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Airline after US licences

BRITISH Midland, the airline owned by Sir Michael Bishop, has applied to run six new services to the US from Manchester, writes Dan Gledhill.

The move is seen as a back- up to its attempts to secure permission to fly to the US from Heathrow, a privilege at present confined to BA, Virgin, United Airlines and American Airlines. On Tuesday, BM is expected to announce a campaign highlighting the high fares allegedly charged on these routes by BA and Virgin.

BM has been granted four licences by the Civil Aviation Authority to operate transatlantic flights from Heathrow. But it is barred from using them under the Open Skies agreement between the UK and US governments. This limits the number of authorised carriers to two from either country.

BM's latest applications are for licences to fly from Manchester to Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, Miami and Seattle. It had previously applied for four other licences from Manchester to the US.

Mr Bishop owns 60 per cent of BM, with Scandinavian carrier SAS controlling the rest. Amid speculation that he plans to sell up, Virgin, KLM, Luft- hansa and Air France have been linked with bids. Many of BM's rivals are jealous of its presence at Heathrow, where it has more slots than any other airline except BA.

Separately, BM is awaiting the result of a study by Landor Associates, the brand consultant charged with deciding if the carrier needs a new name to reflect its global operations.