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Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
British Midland goes transatlantic
A British Midland plane
British Midland wants to start Heathrow-US services
British Midland has said that it will start scheduled flights to two US destinations from Manchester next spring, promising fares that are up to 32% cheaper than its competitors.

The launch of the services represents another step in the company's long-running campaign for liberalisation of transatlantic air travel.

"This announcement marks nothing less than the beginning of a new era," chairman Sir Michael Bishop said, adding that the company's goal was to introduce services to the US from London's busy Heathrow airport.

A UK-US aviation agreement signed in 1977 currently restricts to four the number of British and American airlines that are permitted to operate between Heathrow and the US.

Competition benefits

"Passengers from Heathrow will be denied the benefits that genuine competition brings until the Bermuda II agreement is liberalised and we are allowed to enter the transatlantic market from Heathrow," Sir Michael said.

British Midland's new services from Manchester entail a daily return flight to Washington DC to be launched on 30 April 2001 and a similar service to Chicago beginning on 21 May.

The services will offer savings of 18% for economy class passengers to Washington and 32% for those flying to Chicago, British Midland said.

Business fares to Washington would be 24% lower than the competition while those to Chicago would be up to 16% less.

The services will provide the first direct flights between Manchester and Washington and the first competition on the Manchester-Chicago route.

The flights will be operated on a codeshare basis with British Midland's alliance partner United Airlines of the US, the airline said.

Open skies

British Midland said the new services would create about 250 new jobs in the UK.

The next round of US-UK talks about an 'open skies' agreement is due to open in several weeks time with analysts optimistic about the prospects for progress after nine years of stalemate.

At present, only British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and United Airlines are allowed to fly between Heathrow and US cities.

British Midland stopped operating transatlantic charter flights in 1982 but was last year granted licences by British aviation authorities to run scheduled services to New York, Washington, Miami and Boston from Heathrow.

It will only be allowed to begin operating the services if an open skies deal is reached.

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25 Jul 00 | Business
Hopes on 'open skies' talks
13 Jun 00 | Business
Pessimism on 'open skies' talks
12 Jun 00 | Business
'Open skies' talks resume
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