bmi, the UK`s second largest full-service scheduled airline, and its low-cost subsidiary bmibaby, carried 7.8 million passengers in 2002, up 11 per cent on the previous year. Load factors also showed steady growth rising four points to 64 per cent.
Much of the growth came in the second half of 2002, as travellers returned to the air following the tragic events of 11 September 2001. Passenger volumes and load factors on bmi services were also stimulated by the introduction of a low cost-style one-way fare structure in June 2002, which scrapped minimum stay requirements such as the restrictive `Saturday night stopover`.
Domestic services, in particular, benefited dramatically with routes where there is strong competition from low cost carriers performing exceptionally well.
Services between London Heathrow and Belfast saw an increase of 45 per cent over the previous year, while routes from Manchester to Scotland performed well - Manchester-Glasgow grew by 33 per cent and Aberdeen 31 per cent. The number of passengers travelling between Heathrow and Milan (Linate) increased by 55 per cent.
Transatlantic services from Manchester to Chicago, launched in summer 2001, made remarkable gains during 2002, with the load factor rising by 16 per cent to 73 per cent. bmi is currently the largest carrier of passengers on direct services from Manchester to Chicago, compared to its competitors.
bmibaby, which began operating in March 2002, has experienced considerable success and ongoing growth in its first nine months. From an initial nine services from East Midlands Airport at the time of launch, operations have expanded to Cardiff International Airport, 31 routes are now operated and further opportunities for growth are being actively sought. There has been significant growth on routes between East Midlands Airport and Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast, and popular leisure routes such as East Midlands to Malaga and Barcelona.
Passenger figures for January 2003 indicate the pattern of growth on the bmi network continues. The number of people travelling grew by 34 per cent over the same month last year to 602,208, with the overall load factor up three per cent.
Routes reporting significant increases in passengers during January include London Heathrow (LHR)-Brussels up 49 per cent; LHR-Manchester up 63 per cent; LHR-Milan (Linate) up 37 per cent; Edinburgh-Brussels up 76 per cent; Manchester-Glasgow up 58 per cent; Leeds Bradford-Edinburgh up 38 per cent; and Manchester-Chicago up 25 per cent.
Austin Reid, bmi chief executive officer, said:
“The growth in passenger numbers during the latter half of 2002 owes much to the returning confidence of air travellers following the tragedy in the USA. However, bold initiatives such as our new fare strategy, popular seat sales and promotions, and the huge success of bmibaby, have played a major part in boosting the group`s passenger growth.
“We made strong gains during 2002 and, despite continued challenging market conditions, we remain confident that we are and will continue to be a major competitive force in the UK aviation industry. We are determined to provide much needed competition to a wide range of markets.”