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BTS 2013: Walsh hits out at government on hub airport

Air Passenger Duty is preventing Northern Ireland from gaining significant investment and is damaging its economy, according to IAG chief executive Willie Walsh.

The government’s strategy for increasing airport capacity in the south-east is destined to fail, according to IAG boss Willie Walsh.

Walsh poured cold water on the likely impact of the recently-formed Davies Commission, which has just started looking at options for increasing capacity, during the IAG chief executive’s opening speech at the Business Travel Show in London today (February 5).

“My own view is that we are not going anywhere with this,” said Walsh. “British Airways has planned its business on the basis that there will be no third runway at Heathrow. In 50 years time I expect that BA will still be operating from a two runway airport at Heathrow.”

Walsh added that even though there was an “overwhelming need for more capacity” – a solution was not likely to be found without cross-party support.

He added that there was also “no demand” from airlines for new runways at either Stansted or Gatwick.

“I have heard Gatwick talking about a second runway but that is assuming that airlines are willing to pay for it,” Walsh said.  “I am not going to spend one penny on new runways at Stansted or Gatwick.”

He added that while BA had managed to address its short-term lack of capacity at Heathrow through its purchase last year of Bmi, there were other airlines who were unable to add routes to fast-growing economies in the Far East and Latin America from Heathrow.

Walsh said that building a new hub airport would be “economic suicide” as it would never be able to secure commercial funding and the charges to airlines were likely to be “excessive” to pay for the project.

“This is the shocking situation that we find ourselves and it’s clearly having an impact on the ability of the UK to compete on the global stage,” he added.

Walsh also used his opening address to declare his confidence in the Boeing Dreamliner, which remains grounded due to safety fears over its onboard batteries.

BA is due to receive its first B787 later this year as well as its first superjumbo A380s from Airbus.

“The Dreamliner is hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons at the moment,” he said. “But I’m confident that this aircraft will be a great success. We are fully supportive of Boeing and the aviation authorities’ efforts to resolve the current technical issues and the aircraft back into the skies.”

Comments

I enjoyed listening to Willie today. Notice that he offered no solution to expansion. On Question Time in October 2012 he said he did not want a third runway. Today he did not want a new runway at Gatwick or Stansted. He did not want a new airport. He did say BA are OK at LHR unlike other airlines.
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John Ball (not verified)

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