Air Transport World

Buying into the game. (franchise operations of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways)

LONDON.--GB Airways, formerly Gibraltar Airways, is joining the growing club of small airlines adopting the colors and codes of British Airways. The trend toward franchising in Britain is making uneconomic routes viable but also is causing the industry to ask whether it is good for competition.

At this writing, BA has six franchises in its British Airways Express family: CityFlyer Express, the first to join in July, 1993; Maersk Air, Brymon wholly owned by BA but managed in the same style as the franchisees--the two Airlines of Britain subsidiaries Loganair and Manx Airlines Europe-and this month, GB Air, in which BA holds a 49% stake.

Virgin Atlantic has two, South East European Airlines, based in Athens, and Dublin-based CityJet. virgin said that both franchises are experimental but that the results look good so far, with the SEEA operation in profit. ATW got the impression that both franchiser airlines are open to further approaches from smaller airlines, and that the trend is likely to spread.

For reasons of commercial confidentiality, none of the carriers was prepared to go into details. But in general terms, the deals struck involve allowing the members of the franchise families to use the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flight codes, access their CRS systems, mesh their timetables, paint their aircraft in the parent airlines' liveries and dress cabin staff in the parent uniforms. …

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