BMED was established in 1994 by a group of private investors under the chairmanship of Lord Hesketh as a limited company. With a single A320, the airline flew five a week between London and Beirut, the Lebanese capital.
The following year, Des Hetherington, formerly with Kenya Airways and British Airways, was appointed as Chief Executive.
The route network grew significantly when further Middle East services began to the Syrian capital, Damascus, and the Jordanian capital, Amman. Expansion in a different direction occurred the same year when a fortnightly charter operation for gold miners started to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, in Central Asia.
Evidence of the effective fleet utilisation strategy came at the end of the year when Airbus Industries presented BMED with an Achievement Award for the highest average flight duration – 3.7 hours per flights – over a year.
In 1997, a joint franchise partnership was agreed with British Airways plc. British Airways withdrew its own services to Beirut, Damascus and Amman leaving BMED as the sole British carrier serving those routes. BMED adopted British Airways’ entire brand identity including the distinctive aircraft livery, changing crew uniforms and service delivery. Importantly, passengers were now able to book BMED through British Airways’ worldwide distribution system. Equally, the London operation transferred from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4 offering better flight connections and more modern facilities.
Three new routes started in 1997 to Alexandria in Egypt, Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, and Yerevan, the Armenian capital.
In May 1998, a new service to Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, was launched though only for one season.
The next event was in 2000 when BMED took over the operation of British Airways’ Gatwick service to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, transferring it to Heathrow. BMED took charge of a further A320, brand new from the Airbus assembly line and painted in the Chatham Historic Dockyard “Union Jack” livery.
Later that year, a new, non-stop service to Aleppo, Syria’s second city, was launched as were weekly flights to Luxor, Egypt, though the latter operated for one season only. BMED also took over the operation of another British Airways route to Tehran, the capital of Iran.
BMED then gained ‘fifth freedom traffic rights’ for the first time on its network, allowing passengers the right to travel between two overseas points, in this case, Baku and Bishkek.
Strong results for 2000-1 showed passengers carried up 24% to 211 500 from 171 000. The biggest rise in traffic was to Bishkek, up 77% to 9 600 passengers, and Alexandria, up 65% to 10 800 passengers.
2001 saw two more routes added to the network with flights to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, and to Almaty, Kazakhstan, taken over from British Airways mainline.
The most recent new route was started in 2003 to Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan. Services to Tbilisi were temporarily suspended between May and October due to inter-governmental negotiations on air services between the two countries.
In the twelve months to March 2003, BMED celebrated a notable milestone – carrying over a quarter of a million passengers.
In April, two new services commenced to Khartoum in the Sudan and Ekaterinburg in Russia bringing BMED’s route network to 16 destinations in 15 countries throughout Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
After 18 months of suspension, the service to Tbilisi, Georgia, resumed in October 2004 with two flights a week.
Highlights of the summer 2005 schedule include six weekly flights to Yerevan, daily flights to Tehran, three weekly flights to Tbilisi and dedicated Baku flights, the latter removing the Baku-Bishkek service.