IAG’s Willie Walsh confirms interest in bidding for bmi
The man at the controls of IAG (International Airlines Group http://www.iairgroup.com ), the airline group formed through the British Airways/Iberia merger, has confirmed
he would look at buying bmi if current owner Lufthansa is willing to sell.
Speaking at the International Air Transport Association summit in Singapore,
Willie Walsh said: “I have said we are interested – it is really a decision for
Bmi’s attraction lies in the valuable slots it holds at Heathrow.
It has retained these even though Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, bmi chief executive,
has been a fierce critic of both the airport’s performance and the high charges
imposed by its operator, BAA.
Mr Walsh added that IAG was keen to form a joint venture with the Japanese airline,
JAL, a fellow member of the Oneworld Alliance. Lufthansa recently got anti-trust
approval for a similar venture with All Nippon Airways.
The meeting also saw BA reveal plans for a major marketing drive to rebuild customer
confidence which was damaged by the 18-month cabin crew dispute. Keith Williams,
BA chief executive, admitted the airline had suffered as a result of the breakdown
of industrial relations. The row led to 22 days of strikes last year, which cost
BA an estimated £150m.
Mr Williams was widely praised for settling the dispute within weeks of taking
over from Willie Walsh.
“One of the things we have to do is rebuild the brand image which suffered as
a result of the dispute,” he said. “Customers have stuck with BA during this period,
but it is better to know we will be flying going forward, rather than having an
overhang of industrial disruption.”
Industrial relations were improving, Mr Williams said. “One of the first things
I did when I started was spend a lot of time on planes talking to cabin crew.”
Some of the marketing push will be linked to the 2012 London Olympics, with BA
being one of the official sponsors.