British Midland takeover by BA a ‘fantastic deal’: Willie Walsh
PASSENGERS will get a "fantastic deal" from the takeover of BMI airline by British Airways' parent company, the man behind the move said today.
The deal was "a fantastic story", said Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group (IAG), which also owns Spanish carrier Iberia.
Mr Walsh said the BMI takeover would add welcome long-haul flights to BA and Iberia's schedules.
But he said it was "too early" to say what effect the takeover would have on staff levels at the airlines involved.
Mr Walsh stressed that BMI, owned by German carrier Lufthansa, suffered "massive financial losses" which had been "unsustainable" and he was confident that IAG could make a success of the business.
IAG has been particularly keen to get more take-off and landing slots at Heathrow and the BMI deal - if approved - will provide that at a time when the Government has ruled out runway expansion at the west London airport.
Mr Walsh said today: "This is a great story for IAG and also great for the UK economy and for consumers.
"We will expand our networks, particularly on long-haul which is so critically important to the UK economy. The deal will allow us to connect further to the emerging world economies."
Asked about jobs, Mr Walsh said: "It's far too early for us to say what the impact will be."
Sir Richard Branson's airline Virgin Atlantic, which said today that it still hoped to buy BMI, will oppose the IAG plan on the grounds that it will make BA too dominant at Heathrow.
But Mr Walsh said today he was confident that the IAG deal would go through.
BMI, formerly British Midland, has an extensive long-haul network, which includes Africa, Asia and North America. Services include Amritsar in India as well as popular North American destinations such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC and Montreal.