Birmingham International Airport yesterday pledged to find new carriers to take over after one of its customers cut a number of routes because of the global financial downturn.

Budget Midland airline Bmibaby said it would be suspending planned flights to Rome, Milan, Lisbon, Madrid and Bordeaux between March 29 and October 24 next year, blaming a drop in consumer demand.

But airport chief executive Paul Kehoe said: “We have already had interest from other airlines to fill the gap but until those things become hard contracts we can’t say any more. I’ve said before Birmingham isn’t immune to the economic downturn and this has proved us right. But the fact we have got interest from other airlines is a good sign.

“There are things happening that will ameliorate the impact that this has had on us. But I have asked the team to redouble their efforts to fill this gap.”

Birmingham International needed more Midland travellers to “come home” and use their local airport if it was to prosper. Currently 60 per cent of flights made by people from the West Midlands leave from airports outside the region.

Most airlines have found 2008 a very difficult year, after being hit by soaring oil prices in the first half of the year and then by dwindling customer demand as people cancelled holidays in response to the credit crunch.

Bmibaby, which was bought by German firm Lufthansa last month, runs 130 flights a week to 25 destinations out of Birmingham. It said customers who already had tickets booked to one of the cancelled destinations would receive full refunds, or free replacement flights to alternative destinations.

The company said the loss of the Birmingham routes was part of a cost-cutting package and 70 jobs being lost. It is in negotiations with staff at its Leicestershire base to try to find the job cuts.

A spokeswoman said: “These seasonal summer 2009 routes are being suspended in response to a weakening of consumer demand, which is being impacted upon by the economic climate and its unpredictability.”