Touchdown: Sir Michael Bishop sells his stake in BMI

The Cheshire-born businessman and former Channel 4 chairman began building up British Midland in the sixties. He was a favourite of Maggie Thatcher’s and a staunch believer in the free economy, helping to liberalise the airline industry with decades of lobbying and publicly denouncing the “unholy alliance between the government, BAA and British Airways”.

But that hasn’t stopped BA’s chief executive Willie Walsh paying tribute to Sir Michael: “He’s done a great job for British aviation and is highly respected for all that he has achieved. We hope that he will continue to play a key role in the industry.”

Sir Michael propelled BMI into a major player, carrying 112 million passengers last year in its fleet of 54 aircraft. Lufthansa has apparently “paid through the nose” for the remaining shares, meeting a price agreed before the economy took a nosedive.

With BMI, Lufthansa becomes Heathrow’s second-largest airline, controlling about 16 per cent of take-off slots.

Now that Lufthansa is in a fiercer position to compete with BA on European and long-haul routes, there’s speculation of a price war. Here’s hoping…

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