Spanair is to launch its first scheduled operation in the UK in May with flights from Birmingham to Madrid and Barcelona.

The airline will operate four flights a week to Barcelona, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and three a week to Madrid, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The services start on May 20 to Barcelona and May 21 to Madrid. Both will be operated on 168-seat Airbus A320s with business and economy cabins.

Spanair has previously operated charter flights from Birmingham, but believes the scheduled services will fill a gap from the Midlands which will increase when Bmibaby ceases its Birmingham-Barcelona service on June 7.

Birmingham airport chief executive Paul Kehoe said: “We will provide the only direct Madrid service south of Liverpool and north of the Watford Gap.”

And he added: “We are obviously delighted too with the news that Barcelona will continue to be available for our passengers once the current service stops in June.”

Spanair chief executive Mike Szucs said onward connections would be offered from Barcelona and Madrid to the carrier’s scheduled network across mainland Spain, the Balearics and the Canaries. North Africa will also be served.

Spanair is part of the Star Alliance network, and has 16 codeshare agreements.