Taken from scotsman.com
"Sir Michael Bishop’s bmi british midland, is to launch long-awaited direct transatlantic flights from Edinburgh within months.
The airline, which announced its annual results yesterday, is planning to roll out the new services to exploit the growing number of business travellers coming to the capital from the US.
Speaking to The Scotsman, chairman Sir Michael Bishop said the move was a result of the capital’s growing economic power. He added: "With the Scottish parliament and the city’s stature as a financial centre, Edinburgh is a different proposition now than it was five years ago."
He added that air travel to Glasgow was mainly leisure-based and did not offer the same financial rewards.
According to the Scottish Airports Authority, business travellers account for 44 per cent of all passengers arriving at Edinburgh airport, compared with only 37 per cent arriving at Glasgow.
It is believed bmi faces competition from Continental Airlines, which operates the single direct flight to the US from Glasgow, to launch the first Edinburgh transatlantic flight.
The US carrier is understood to be keen to expand its Scottish operations, and could be lured into a price war with bmi to secure passengers.
It is not known which US destinations bmi will fly to, but an insider at the company said it likely choices included Chicago and Washington, where United Airlines, a partner of bmi in the Star Alliance consortium, has a strong presence.
He said: "United have a network of feeder flights into those two cities, which is crucial to the success of any bmi route into the US," and added that New York and Toronto were also possibilities."
Sir Michael, who was speaking at the unveiling of bmi’s first-ever wide-bodied plane, an airbus A330, said the Edinburgh expansion would only be viable if the Bermuda II treaty, which prohibits the airline flying to the US from Heathrow, was scrapped.
However it is understood that the abolition of the agreement, which is widely seen by the industry as inhibiting competition on transatlantic routes, is high on the government’s agenda, following its expected General Election victory next month.
He said: "We launched the campaign to abolish Bermuda II in 1999.
"It usually takes three years for these things to be sorted out... I believe we will be flying from Heathrow by next year."
Last year bmi recorded a pre-tax profit of £8.2 million compared to £11.1 million in 1999, but passenger levels rose 8.4 per cent to 7.1 million and the planes were 64 per cent full compared with 61.6 per cent in 1999.
The airline attributed the profit fall to costs incurred in its link-ups with European carriers Lufthansa and SAS.
Head of the Institute of Directors in Scotland, Tom Sunter, said the news was a huge boost to Scottish business and called on the Scottish executive to offer a positive response.
He added: "It’s a first-class announcement. We now need government to provide a railway link to the airport."
Thursday, 10th May 2001