Virgin Atlantic owner, Sir Richard Branson, has said that he will consult with regulators about British Airways’ decision to purchase six landing and take-off slots from troubled BMI at Heathrow. BA is already holds more slots than any other airline at the London hub by far. According to a statement made by Virgin, Sir Richard is concerned that BA is looking to strip the key assets from BMI which will result in unattractive leftovers being put up for sale.
The Virgin boss has been interested in BMI for about a decade and the airline said its interest had been renewed after owners Lufthansa recently announced that they were looking for a way of disposing of the British carrier.
Virgin said it had not entered into the bidding for the six Heathrow slots because it understood that they were being leased, not sold. BA has since announced that it has purchased the slots.
The European Commission and the Office of Fair Trading will now be asked by Virgin Atlantic to become involved in the matter. A spokesman for Lufthansa said the German flag carrier was still examining a range of possibilities for the disposal of BMI. He added that the sale of the slots to British Airways had not affected the value of the carrier because they were not part of its core activities.
Lufthansa has declined to say whether it is in negotiations with any airlines over selling further slots at Heathrow. BMI has been a loss maker since Lufthansa took control in 2009.