bmi regional Adds German Links from Bristol

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Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen,
Editor, Routesonline

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bmi regional Adds German Links from Bristol

The new independent bmi regional will expand its European network this year with the launch of new routes from Bristol to Hamburg and Frankfurt and further expansion is expected to be revealed during the first quarter as the UK carrier reallocates capacity from the charter and ACMI sectors into the scheduled market.  This latest growth will consolidate the airline’s position at Bristol following the introduction of direct Bristol to Aberdeen services last year.

bmi regional will introduce a six times weekly link between Bristol and Frankfurt from late March 2013 complementing its existing link to the German city from East Midlands.  Meanwhile, Hamburg will be a new destination for the carrier, its 17th across its scheduled network, and will be served five times weekly from February 11, 2013 and is due to increase to 12 rotations per week from April 8, 2013 although this growth is not currently being displayed in the GDS.

“The launch of new services to Germany is a continuation of bmi regional’s promise to serve key economic and transport hubs to multiple destinations across Europe,” said Cathal O’Connell, chief executive officer, bmi regional.  “Our choice of destinations is based on customer demand and with Hamburg being a significant operational base for major employers such as Airbus and Imperial Tobacco and Frankfurt a world hub offering connectivity throughout the globe, we are supplying services our business users have asked for.”

The former bmi British Midland International subsidiary is starting to establish itself as its own individual aviation business after gaining its independence last autumn.  The carrier was sold to UK investor Sector Aviation Holdings earlier in the year by British Airways’ parent International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) as part of its own purchase of bmi but it only started operating under its own control at the start of the Northern Winter schedule in late October.

The new owners of bmi regional have already explored a number of new opportunities for network growth, but will not deviate too far from its existing business model and will continue to provide domestic services within the UK and into Europe with a fleet of ERJ 135 and ERJ 145 regional jets.  “It is very much our aim to develop our network in both the UK and Europe, and with the future now secured and uncertainty removed, we can look ahead with confidence,” Chairman, Ian Woodley told The HUB at last year’s World Routes in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The route announcement from bmi regional says a lot about the carrier’s network ambitions.  The airline remains committed to operating its fleet of four ERJ-135s and 14 ERJ-145s (14 of these aircraft are fully owned) and it will focus on adding to its European network.  “We are also planning further growth in Spring 2013 with the launch of more European services to suit both business and leisure travelers,” confirmed Ian Woodley.

The plan, according to Cathal O’Connell, formerly of Aer Lingus, Aer Arann and Eastern Airways, is to focus on UK connectivity.  He explained to The HUB recently that the carrier will look to serve to link UK regional cities with major EU destinations and regional EU destinations with major UK cities.  “We want to be able to offer a good schedule to customers with a double daily weekday service acting as an anchor for an aircraft at one of our bases and filling slot one and four a day, providing the option for a further midday rotation or other work,” he said.

The further network growth in 2013 is likely to see additional expansion at Bristol.  Cathal O’Connell says bmi regional is “reviewing other opportunities with the team at Bristol Airport” and hopes to announce additional routes early this year.  With three new routes already at Bristol, bmi regional is becoming a key tenant at the southwest UK city, although its capacity remains much lower than that offered by the likes of easyJet and Ryanair (see table below).

“This announcement is a major statement of Bristol Airport’s commitment to providing the connectivity which is vital in enabling the economies of the South West and South Wales to compete on a global stage,” said Robert Sinclair, chief executive officer, Bristol Airport.  “When we ran a recent survey of ‘most wanted’ routes, German destinations featured strongly in responses from the business community.”

Both German destinations are not new to the Bristol network map and have been served previously during the 1990s and 2000s.  The Frankfurt route was served for a long time by Brymon Airways and British Airways and most recently by Eurowings on behalf of its parent Lufthansa between March 2008 and May 2009.  The Hamburg route was flown by German carrier OLT between November 2005 and February 2009.  According to UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data 8,781 passengers flew between Bristol and Hamburg in 2008, while 72,889 flew between Bristol and Frankfurt the same year.

The Frankfurt and Hamburg routes are sure to be popular.  Frankfurt will provide alternative global flight connectivity options from and to South West UK and South Wales, while Hamburg is a major tourist destination for both domestic and overseas visitors and as a major transport hub in Northern Germany is one of the most affluent cities in Europe. 

Imperial Tobacco, which will occupy its new head office site currently under construction in Bristol in March 2013, also has a significant employee base in Hamburg.  Kerstin Goeritz, Imperial’s Travel and Fleet Manager, said: “The launch of this new service is great news for Imperial given the importance to us of an efficient travel link between Bristol and Hamburg.”

The Bristol – Hamburg will also be underpinned by traffic supporting the activities of aircraft manufacturer Airbus which has facilities in both cities.  According to Mark Stewart, Airbus general manager and human resources director many passengers currently have to fly from Bristol to sister sites in Bremen and Hamburg via Brussels, Paris or Amsterdam.  “This new service will certainly be most welcomed by our employees. It will certainly help reduce travel time and increase the engagement of our employees by enabling them to reach their destination quicker, whilst continuing to support our local airport,” he said.

As bmi regional expands its activities at Bristol Airport, The HUB highlights the largest carriers from the facility in 2012 by available seat capacity and how this has changed over the past three years.  Ahead of its 2013 growth, bmi regional has in fact reduced capacity at Bristol with available seats down 10.0 per cent in 2012 compared to 2011 and down 11.1 per cent compared to 2010.  easyJet is the largest operator from the airport with almost two million available seats last year and a 52.9 per cent share of capacity.

SCHEDULED AIR CAPACITY FROM BRISTOL INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (non-stop departures)

Rank

Airline

Departures (2012)

Seat Capacity (2012)

% Total Capacity

% Change (vs 2011)

% Change (vs 2010)

1

easyJet (U2)

11,980

1,912,872

52.9 %

4.1 %

4.9 %

2

Ryanair (FR)

4,552

860,328

23.8 %

(-1.1) %

(-16.3) %

3

Thomson Airways (TOM)

1,049

274,687

7.6 %

1.4 %

4.6 %

4

Thomas Cook Airlines (TCX)

572

125,268

3.5 %

(-28.1) %

(-33.2) %

5

KLM cityhopper (WA)

1,360

109,400

3.0 %

0.1 %

26.9 %

6

Aer Lingus Regional (RE)

1,334

95,740

2.6 %

(-6.6) %

171.2 %

7

Flybe (BE)

714

55,692

1.5 %

(-26.9) %

35.0 %

8

Air France (AF)

891

41,751

1.2 %

0.2 %

(-17.6) %

9

bmi regional (BM)

712

35,600

1.0 %

(-10.0) %

(-11.1) %

10

Eastern Airways (T3)

656

30,007

0.8 %

26.4 %

102.1 %

TOTAL

25,380

3,613,323

-

(-1.0 %)

(-4.5) %

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