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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

BMI Promises Lower London Fares

MTBMI CEO Nigel Turner, left, and Transaero executive director Alexander Krinichansky speaking to reporters Monday.
British airline BMI on Monday vowed to drive down prices on flights between Moscow and London as it started daily service on the route.

BMI, Britain's third-biggest airline, made its first flight into Domodedovo on Sunday, ending nine years of talks.

Under a code-sharing agreement reached in March, BMI partnered up with Moscow-based Transaero and the two airlines will each fly 14 roundtrips per week.

BMI's A320 flights between Domodedovo and London's Heathrow, with space for 24 business and 108 economy passengers, will break the grip of Aeroflot and British Airways, the only other British company until recently allowed to operate the route, BMI CEO Nigel Turner told reporters at a briefing in Moscow on Monday.

"No doubt my competition will try to match my fares," Turner told the briefing. "I'll bet my house on it," he added later to a reporter.

Spokespeople for British Airways and Aeroflot said Monday that their flights on the route were competitive enough and that they had no immediate plans to cut fares.

BMI round-trip fares from Moscow start at 11,612 rubles and $381.43 for economy class and 70,177 rubles and $2,170.66 for business class.

BMI said their economy fares were $4 lower than BA's and $10 higher than Aeroflot's, and their business class fares were $132 and $469 cheaper than BA's and Aeroflot's, respectively. In ruble terms, BMI said its economy fares were 940 rubles higher than BA's.

For return flights starting in London, BMI was offering fares starting at ?199 ($378) on its web site Monday.

BMI's business-class prices were more competitive than BA's or Aeroflot's as it first and foremost targets businesspeople, BMI spokeswoman Irina Ignatyeva said by telephone.

By teaming up with Transaero, the British carrier will be able to offer onward flights in Russia on Transaero planes from Domodedovo, while Transaero will offer onward BMI flights from Heathrow, the companies said.

"An increase in carriers, competition and passenger capacity is always a boon for passengers," Boris Rybak, head of aviation consultancy Infomost, said by telephone from London.

Turner said BMI was also hoping to add St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg to its Russia routes.

BMI's low-cost subsidiary, BMIbaby, has no plans to fly to Russia in the near future as it lacks a Russian partner, Turner said.

Turner declined to put a figure on BMI's passenger target, but added that with an estimated 360,000 passengers per year, passenger volume on the route remained "pitifully small."

Rybak, who put the route at about 500,000 passengers, said BA's and Aeroflot's flights were normally fully booked.

Turner said both BMI and Transaero flights to and from London were 80 percent full Sunday.

Both BA and Aeroflot said Monday that they had no plans to lower their fares for the Moscow-London route.

"Aeroflot doesn't increase or lower its fares just like that," said Aeroflot spokeswoman Irina Danenberg, adding that BMI was still new to Russia and would have to win market share.

BA recently increased its flights on the route to 21 from 17 per week.

Transaero will add a flight to Manchester soon, said Alexander Krinichansky, Transaero executive director.