Up to 600 jobs are under threat as UK airline bmi launches a restructure programme.

The job losses are being blamed on the carrier’s decision to reduce the number of aircraft in its mainline operation by nine from the present 39.

Among the aircraft earmarked for discontinuation are two of the airline’s three long-haul Airbus A330s whose leases will not be renewed in the first half of 2010. The airline says it will continue to serve mid-haul markets with two long-range aircraft and its fleet of Airbus A321s.

The removal of the aircraft is just one of the plans for the airline’s restructure, which will focus on suspending loss-making routes, adjusting capacity to optimise efficiency and profitability, strengthening productivity, using synergies with partner airlines and maximising revenue generating.

Following the announcement of the redundancies, a consultation has begun with unions and staff representatives to minimise the number of jobs lost, although the airline has warned there may be more.

Unite national officer for civil aviation Brian Boyd reacted angrily to the job loss news, saying: “Today’s announcement is further indication of the difficulties in the airline industry.

“However, the fact that another 600 jobs are being lost confirms our belief that far too many employers are treating people’s livelihoods with impunity.

“Unite understands the need to cut costs but job losses seem to be the knee-jerk reaction. To cut jobs so close to Christmas is, at best, insensitive.”