SNP disappointment at EU BMI decision

The SNP has expressed disappointment at the European Union Competition Commissioner’s ruling to allow British Airways owner IAG to buy BMI.

The Commission said IAG’s concessions to give up 14 daily slots at Heathrow and its pledge to carry connecting passengers to feed its rivals' long-haul flights, were sufficient to address competition concerns.

Responding to the news, Colin Keir, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Western, which includes Scotland’s largest airport, said:

"It's disappointing that the European Commission has allowed this deal to go through.

“It can't be healthy for competition and passenger choice to have a monopoly on a major route used by one million passengers each year.

“Scottish businesses and passengers shouldn’t be served by only one airline to London Heathrow which remains a vital connecting hub for onward travel.

"We can't have a similar situation to Glasgow when BA became the sole operator of the Heathrow-Glasgow route and passenger fares increased by 34 per cent while flights were cut by half.

“The decision must not result in a poorer quality service for Scottish passengers – 16 slots are vital to Scotland’s economy and it’s crucial that all 16 remain.

“IAG must now commit to a specific number of services between Edinburgh and Heathrow and give up sufficient slots to give another provider a genuine opportunity to compete.

“The slots currently operated by BMI between Edinburgh and Heathrow should be given to the new entrant.”

Brian Adam, SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, who gave evidence to the European Commission on the takeover, said:

“This is extremely disappointing news for business and tourism, not only for Aberdeen, but for the whole of Scotland.

“This decision has left British Airways as the sole airline operating every flight between Aberdeen and London Heathrow.

“For my constituents and businesses in Aberdeen this means less flights from the city that connect to international destinations through Heathrow and a higher price to get down to London in the first place.

“Passengers deserve more than a second-class service, which I believe this decision will result in. Lack of competition can only lead to price rises and flights being cut.

“Unfortunately BA have a track record of cutting routes from Aberdeen, and their desire to use as many slots at Heathrow for long-haul flights is well documented.
“This news couldn’t have arrived at a worse time, when the Chancellor is hitting the aviation industry hard with a hike in Air Passenger Duty of eight per cent.

“The UK Government must devolve this power to Scotland so we can create an air transport strategy that works for Scottish passengers, businesses and airports.”