Jens Flottau/BERLIN


British Airways subsidiary Deutsche BA says it is keen to fly more routes on behalf of its parent and could take over some of the services to be shed by BA as part of the planned rationalisation of its European route network.

In addition to cutting destinations, farming out routes to subsidiary and franchise carriers, such as Deutsche BA, and switching to smaller aircraft, as previously announced, BA says another option includes the withdrawal of flights from either London Heathrow or Gatwick where there is duplication of services on about 20 routes.

Sources close to the UK flag-carrier say it no longer plans to operate from both hubs to the same destination.

Deutsche BA managing director Carl Michel says his airline would like to step in for BA where opportunities arise. The carrier operates Boeing 737-300s and has refitted six of its 18 aircraft in a seating configuration almost identical to that used on BA's European flights.

BA chief executive Bob Ayling, speaking before a Deutsche BA board meeting in Berlin last week, said that though the subsidiary was still tasked primarily with operating on German domestic routes and providing services between Germany and the UK, there are no artificial restrictions on its arena of operations.

"There are no limitations on where it can fly," Ayling says, adding that the freeing up of positions at Frankfurt as a result of European Commission slot surrender requirements to be imposed on United Airlines and Lufthansa could also provide "opportunities for Deutsche BA".

The German carrier has already provided flights on behalf of BA on the London-Frankfurt and London-Rome routes, but had to quit when it launched its own services to Helsinki and Madrid. The airline takes delivery of three more 737-300s this year to replace older aircraft. Michel says it will source further examples if necessary.

Deutsche BA plans to decide on its long-term fleet requirements by the end of this year, with a planning group led by chief operating officer Adrian Hunt to decide between Boeing's Next Generation 737 and the Airbus A320 family. Current leases expire in three to five years, and Deutsche BA wants the new fleet in operation by 2004.

• Michel reveals that Deutsche BA has started talks with BA's oneworld allies over the possible transfer of some long-haul flights from Frankfurt to its Munich hub. Alternatively, Deutsche BA could restore Munich-Frankfurt flights.

Source: Flight International