Source: Flight International