Published on Monday, May 11, 2020

Willie Walsh sees 'nothing positive' in PM's coronavirus update

Chief executive of British Airways owner IAG, Willie Walsh, has seen 'nothing positive' in the Government's updated advice on coronavirus and warned it will be years before industry demand returns to 2019 levels.

Speaking at Monday's Parliament Transport Select Committee, Walsh said: "There's nothing positive in anything I heard the Prime Minister say yesterday,"

He said demand for flights may return 'by 2023 or 2024' but there will be no return 'to the way we were' in 2019.

"Anyone who believes we are going back to the way we were in 2019 misunderstands the situation we are in," Walsh said.

He told MPs: "It will probably be 2023 or 2024 before we get back to the levels of demand we saw in 2019.

"We have to ensure we are in shape to survive in an environment that will be significantly different. There is no point surviving in the short-term only to collapse."

The introduction of a two-week quarantine will not impact BA's traffic in a first stage because the airline has currently only very few passengers flying into the UK, Walsh said, but he cautioned that if the measure is imposed 'capacity will be pretty minimal' and the airline's recovery will be delayed.

"We had been planning to resume, on a pretty significant basis, our flying in July. I think we'd have to review that based on what the Prime Minister said," Walsh noted.

When asked about IAG's redundancy programme for BA, he said: "We are engaging in consultation [with the trade unions] as we are obliged to do, solely driven by the fact we are in the deepest downturn the aviation industry has ever seen.

"We've embarked on restructuring group wide. The labour laws in Spain and Ireland are different. We are not picking on BA. We are doing exactly the same with all airlines in the group."

He added: "Our capacity is going to be significantly lower in 2020, 2021 and 2022 than in 2019. This is driven solely by the downturn. The challenge we face is huge."

He reiterated earlier statements that the industry has changed, warning: "Anybody who believes that we're going back to the way things were in 2019 misunderstands the scale of the challenge that is being faced."  

He estimated it could be as late as 2023 or 2024 before demand returns to levels before the Covid-19 crisis, adding: "Some people believe it could take till 2026."

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