The future of British Airways' London Gatwick-based "virtual airline" Airline Management (AML) is looking doubtful as BA pilots prepare to vote on a new employment deal.

AML was set up by Flying Colours boss Errol Cossey in association with BA to function as its low-cost long haul division. It was intended that the venture, which operates as a franchise using BA pilots and Flying Colours cabin crew, would employ its own staff, but its efforts to second BA pilots were opposed by the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA).

Initially, a single McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 was flown, but AML has switched to the Boeing 777 and is expanding its BA-owned fleet to three aircraft.

Late last year, the UK civil aviation authority revoked AML's air operator's certificate (AOC) at the license holder's request, "in light of changing regulatory requirements". BA says it has "temporarily" transferred AML operations on to its own AOC, and AML is working to meet the new criteria but no date has been set to re-apply.

Sources suggest that AML requested that its AOC be revoked after it became apparent that it would not be approved to operate the 777 as it did not have extended range twin-engined operations (ETOPS) experience. There has been a lengthy wrangle between BA and BALPA over a long term agreement for AML crewing, and it is understood that the new deal includes a five-year provision for the operation of three 777s, but restricts further expansion. It is likely, however, that for AML to gain the necessary ETOPS experience to operate the 777 on its own AOC, it will have to obtain its own crews, which the new pilot's agreement is not expected to permit.

Source: Flight International