BA to axe short-haul flights if third runway is blocked

30.9.2009 (Evening Standard)

by Sri Carmichael, Consumer Affairs Reporter

British Airways will be forced to scrap "significant" numbers of domestic and
European flights out of
London if no third runway is built at Heathrow, the company said today.

The Tories have pledged to ditch the Government’s plan for extra capacity at
the west London airport if they win power next year.

BA’s chief executive Willie Walsh said the airline, which lost £401 million last year,

would focus on more profitable long-haul services if it was stopped from expanding
its way

out of the recession.

He said: "If the Tories don’t want a third runway, we’ll have to cut capacity
significantly on European and domestic flights from Heathrow.

“We need expansion and we can get added growth in

long-haul services which are much more profitable."

Yesterday, BA launched its first business-only service from London City airport
to JFK in New

York, a move widely seen by industry experts as the airline testing long-haul

Mr Walsh said: "I believe the third runway is right.    Heathrow needs the extra
capacity and the

economy would benefit.     There’s no credible alternative for finding that capacity

He emphasised BA would look for foreign opportunities for expansion if the British government
squeezed its business.

He said he hoped his airline would conclude discussions over a merger with Spanish

Iberia "by the end of the year".

The deal would give BA more slots on the Continent and more capacity in Madrid.

The company is also hoping to buy struggling British airline bmi if owners Lufthansa decide

to sell it, as industry insiders expect.

Bmi has the second largest number of slots at Heathrow, at over 10%, so the deal

would improve BA’s capacity.