The East Midlands-based airline, British Midland Regional Limited, which operates as flybmi, has today announced that it has ceased operations and is filing for administration.

The regional carrier which operates 17 aircraft on routes to 25 European cities has cancelled all flights. Flights operated by flybmi served Aberdeen, Bristol, Brno, City of Derry, Dusseldorf, East Midlands, Esbjerg, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Jonkoping, Karlstad, London Stansted, Lublin, Milan Bergamo, Munich, Newcastle, Norrkoping, Nuremburg, Oslo, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Rostock/ Laage, Saarbrucken and Stavanger.

A spokesperson for flybmi said:

“It is with a heavy heart that we have made this unavoidable announcement today. The airline has faced several difficulties, including recent spikes in fuel and carbon costs, the latter arising from the EU’s recent decision to exclude UK airlines from full participation in the Emissions Trading Scheme. These issues have undermined efforts to move the airline into profit. Current trading and future prospects have also been seriously affected by the uncertainty created by the Brexit process, which has led to our inability to secure valuable flying contracts in Europe and lack of confidence around bmi’s ability to continue flying between destinations in Europe. Additionally, our situation mirrors wider difficulties in the regional airline industry which have been well documented.”

“Against this background, it has become impossible for the airline’s shareholders to continue their extensive programme of funding into the business, despite investment totalling over £40 million in the last six years. We sincerely regret that this course of action has become the only option open to us, but the challenges, particulary those created by Brexit, have proven to be insurmountable.

Bmi Regional employed 376 employees based in the UK, Germany, Sweden and Belgium and the airline’s spokesperson added: “Our employees have worked extremely hard over the last few years and we would like to thank them for their dedication to the company, as well as all our loyal customers who have flown with us over the last 6 years.”

The demise of flybmi follows reports that the Romanian carrier, Blue Air, cancelled some of its flight schedule to the UK at the end of last week, with a spokesperson for John Lennon Airport saying that the current Brexit “impasse” meant the carrier had been unable to receive clarity around its ability to operate flights between the UK and countries in the EU.

Darwin and Alice Springs are to become the first airports in Australia to deploy Computed Tomography (CT) technology for checked baggage and passenger screening, as part of an agreement between Northern Territory (NT) Airports and Smiths Detection.

“We want to keep customers safe, ease their transition through our airports, and provide peace of mind for everyone,” said Ian Kew, CEO of NT Airports, explaining that the airport operator sought a security partner that focused on both traveller safety and passenger experience. “We’re striving for excellence and we’re excited to partner with Smiths Detection who share the same vision and tenacity as us.”

NT Airports provide critical infrastructure services to those travelling through its airports and is an important contributor to the NT economy because of its proximity to Asia’s tourism and business markets and the strength of the resources sector in the northern territories.

Seven Hi-Scan 6040CTiX units will be installed as part of an integrated checkpoint with iLane.evo, the automated tray return system. In addition, four units of Hi-Scan 10080 XCT for checked baggage screening will also be installed across both airports. Delivery is expected mid-2020.

Citing the benefits of the new CT screening equipment, Robert Phillips, head of security and contingency planning for NT Airports revealed it will provide “enhanced capabilities while maximising passenger throughput. Darwin and Alice Springs will be the first airports in Australia to be equipped with this advanced technology.”

He added “not only will it lead to fewer physical bag searches, but greater ease for passengers passing through our screening points.”

Meanwhile, Jordan Thrupp, managing director of Australia and New Zealand, Smiths Detection added: “It is a pleasure to be working with NT Airports, to deliver a security screening solution which will enable a seamless travel experience for passengers.”

To ensure that the aviation industry is able to accommodate an expected 62% rise in the demand for air travel to, from and within the US over the next 20 years, the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA’s), director general, Alexandre de Juniac has urged the US government and industry to collaborate and work together.

Speaking at the International Aviation Club in Washington D.C., de Juniac noted that aviation already supports 6.5 million jobs in the US and contributes over US$778 billion to GDP, including aviation-supported tourism. He referenced that social and economic benefits enabled by aviation will also increase as passenger traffic rises to 1.26 billion over the next 20 years.

He also underlined that key factors needed to meet this increase and grow aviation’s benefits include maintaining a competitive environment that stimulates innovation, and adequate infrastructure to cope with new demand.

Airport infrastructure

Highlighting the need for additional airport infrastructure to accommodate growth, de Juniac stated airlines require sufficient infrastructure capacity, alignment with airline technical and service level needs, and affordability. “While the US is in a better position than most markets, no major new airport has opened here in almost 25 years. With the US market expected to add close to 500 million passengers by 2037, that just won’t do.”

In the absence of adequate infrastructure, de Juniac stressed the importance of the Worldwide Slot Guidelines (WSG) in managing scarce resources around the world. Today the WSG is being used at about 200 airports—including at New York JFK—accounting for 43% of global traffic.

“While there may be local variation in how slots are managed, the system will only work if the parties at both ends of a route are using the same rules. Tinkering by any participant messes it up for everybody. Therefore, we cannot turn a blind eye to one country or one airline over another,” said de Juniac.

Partial Government Shutdown

De Juniac also called on leaders in Congress and the Administration to work together to ensure that aviation connectivity is not endangered in the event of another government shutdown. He thanked the thousands of dedicated government employees who kept the aviation system functioning without pay during the recent five-week partial shutdown.

“While aviation was fortunate to escape long-lasting economic damage during the shutdown, there were some serious impacts and airlines took a hit in terms of tickets not sold and trips not made. The shutdown also underscored the urgent need to remove the US air traffic control system from the federal budget process and place it in a nonprofit structure that would be immune to these kinds of situations.”

Fair competition

Referencing the need to maintain a policy framework that supports competitiveness among airlines, de Juniac warned against those in Congress trying to turn back the clock on deregulation’s successful legacy as he stated: “Competition unleashes innovation and helps drive prices down. In 1978 the US government recognised this fact and deregulated the airline industry, leading to lower fares and greater access to air travel.”

 

Regional Gateway editor Chloë Greenbank summarises the latest happenings across airports serving business, regional and low-fare routes.

Airports around the world are playing cupid as they pull out all the stops, or at least hand out some chocolates, to help couples celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina is hosting its ‘smooches from pooches’ kissing booth, with the dogs from its ‘Paws for Passengers’ therapy team sharing the love and de-stressing passengers before they fly. Elsewhere in the US, Fresno Yosemite International Airport in California will be handing out sweet treats to passengers and Renoe Tahoe has laid on a pianist to serenade passengers with love songs.

In the UK, for the 50,000 passengers expected to fly to and from East Midland’s Airport (EMA) between Thursday 14 and Monday 18 February, the airport’s control tower will have the words ‘Love is in the air’ projected onto it. And to avoid the potentially awkward moment of an engagement ring being discovered during security searches, passengers carrying surprise engagement rings can request a ‘secret password’ that will enable security staff to separate them from their companion so bags can be searched separately.

“We want to ensure that couples flying off for a romantic get-away have the best possible start to their trip. For those who have been planning to propose while away, we don’t want to scupper the chances of relationships flourishing,” said Andy Tyler-Smith, EMA’s security and customer services director. “That’s why secret proposal measures are in place to get the engagement off to a flying start.”

With marriage on the mind, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, will for the second year running host a pop-up marriage licence office (from 13–16 February), so that couples looking to tie the knot in Vegas can grab a marriage licence as soon as they get off the plane.

With 1,500 marriage licences issued in the days up to and on Valentine’s Day, this is always a busy time of year according to Lynn Goya, Las Vegas’ county clerk. “The pop-up office makes it very easy for couples flying here to pick up a marriage licence,” she stated.

And although it’s not exclusive to Valentine’s Day, McCarran also hit the headlines this week for sharing the love with all its passengers and becoming the first airport in the US to introduce MagnusCards to assist passengers with hidden disabilities such as autism. The innovative app, which has been customised for McCarran Airport, offers step-by-step instructions to guide the user through various airport activities such as check-in, retrieving baggage and security screening.

On that note, I am happy to report that that crazy little thing called love is most definitely in the air, so here’s to wishing you all a Happy Valentine’s Day!

The editor’s comment is published weekly as an accompaniment to the Regional Gateway e-newsletter. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.