Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

BRITISH AIRWAYS is to withdraw from its loss-making network of services in the Scottish "Highlands and Islands", and the operations taken over by its franchise affiliate Manx Airlines.

The network, which is now served by BA's fleet of British Aerospace ATPs, includes services between Aberdeen and Shetland and Orkney, Shetland and Orkney, Glasgow and Benbecula and Stornoway, and Stornoway and Inverness.

The six routes will be transferred to Manx from 26 October, and will then be operated as a BA Express service. Bob Ayling, BA's chief executive, says: "We have been flying on these routes for the past 50 years, and have never achieved profitability." Both carriers are optimistic that switching the routes to a dedicated regional carrier will improve efficiencies. "We are planning a few changes to the network," says Manx managing director Terry Liddiard. "We expect [the services] to start making a profit before the end of the year."

As part of the re-alignment in Scotland, Manx and its Airlines of Britain (ABH) associate Loganair, which is also a BA Express operator, will consolidate under a newly created grouping dubbed British Regional Airlines. Manx, which operates 11 ATPs, will take back two aircraft from British Midland, to bolster its ATP fleet to 13. All but three of these will serve the BA Express routes. Manx also plans to wet-lease a Saab 340A from its ABH associate Business Air for the winter, which will be operated on the Aberdeen-Orkney services.

Because it will be pulling off the routes, BA will not extend leases on four of its ATPs, which will be returned to the manufacturer at the end of the year. Leases on its ten remaining ATPs have been extended until the end of 1998.

British Airways has decided to cease its operations to Amman, Beirut and Damascus "-in the face of mounting losses caused by the restrictions on the number of frequencies" and will now serve the region under a franchise agreement with its rival on the routes, British Mediterranean Airways.

The UK independent operates a leased Airbus Industrie A320 on services from London to Amman, Beirut and Damascus and plans further expansion.

BA's Scottish services will continue to be flown by ATPs, courtesy of Manx

Source: Flight International