AILING airline BMI is slashing 600 jobs and axing five of its Heathrow routes as it strives to cut costs, it said yesterday.<br /><br />The carrier will also start handing back its leased aircraft, it said, blaming the recession and the fall-off in demand for travel.<br /><br />BMI will stop flying to Brussels, Tel Aviv, Kiev and Aleppo in January, and its route to Amsterdam will be scrapped in March next year.<br /><br />“Cutting these routes is significant for BMI,” Astaire Securities’ Douglas McNeill said yesterday. “The airline has been building itself up as a mid-haul airline, so saying it will no longer fly to Tel Aviv, Kiev and so on is a signal that that’s not working,” he added.<br /><br />The struggling carrier, which is owned by Germany’s Lufthansa, had warned that it could go under unless it raised an extra £190m in funding. <br /><br />Its parent airline, which has failed to find a buyer for BMI, will put up £95m and hopes to raise a further £95m by selling off its coveted Heathrow slots. It is currently the second-largest operator at Heathrow.<br /><br />It lost £155m last year and is facing a further £200m loss this year.<br /><br />BMI, which said its workforce was being cut across the airline, also warned that further job cuts could be necessary as it fights for survival. <br /><br />The carrier’s low-cost arm, bmi baby, has announced 158 job-losses.<br /><br />The Unite union said that announcing the cuts just before Christmas was insensitive and cast doubt on other areas of bmi’s business.<br /><br />“Unite understands the need to cut costs, but job losses seem to be the kneejerk reaction,” said Brian Boyd, the union’s national officer for civil aviation. <br /><br />Airline pilots’ union BALPA said it would work with bmi to try to avoid compulsory job cuts.