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Gaming Guru

Richard N. Velotta

BMI Inaugurates McCarran Service

1 November 2004

With showgirls, Elvis and a British beefeater in the crowd, Sunday's arrival of Great Britain's second-largest airline at McCarran International Airport might have been mistaken for just another costume party on Halloween.

But the celebration was a salute to BMI, which inaugurated nonstop round-trip flights between Manchester, England, and Las Vegas hours before it got dark enough for trick-or-treaters.

About 200 passengers took the first flight, arriving on time about 1 p.m. through a water arch provided by McCarran emergency crews. The airline, which offers more than 2,000 daily flights per week to 37 destinations in 12 countries, will make its 10-hour run between Manchester and Las Vegas three times a week, on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The airline announced Sunday that advanced bookings have encouraged executives to maintain the three-a-week flight schedule beyond April. Initially, BMI had planned to cut back service to twice a week after April 18.

BMI is the third airline to offer scheduled trans-Atlantic flights to McCarran. Virgin Atlantic Airways, operated by flamboyant Chief Executive Richard Branson, flies four times a week between London's Gatwick International Airport and Las Vegas, and Condor Airlines has twice-a-week scheduled charter service between Frankfurt, Germany, and McCarran.

Airline executives are hoping to capitalize on double-digit increases in passenger counts at McCarran. Through the first three quarters of 2004, McCarran traffic is up 14.7 percent to 31.1 million passengers. About 45 percent of the city's gamblers arrive by air.

BMI, which links several cities throughout Great Britain as well as connections with major population centers and tourist areas on the European continent, plans to increase marketing in the United States to encourage travel through an airport that is less congested than the big London gateways.

Adrian Parkes, BMI's commercial director, was on the inaugural flight and said he's optimistic that Southern Nevada's golfing community will find its way to Scotland on the airline.

"There certainly is some reciprocal golfing opportunities in this routing," he said, noting that BMI offers connections through Manchester to cities near golf courses made famous by the British Open.

"The way our schedule is set, I could see golfers going over to play for a long weekend," Parkes said, noting the Thursday departure late in the afternoon and a return Sunday afternoon.

BMI is using a twin-engine Airbus A330 jet on the Las Vegas route. The plane is configured with 24 business class seats, 48 economy seats offering more leg room and laptop computer connections and 172 economy class seats.

The British carrier is a codeshare partner with United Airlines, meaning that customers can buy tickets through United outlets and arrange seamless connections between United and BMI flights. BMI also has flights from Manchester to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and Washington, D.C.'s Dulles International Airport, both of which are served by United's Ted Airlines discount subsidiary.

The airline also is part of the Star Alliance, a partnership of airlines with frequent flier programs compatible with United and Virgin Atlantic.

BMI differentiates itself from other trans-Atlantic service by using an onboard chef trained as a flight attendant to prepare meals and by being one of the first overseas air carriers to have onboard electrocardiogram equipment to monitor passengers who become ill on lengthy flights.