New flights to Barcelona have been secured by Birmingham Airport just days after a daily service to New York was unveiled.
The Post can reveal Vueling Airlines will launch a Birmingham to Barcelona service next June, with five flights a week, after it emerged that American Airlines would fly to John F Kennedy Airport daily from May 8.
Both flights have links with British Airways and Birmingham Airport chief executive Paul Kehoe said he hoped it was a step towards convincing the flag carrier to return to the city eight years after pulling out.
Meanwhile he is also keen to add more US destinations, with thousands of people every week heading from the region to Heathrow and Manchester to fly to the States.
Mr Kehoe said: “Vueling Airlines will launch a Birmingham to Barcelona service next June, five flights a week.
“Vueling are owned by British Airways, so it will be another carrier carrying a BA codeshare. It might not have a blue and white tail but it is a codeshare and reinforces BA’s return to Birmingham.
“Within the space of two days we are seeing a BA presence at Birmingham – good for customers, more choice.”
While flights to Barcelona are already on offer in Birmingham from Ryanair and Monarch, Mr Kehoe said the city was still under-served.
The Post revealed online this week that the JFK flights would complement the existing route between Birmingham and Newark operated by United Airlines from Birmingham.
Through the American Airlines and British Airways joint business and Oneworld airline alliance, they will offer a British Airways code share, allowing customers to earn and redeem BA air miles and Avios points.
Mr Kehoe said there were in excess of 150,000 people from this region flying to New York who go from Heathrow, Manchester or Gatwick to fly to JFK.
Now, he is keen to secure services to other US cities after the runway extension opened earlier this year opened up the whole of the US.
He said: “I am hopeful this American Airlines decision to come back to Birmingham is a vote for that and hopefully longer term we will be able to pick up more long-haul flights, if the routes have enough passengers to sustain it – like Dallas, or Chicago or LA – which we are capable of doing with the runway.”
He added: “I think American Airlines is a good product, the reason they left 14 years ago was because of 9/11.
“We were serviced by British Airways from Eurohub. That went away through the recession. That complements other services we have got. I mentioned United, also the new service with Iceland Air via Reykjavík to eight US cities.
“The customer has got choice. If they are prepared to do a layover in Reykjavík, they can get some very good deals.”
The loss of British Airways to the airport in 2006, after more than 60 years, has been an ongoing bitter pill to swallow. It meant thousands of job losses but, moreover, reputational damage for Birmingham Airport in its efforts to encourage passengers from the Midlands and beyond to choose to fly from this city.
Mr Kehoe believes the latest progress was a step in the right direction.
He said: “More importantly to me it does bring British Airways to Birmingham and puts us on the British Airways map. A lot of people were British Airways fans and the feeling was they were not here.
“All flights now operated by British Airways and American Airlines across the Atlantic are in this joint venture – Oneworld alliance.”
He added: “If we can make a success of these two BA routes who knows what might happen.
“We need to impress upon them that Birmingham Airport really wants BA back. In my wildest dreams I would love them back. They are still the flag carrier for the UK.”