Saturday 17 March 2018

IAG boss Willie Walsh threatens Dublin move for British Airways operations

Willie Walsh
Willie Walsh
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Former Aer Lingus boss Willie Walsh has threatened to move some of British Airways' Heathrow operations to Dublin if planned changes to the airport by David Cameron goes ahead.

Mr Walsh is the chief executive of IAG, the parent company for both British Airways and Iberia airlines.

He has now expressed strong opposition to proposals that would involve building a third runway at the London hub.

He said this would dramatically push up costs for the airline - which in turn would lead to a rise in passenger fares.

Mr Walsh warned the plan is for a "gold-plated airport to fleece its customers".

He said other options were being considered only to "satisfy the ego" of the Prime Minister, who had "spoken before he understood" the runway debate.

He also warned that IAG, the biggest airline operator at Heathrow, would consider moving its operations to either Dublin or Madrid, if a cost-effective alternative to the £17.6bn runway plan, was not introduced instead.

Addressing the Aviation Club in London, Walsh said there would be only two runways at Heathrow by 2050.

"There is no political will to build a new runway and … yet again, the opportunity to harness aviation's economic benefits for Britain will be lost."

He was also asked about other options on the table, such as an extended second runway at Heathrow or expanding Gatwick, which would avoid Cameron breaking his 2009 pledge to rule out any third runway.

"I don't think I should compromise, or put at risk the viability of my business, to satisfy the ego of a politician who should not have said that in the first place, until he understood the implications of the statement that he was making."

He stressed that there is "no business case for expanding Gatwick'.'

"Very few airlines support the proposal and no one would move there while Heathrow remains open,'' he said. Although he said he expected the government to avoid the decision, Mr Walsh warned: "Any expansion at Heathrow must only be undertaken if it's done cost-effectively."

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