British Midland Airways Limited holds a United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority Type A Operating Licence, it is permitted to carry passengers, cargo and mail on aircraft with 20 or more seats.
Flying instruction ceased in 1953 with the start of scheduled flights from Derby and Wolverhampton to Jersey. When the first Douglas DC-3 arrived in 1955, Wolverhampton Aviation had been phased out and the company's sole base became Burnaston Airport. International services commenced in 1956 to Ostend and holiday flights to mainland Europe began. The company was also contracted by Rolls-Royce to transport aero engines to customers throughout the world. In 1959, the company changed its name to Derby Airways. Domestic scheduled flights within the United Kingdom were launched toward the end of the decade.
In 1978, the company directors purchased the airline from Minster Assets. The consortium included Sir Michael Bishop who is now the airline's chairman. That year, British Midland and British Airways agreed to route swapping. This resulted in British Midland Airways relinquishing its continental routes from Birmingham to Brussels and Frankfurt and BA handing over its routes from Liverpool to Heathrow, Belfast, Dublin, Jersey, the Isle of Man and Glasgow. Annual passenger numbers topped 1 million for the first time in 1979.
In 1981, an application to fly between Heathrow, Glasgow and Edinburgh was denied by the CAA. The ruling was overturned, however, after an appeal was lodged with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. With the introduction of these services, BMA and BA were now in direct competition.
BMA, together with British & Commonwealth Shipping, formed Manx Airlines in 1982, and the following year BMA purchased a 75% stake in Glasgow-based airline Loganair. In March 1987, Airlines of Britain Holdings (ABH) was formed to act as a holding company for British Midland and British Midland Aviation Services. ABH became British Midland in 1997 when it was de-merged as part of wide restructuring.
A new colour scheme was unveiled in 1985. Aircraft were now painted in very dark blue, with a deep grey lower half of the fuselage and a red relief. At this time, the airline simply became British Midland, and a new logo of a stylised red BM crowned with a diamond shape appeared on the aircraft tailfins (see right). Airport lounges were introduced at UK hubs and the Diamond Club frequent flyer programme was launched. The charter market was abandoned and the 707 fleet withdrawn at this time.
In 1992, British Midland became the first airline to offer a vegetarian choice of in-flight meals on UK domestic services as well as one of the first airlines in Europe to do so. Towards the end of the 1990s, British Midland switched to Airbus and Embraer for its fleet renewal programme.
In 1999, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), a shareholder in British Midland since 1987, sold some of its stake to Lufthansa on the condition that British Midland joined the Star Alliance. BMI joined in 2000 and launched a new corporate identity in 2001. This involved the rebranding of the airline as BMI British midland (though BMI officially does not mean anything, it would imply 'British Midland International' or 'British MIdland'). The new identity features a brighter blue, the replacement of the grey with white and a fading Union Jack flag on the tail with "bmi" on it. In 2003, "British Midland" was dropped from the name and the airline is now referred to simply as BMI, although the legal name of the company remains British Midland Airways Limited. The new identity coincided with the launch of transatlantic services in 2001 to Washington, DC and Chicago from Manchester Airport using wide-body Airbus A330 aircraft. Services from Manchester to Las Vegas followed soon after.
Despite the launch of transatlantic routes from Manchester, BMI has fought to gain the rights to serve the United States from Heathrow. Only British Airways, Air India, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, Air New Zealand, and Kuwait Airways are permitted to offer such routes.
BMI operated a service to Mumbai from London Heathrow between May 2005 until October 2006, after the UK and India concluded amendments to their bilateral air service agreement. Services to Riyadh followed, commencing on 1 September 2005 after British Airways ceased to serve Saudi Arabia earlier that year.
The BMI Group carried 7.95 million passengers during 2002. By 2005, the total had risen to 10.1 million, the third highest of any UK airline. In early 2006, the Association of European Airlines reported a drop in passengers carried and load factors for BMI mainline and regional services (excluding Bmibaby) whilst reporting increased loads for other AEA members over the same period. Despite this drop in passenger figures, BMI group reported a pre-tax profit of £10 million for the year ending 31 December 2005.
In late 2006 BMI launched a scheduled service to Moscow Domodedevo in co-operation with Transaero on 29 October 2006 with a dedicated A320 (G-MIDO) with special seating for the service, including leather seats and a 40" seat pitch.
In 2002, BMI set up a low-cost subsidiary Bmibaby using Boeing 737s which were displaced after BMI's fleet renewal programme favoured an all-Airbus fleet. Bmibaby now flies routes between secondary airports around Europe, and does not operate from Heathrow.
In January 2007, BMI bought British Mediterranean Airways, (BMED) a British Airways franchise partner, and as a result has gained access to new markets in Africa, Middle East and Central Asia that were served by the carrier. As part of the deal to buy BMED, BMI sold BMED's Heathrow slots to British Airways for £30 million. These are due to be handed over to British Airways in late 2008/2009. This means that they will have to reduce some of their other flights to fit the former BMED flights in to the schedule in 2009. BMED was fully integrated into bmi on 28th October 2007.
BMI has a frequent flyer programme called Diamond Club with blue, blue plus, silver and gold levels. Awards are achieved by mileage flown, accommodation, parking or car hire booked via their website and BMI branded credit card expenditure. Extra monthly bonus mileage is given at Silver and Gold Diamond Club as a loyalty incentive. Before April 2003, the system operated on a point-based scheme, which was deemed too complicated and was moved to a mileage-based programme.
Four tiers of membership exist for the BMI Diamond club: Blue (Entry level) - no entry requirements Blue Plus - requires 3000 membership status miles to be earned within 12 months Silver (Star Alliance Silver) - requires 16,000 membership status miles to be earned within 12 months Gold (Star Alliance Gold) - requires 38,000 membership status miles to be earned within 12 months
Same mileage requirements apply for the retention of the membership tier. Membership status miles can be earned on BMI and Star Alliance flights only.
Benefits on each tier include:
Blue membership - Earning of frequent flyer miles - Spending miles on flights - both on an all mile basis and on a 'cash plus miles' basis
Blue Plus membership - Same benefits of Blue and: - Complimentary food on BMI domestic flights operating in and out of London Heathrow - Discounts off parking and car hire
Silver membership - Same benefits of Blus plus and: - Star Alliance Silver membership - Access to BMI Diamond Club and business lounges (when flying on BMI) plus certain lounges abroad - 25% destinations miles bonus each month (on base miles) - Car hire upgrade voucher - Priority business check in - Priority ticket sales and standby - 20 kg additional baggage allowance (BMI operated flights) - Guaranteed business class booking 48 hours in advance on BMI operated flights
Gold membership - Same benefits of Silver and: - Star Alliance Gold membership - Access to Star Alliance gold lounges, regardless of fare - Four free upgrade vouchers when purchasing a flight (subject to availability) - Extra hold luggage allowance - Priority luggage delivery - Handbaggage and telephone check-in - Use of manned check-in desks regardless of fare - A dedicated gold card enquiry line for bookings, enquiries and requests - Shorter advance notice on bmi free flight redemptions (three working days instead of the usual five) - Upgrades on bmi award flights to the business cabin (or premium economy cabin on longhaul services) for the member and companion - A monthly destinations bonus of 35% on bmi flights - partner flights will continue to earn 25% - lifetime gold membership if Gold Diamond Club status for 10 consecutive years has been achieved
Between 1999 and 2004, Lufthansa was looking to sell its share in the airline. Virgin Atlantic was the main airline hoping to buy the shares and then forming a merger of the two airlines. A merger would bring together two well respected airlines with combined ticket sales of more than £2 billion, forming a powerful force in the aviation industry. Neither company would comment on the talks. BMI, headed by Sir Michael Bishop, is believed to have initiated the talks after it fell deep into the red following the September 11, 2001 attacks. A merger would give Virgin's Sir Richard Branson a far stronger base at Heathrow (where BMI has hundreds of valuable take-off and landing slots) to increase the competition with his rival British Airways.
The two airlines would have 17% of Heathrow slots against British Airways's 43%. British Airways was worried about the rivalry it would face if a merger went ahead, and considered the takeover of either BMI or Virgin Atlantic to stop the merger of the two airlines. British Airways concluded it would be easier to take over the smaller airline Virgin Atlantic. In 2004, talks of any merger of the three airlines stopped.
In late 2006 the airline again dismissed renewed speculation that Virgin Atlantic Airways was preparing to make a bid to acquire full control of BMI, despite Sir Richard Branson repeating in a radio interview that such a merger would be a logical business move .
In June 2007, SAS announced that it would sell its 20% stake to improve its own group profits. The airline commented that it was in early discussions with Lufthansa over such a sale.
In April 2008 Lufthansa announced plans to take over BMI. Lufthansa already own 30% minus 1 share of BMI and has an option to purchase shares from the 50% plus 1 share holding of chairman Sir Michael Bishop from December 2008 to June 2009.
The BMI fleet consists of the following aircraft, at September 2008 :
(The Business/*Premium Economy/Economy)
|Airbus A319-100||11||130 or 144 (0/130 or 0/144)|
|Airbus A320-200||13||156 (0/156)|
BMED aircraft - 124 (22/102)
|Short and medium haul routes|
BMED aircraft - 149 (31/118)
|Short and medium haul routes||Former BMED order for 5, with 1 delivered, 2 for delivery in 2009 and 2 for delivery in 2010.|
|Airbus A330-200||3||G-WWBM/BB = 218 (18/*30/170)|
Saudi Arabia G-WWBD = 198 (42/156) Business and Economy
|North America, some medium haul routes|
|Boeing 757-200||2||160 (28/132)||Tel Aviv, Almaty, Bishkek, Uralsk and Freetown||Wet leased from Astraeus|
|Embraer ERJ 135||4||37||Short haul routes||Operated by BMI Regional|
|Embraer ERJ 145||13||49||Short haul routes||Operated by BMI Regional|
On 10 July 2007, BMI ordered 5 A330-200 and 5 A321 aircraft from Airbus , however the orders for the A330s have since been postponed due to lack of engine compatibility in the market.
In March 2008, the average fleet age was 5.9 years
Note: This list includes Star Alliance partners.