BMI – yet another sorry chapter in British aviation history?

Sometimes deal stories come along that I feel compelled to write a comment on because the company in question has a personal interest to me, and the airline BMI (British Midland International) is such a company.

Yesterday the Sunday Times ran a story saying that Lufthansa has finally lost patience with its subsidiary and has appointed advisors to look at finding a buyer for the business.

Why does this story hold such an interest to me you may be asking?

Well in ‘olden’ times before you could get from Manchester to London by train in less than a gazillion hours, I used to be a regular user of BMI to commute between Manchester and London, and as the airline expanded its route coverage internationally, I became a regular user of their flights between Manchester and the US and other of their European routes.

When BA decided to pull out of Manchester Airport, it seemed like the ideal time to me (granted I am not an aviation expert) for BMI to step into the vacated shoes of BA and provide additional routes to serve us regionally-based travellers. Clearly the management of BMI felt otherwise, and were more attracted to serving routes out of Heathrow to the Middle East.

Over the last three years it has become increasingly difficult to get anywhere with BMI from Manchester, including even London. They have significantly reduced their services between Manchester and London both in terms of decent arrival and departure times and in terms of absolute seat numbers.

What is also distressing about BMI’s demise is that they employed really good people, in my view. In my experience their ground staff and their cabin crew have always been friendly and helpful, and a couple of them have become friends.

In my opinion this is a classic case of a company pursuing growth without really listening to its customer base and substantial numbers of its loyal customers have flown away. I had high hopes that Lufthansa would have fixed the problems in a typical Germanic style – things must be bad if Lufthansa can’t fix BMI.

Filed under: dealmaking, exit, UK, airlines