PASSENGERS on Scotland’s busiest air routes face fares being increased by one third if British Airways wins a monopoly by taking over rival BMI, it is claimed today.
Virgin Atlantic, which bid unsuccessfully for the ailing airline, said ticket prices between Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Heathrow could go up as sharply as those from Glasgow since BMI abandoned the route last March.
Virgin said industry data showed average BA fares between Glasgow and Heathrow had increased by 34 per cent from £71 to £95, while BA had also cut flights by 10 per cent.
The figures were published as Virgin renewed its call for the proposed sale of BMI by Lufthansa of Germany to BA parent firm International Airlines Group (IAG), to be examined by the UK’s Office of Fair Trading rather than the European Commission.
The data is likely to reinforce the fears of politicians and business groups that two million passengers a year on the Edinburgh and Aberdeen routes would suffer higher fares and fewer flights if the sale is approved.
Virgin Atlantic president Sir Richard Branson said it would “take British flying back to the dark ages”.
He said: “When British Airways was left the only operator on the Glasgow to Heathrow route in 2011, fares paid by Scottish travellers rocketed by 34 per cent in six months. That is not beneficial, that is backbreaking and plainly unfair.”
Virgin said the sale “would give BA the opportunity and the means to increase fares dramatically and reduce flights on these routes”.
Shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran said: “Closing down options for Scottish passengers flying to London is deeply concerning, which is why I have already referred this to the Office for Fair Trading.
“Having excellent air links to Heathrow is critical for the Scottish economy, and the implications for Aberdeen and Edinburgh are significant.”
IAG did not comment on the Glasgow fares data, but said its purchase of “massively loss-making” BMI was “the best solution for British consumers and UK plc, securing more jobs than if the airline was broken up and sold-off for its Heathrow slots”.
Its spokesman added: “Far from cutting back, British Airways added 4,000 weekly seats on its services from Heathrow to Glasgow last year.”
GMB union national officer Mick Rix said: “We support the takeover. We have worries, but without it there will be a closure, which will have more job impacts.”