Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

British Airways Rediscovers Manchester After 10-Year Hiatus

  • IAG unit to operate first leisure routes from city since 2007
  • Surplus Embraer jets will also add three more Stansted flights

British Airways will start serving a range of vacation destinations from Manchester this summer, its first flights to continental Europe from Britain’s second-biggest urban area in a decade.

The London-based unit of IAG SA will link the north English city with Alicante, Malaga and the islands of Ibiza and Mallorca in Spain, as well as Nice in France and the Greek island of Mykonos, it said in a statement Tuesday. The service will use 98-seat Embraer SA E190 jets from BA’s CityFlyer arm.

BA’s current Manchester timetable features as many as 10 daily shuttle flights to London Heathrow that feed passengers onto lucrative long-haul routes. The airline’s last services from the city to mainland Europe ended in 2007, followed by the termination of the final long-haul destination, New York, in 2008. Though it still serves Bilund in Denmark and Bremen, Germany, those flights are operated by Danish carrier Sun-Air.

The new destinations each get one weekend return service, apart from Ibiza, with three weekly flights, and are meant partly to improve utilization of the E190s. While the jets are based at London City Airport, the urban facility closes to flights between 1 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday due to noise curbs.

Exploring Options

The move shows how Alex Cruz, who took over at BA in April after running IAG’s discount arm Vueling, is exploring options for expanding leisure services even where that means confronting discount specialists such as Ryanair Holdings Plc, EasyJet Plc, Jet2 and Monarch Airlines Ltd., all of which have operations in Manchester.

BA will offer a two-class service, unlike its no-frills rivals, and the flights may also appeal to business people from northern England who have built up air miles on trips via Heathrow but who prefer to make leisure journeys from airports closer to home.

A further new route will link Manchester with London City, with flights heading south on Sundays and returning on Thursday evenings, in a bid to attract weekly commuters. Such point-to-point travel between the cities is now more than 50 percent controlled by rail operators led by Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains.

British Airways will also add three more routes from London Stansted, Ryanair’s biggest base, where the company commenced flying last year. It will serve Geneva, Nice and Florence, Italy, this summer while resuming operations to Malaga and Faro, Portugal, and adding frequencies to Ibiza and Mallorca, which have been retained through the winter.

Before last summer BA had previously offered only a regular cargo service from Stansted, with its passenger operations focused on Heathrow, London City and leisure-oriented Gatwick.