British Airways “could be detached” from owner IAG, ex-airline boss says
The former chief executive of British Airways and its parent company which also owns Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling, International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), has suggested that the British airline could be created as a result of Covid-19.
Willie Walsh, who ran IAG until 2020, and BA before that, told the Sunday Telegrah that British Airways could be sold to lighten the business or to satisfy EU ownership rules.
IAG was born from the merger in 2011 of BA and Spanish Iberia and although it is listed on the FTSE, it is registered in Madrid and its three main executives are Spanish.
Walsh said, “Nothing says pieces of IAG could not be sold or cut in bulk.
“It was always my thought when I was there. If part of the business was not performing, or was underperforming, or didn’t make sense, then you could dispose of that part of the business.
Walsh added, “I don’t think it will happen, but it could happen.”
The aviation boss, who now heads the airline lobby group IATA, has joined the chorus of travel directors crying out scandal over the UK government’s traffic light system for international travel.
“I don’t think you can describe the traffic light system as being effective in any way, you know it’s stuck red,” Walsh told The Telegraph.
“They’ve already ditched the criteria they set where they made it clear that they would give people a fair warning if the lights were to change…
“Then pulling the rug under people like they did, I think that was very, very poor, and just, you know, it shows that they really don’t think of consumers or the public.”
Walsh echoed calls from former rivals of Easyjet, Ryanair and Jet2 who criticized the government’s rigid rules for arrivals to the UK from seemingly safe holiday destinations such as Portugal.
The Global Travel Task Force was supposed to be a joint industry-government initiative that would use data on infections, testing and vaccination to set clear rules for resuming travel, but the aviation industry said that it did not feel heard.
Charlie Cornish of Manchester Airports Group, owner of Stansted, said this month that the UK government had spent a lot of time on the travel industry’s traffic light system “with limited industry involvement”.
“There is no reason why more countries cannot be added to the green list,” said Cornish, pointing to the Canary and Balearic Islands.
BA owner IAG has lost around two-thirds of its market capitalization since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Two-thirds of IAG’s revenue and profits come from the UK carrier, which has been constrained by the collapse of flights to and from the US and other long-haul routes.