Willie Walsh of BA: Heathrow expansion is a ‘lost cause’

Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA owner, IAG, has said again that there will not be a 3rd Heathrow runway, as it is too controversial. He says UK politicians “lack the character” to get it built. “Historically, politicians have not been brave enough and I don’t think they will be brave enough going forward. You need a big shift in the politics of the country,” he said. However, Walsh warned a Conservative or Labour-led government against choosing Gatwick for an extra runway, adding that the case for growing the capital’s second-largest airport is “significantly weaker.”  Gatwick did not have the same international attraction. He said: “You won’t find many airlines that say ‘God I’d love to be able to fly to Gatwick’. That’s why this isn’t a business issue, an economic argument. It’s a political argument and the politics of expanding Heathrow are significantly more difficult than the politics of expanding Gatwick.”

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British Airways: Heathrow expansion is a ‘lost cause’

Willie Walsh says UK’s political class lacks character to push for third runway at airport

 

Heathrow expansion is a “lost cause”, according to the airport’s largest airline, despite a cross-party pledge to make a quick decision on new runways in the next parliament.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, the owner of British Airways, said Britain’s political class lacks the character required to push through a policy as controversial as a third Heathrow runway.

“Historically, politicians have not been brave enough and I don’t think they will be brave enough going forward. You need a big shift in the politics of the country,” he said. However, Walsh warned a Conservative or Labour-led government against choosing Gatwick for an extra runway, adding that the case for growing the capital’s second-largest airport is “significantly weaker.”

He said: “The airport does have capacity. You could make a case to build a second runway. The case is significantly weaker – and I don’t care what scale you want to use – than the case you can make to expand Heathrow.” He added that Gatwick did not have the same international attraction. “You won’t find many airlines that say ‘God I’d love to be able to fly to Gatwick’. That’s why this isn’t a business issue, an economic argument. It’s a political argument and the politics of expanding Heathrow are significantly more difficult than the politics of expanding Gatwick.”

Walsh also warned about uncertainty caused by the Conservative “fixation” with Europe and the promise of an in-out referendum. “The UK pulling out of the EU would be a blow to business, certainly. Withdrawing would be a mistake for the UK. When I travel around the world, people ask me – the UK isn’t going to pull out of Europe, surely? I think there is great surprise outside when people look at the debate that’s going on within the UK.”

British Airways will continue to look to expand in Asia, including a return to Kuala Lumpur in May 2015, and will look at other routes as more of its 787 Dreamliners on order are delivered. But Walsh admitted that its expansion in China had been slow. He said the latest Chinese route to the growing city of Chengdu, launched in late 2013, had disappointed and was slower to develop than hoped. “In terms of passenger demand, we are struggling as a result of Chinese visas. That’s a perfect example of where UK government policy is working against the UK interests of developing more business with China.”

Walsh also claimed that Sir Richard Branson has handed over control of his Virgin Atlantic airline to its “more rational” American minority partner Delta Air Lines. A 49% stake in Virgin owned by Singapore Airlines was sold last year to Delta. Virgin and Delta have since confirmed a transatlantic partnership and codeshare on routes from Heathrow to the US. Branson’s carrier has meanwhile rowed back from a range of destinations around the world, announcing withdrawals from Mumbai, Tokyo and Nairobi.

Walsh said: “Virgin is controlled by Delta. Decisions are taken in Atlanta by the Delta management team who are one of the best in the business. They are much more rational in terms of their behaviour.” He added: “Virgin has almost disappeared… Delta control Virgin, without any doubt, without any question. We just call it Delta now. “

Walsh said that he believed foreign ownership rules, which prevent non-European companies from running EU airlines, should be scrapped, but said he expected them to be applied to Delta. He said: “You could argue that if the rules are there they should be applied. The US is stronger on this… Europe is weak. Europe has lots of rules that they don’t necessarily abide by.”

A spokesman for Virgin said: “We agree Delta are the best airline partner in the marketplace and are glad Willie Walsh feels the same. We’ve clearly rattled his cage by how strong a competitor we now are on the US route.”

Walsh took a further swipe at his rival, whose domestic service to Scotland and Manchester from Heathrow, Little Red, has been operating with a large proportion of empty seats. Its Heathrow slots, owned by BA, were awarded to Virgin by competition authorities after BA bought BMI from Lufthansa. Walsh said: “It’s looking terrible. The fact is that they are struggling – you cannot make money flying planes that are less than half-full. I said it would be a mistake and am delighted to be proven correct.”

Walsh was speaking on the first flight from London to Washington of BA’s A380 aircraft, the first time the two nations’ capitals have been connected by the two superjumbos. BA has now received 7 of the 12 doubledecker Airbus aircraft, which can carry up to 469 passengers.

Walsh said the plane was a “beautiful machine” for Heathrow. “The business case for the A380 was based on high-volume routes when frequency was not in a critical issue in a slot constrained airport like Heathrow, and it’s absolutely perfect in that environment.”

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/02/british-airways-heathrow-third-runway-lost-cause-willie-walsh

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And below are some of the comments to the article, on the Guardian website:

To put it a different way, the UK political class lacks the will and ruthlessness to screw up the lives of several thousands of UK citizens so that Willie Walsh’s company can make more money. This is possibly because those people have the vote.
BA has a privileged position with landing slots at Heathrow. The UK government should put a 5 year limit on all the Heathrow slots and then put them up for auction. (a bit like the mobile phone frequencies) and let BA and the others bid for them.

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Actually it will be a brave politician who withstands the pressure from Walsh and his ilk to build a 3rd runway that that will be a white elephant before it’s even completed. Building more capacity for flying when global warming is finally beginning to climb the political agenda would be financial folly as well as several other kinds of folly.

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…a 3rd runway that that will be a white elephant before it’s even completed….
This point needs to be made time and time again.
There is less and less ‘easy/cheap-to-produce’ oil coming forth. Supplies contracting at 6% per year means that its availability halves in a dozen years.
We are going to be short of fuel for food trucks, never mind holiday-maker aeroplanes.

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Never mind a lost cause. It should not be a cause at all.

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The real problem with UK Politicians and others in the global economy is the failure to tax aviation fuel at a rate similar to that paid by other forms of transport.
Many politicians and members of the public appear to think that it is some form of legal right to foul the atmosphere and not pay.
I do not know if motor vehicle fuel bears a proper rate of tax in relation to the damage caused to the environment but it does look as if aviation fuel is under taxed.
I strongly suggest each individual is allocated a carbon allowance annually (tradable) and then make a choice to go to Florida say for a holiday or be cold in winter unless more carbon allowance is bought.
I doubt it will happen!

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“Heathrow expansion is a “lost cause”, according to the airport’s largest airline”
I hope he is right.
However, people should not rely on this hope. People should continue to hammer stakes into the heart of this threat, to make sure it stays dead.

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Let’s hope he’s right, it would be madness to expand Heathrow further, it’s too close to London and it’s big enough. Maybe the last resort if plans proceed would be a boycott by affected (most) Londoners. For a month at first would make the point?

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You need a big shift in the politics of the country,”
Too right, Willie. We need a politics where governments listen to ordinary people instead of self-interested twats like you.

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Heathrow has already outgrown its current location – and in any case – if it can’t make money out of 70 million customers a year – people like Mr Walsh should step down and let professional people take over. We need a better Heathrow not a bigger Heathrow.

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Earlier:

BA chief Willie Walsh comes out against a third Heathrow runway

2.12.2012John Stewart writes, in a blog for HACAN, that at at conference on 30th November Willie Walsh said he did not believe a 3rd runway at Heathrow would ever be built and that British Airways was basing its future plans on that belief by buying slots from other airlines at Heathrow and expanding its operations in Madrid.  This has important implications for the future of UK aviation policy, and leaves Heathrow Airport without a critical ally.  Walsh said BA is planning for life without a new Heathrow runway, and it appears that BA no longer sees the runway as in its commercial interesst.  He also said  he was opposed to mixed-mode at Heathrow.  BA’s newly-acquired Heathrow slots could in due course be used to serve the emerging markets of Asia and Africa and Madrid had good connections to South America.

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=1884


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Willie Walsh tells AOA that a Heathrow 3rd runway will never be built – it is too politically difficult

22.10.2013Willie Walsh has said – at the Airport Operators Association in London – that a 3rd runway at Heathrow will “never” be built  – as he claims politicians will always put their election campaigns over national interests. He said nimbyism will stop politicians from doing anything with the findings of Sir Howard Davies’s Airports Commission – and a new  Heathrow runway is just politically too difficult.”  He claims, rather bitterly, that “This is politics with a small ‘p’. The national interest gets lost as the individual politicians look to understand how this will impact on them getting elected.” Perhaps he is also considering self interest. Sir Howard Davies, also speaking at the AOA conference, said of the airport capacity/new runway decision:  “Realistically this is the sort of decision that gets made early in a Parliament if it gets made at all,” as it is too contentious to be dealt with by politicians in the run-up to an election.  The Airports Commission know any new runway would take “a decade or more to come into effect” and the process will likely be delayed by legal challenges. The commission already faces the threat of a judicial review after campaign group, Stop Stansted Expansion, initiated legal proceedings earlier this month.

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=18046


Willie Walsh still wants 3rd runway – but “Heathrow is always going to be a 2-runway airport

25.5.2014

Interview in the Independent on Sunday with Willie Walsh. He wants a 3rd Heathrow runway, though he unwillingly accepts it will not happen. He says he stopped campaigning when “the Conservatives said they were not going to support it.” … “I accept it…. I’ve not done anything since.” Now, he says, there is “not sufficient political will – it’s seen as too risky to support a 3rd Heathrow runway. Even Labour, which did back the idea when in government, has changed. “Ed Miliband was the only member of the Labour Cabinet against the 3rd runway. Now he’s the leader”…. “It’s highly unlikely we will see a 3rd runway. Heathrow is always going to be a 2-runway airport.”  We can, Walsh says, dismiss Boris Island for a start. “There’s no support for Boris island other than from Boris.” As for Sir Howard, it does not matter what he concludes, because “whatever he does will be handed over to politicians, none of whom are bound by his recommendations”.  So with no new runways we just reach south east airport capacity and UK aviation stops growing? Yes, says Walsh.

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=21595

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