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BMI Baby to cut flights to France

New blow for passengers as budget airline will reduce services from June 11 - and Heathrow faces more passport chaos

BUDGET airline BMI Baby is to cease operations from September - with some routes out of Paris and Nice being halted from June 11.

It is a new blow for travellers as Heathrow faces further disruption next week when Borders Force staff are expected to strike on Thursday.

The BMI Baby decision came after its new owner IAG - the parent company of British Airways - bought the airline and BMI Regional when it aquired BMI from Lufthansa last month.

BMI Baby has been losing about £25 million a year and there are fears for the futures of the 500 staff, many at its East Midlands base.

Services from East Midlands to Paris, Nice, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Geneva and Newquay will stop on June 11. Services from Birmingham to Knock and Amsterdam also halt on the same day, as will all flights using Belfast. The Birmingham-Nice service continues after June 11.

BMI interim managing director Peter Simpson said in a letter to staff that BMI Baby had "delivered high levels of operational performance and customer service, but has continued to struggle financially, losing more than £100m in the last four years".

He apologised to customers for changes from June and said they would be "providing full refunds and doing all we can with other airlines to mitigate the impact of these changes".

So far, Monarch Airlines has reacted to the news and announced plans to launch a new base at East Midlands - however, it has not announced any new French flights.

Meanwhile, anger over delays of up to three hours for passport control at Heathrow, the UK's No1 airport and the gateway for this summer's OLympic Games, have forced Home Secretary Theresa May to consider switching to a "risk based" system of checks, rather than the current blanket checks.

Passengers complained of long waits - while many desks at passport control were empty.

The government cut 900 jobs at the agency, which has 4,500 staff, as part of spending cuts. However, this week it has proposed a new levy on airport charges to fund increased staff. Airlines have rejected this, saying costs should come from the airport departure tax Air Passenger Duty.

Many Borders Force staff are expected to walk out next Thursday as part of a nationwide civil service strike over moves to raise the retirement age from 65.

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