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Battle to rule skies takes off in Cardiff; Flybe and bmibaby clash over routes.

Byline: Ben Glaze

"GET your planes off our runway!"

That was the message from one budget airline to another today as passengers flying from Cardiff International Airport became hot property for two of the low-cost industry's big players.

A Flybe boss today claimed the airline would win the battle with bmibaby, which gets into full swing this month.

On March 30 Flybe launches three services a day to Edinburgh, two to Glasgow and one to Newcastle. It also has flights to Jersey and Belfast.

Rival bmibaby already flies to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Jersey and Belfast.

However, a bmibaby executive claimed it was ready for the battle and planned to be in Cardiff for the long term.

The airlines agreed passengers would be the winners as they were tempting flyers with cheap seats.

Flybe's chief commercial officer Mike Rutter said: "For customers it means low fares, high choice and high-frequency services, and the chance to benefit.

But ultimately we will come out on top, it's just a matter of time."

The firm is also exploring operating flights from Cardiff to Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Brussels, with an announcement expected in June, as reported yesterday.

Mr Rutter said in the long-term Flybe would focus on business routes and he expected bmibaby to concentrate on leisure weekends in European cities, rather than UK flights.

"We believe the business traffic is under-served. Cardiff is a vibrant capital city with a business community very proud of what it has achieved," he said. "It's not sustainable for there to be two low-cost airlines on domestic (routes)."

And the executive said the airline was trying to secure the Bay City Rollers for the March 30 launchso "they can play ByeBye Baby."

But bmibaby managing director Crawford Rix said: "We have competitors-Mike's copying my network! There is a great future at Cardiff forus. Wedon't all have to fly the same routes. There are plenty of opportunities out of Cardiff for us all.

"Bmibaby is at Cardiff to stay and we are looking to add aircraft in the near future."
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 15, 2008
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