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The British low-cost airline bmi is scrapping its route between Tel Aviv and London from January 10 as part of sweeping cost-cutting measures. Its departure leaves the route to El Al, easyJet and British Airways.

It only introduced the route to Tel Aviv in March of last year.

The carrier is cutting at least 600 jobs and is reducing its fleet of jets, as well as scrapping loss-making routes to cope with falling demand in the growling economy, it said yesterday.

The company, owned by German carrier Lufthansa, warned that even more jobs could go.

Like many airlines around the world, bmi has been hit hard by diminishing demand, volatile fuel prices and intensifying competition.

"The airline industry is facing the challenges of a downturn in demand and the worst recession in the U.K. since records began," bmi said in a statement.

Though Lufthansa, which bought bmi in July, is behind the efficiency measures, an airline representative said it didn't order the Israel route to be cut. bmi was free to decide on its own which routes it should abolish, Lufthansa said.

bmi, which is the second-biggest carrier at London's Heathrow Airport and employs 4,500 people, will reduce the number of aircraft in its bmi Mainline unit by nine from the current 39.

Tel Aviv is in good company: bmi is also suspending flights from London Heathrow to Brussels, the Ukrainian capital Kiev and Aleppo in Syria.

Flights between London and Amsterdam will end in March, and seasonal flights from Heathrow to Palma in Majorca and Venice will not resume next summer.

The International Air Transport Association said earlier this month that it expects airlines to lose $11 billion on a net basis in 2009.