More than 15 years after selling his Business Air commuter operation to British Midland Airways, Ian Woodley once again occupies the left seat as executive chairman of BMI Regional. Recently bought by Scottish investment group Sector Aviation Holdings (SAH) from British Airways parent International Airlines Group (IAG), the business has until the end of October to establish its own independence under a transition agreement with its prior owners that allows it temporarily to use its old-technology systems.
Since buying the operation on June 1, SAH has been working through an intensive five-month transition process involving replacement of 400 IT systems and creation of new commercial and financial structures, which chief commercial officer Cathal O’Connell said would normally require “nine to 12 months.” He considers obtaining “BM” as the airline’s official designator code from IATA (in place of BD previously assigned to British Midland) a major success.
Woodley acknowledged at the recent European Regions Airline Association general assembly in Dublin that since the recent change of ownership “market uncertainty” has not helped the process. He recognized that “some elements” of the previous business, including interline connecting traffic, have “fallen back a bit” and will need rebuilding. “[The message is that we are] very much open for business,” said Woodley.
BMI Regional flies a fleet of four Embraer ERJ-135s and 14 ERJ-145s on 10 UK-European routes and three UK domestic services. Following the imminent addition of an 11th international route and a fourth within the UK, it plans to split the fleet, devoting 11 aircraft to scheduled operations and the balance to a mix of charter and ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance) services. Woodley said the operation carries no external debt and he described the ERJ-145s as “still good,” adding that he is “quite comfortable” with them and the smaller ERJ-135s. The airline owns all its aircraft apart from four ERJ-145s.