James Moore: Walsh knows his plans for BMI won't be grounded even if he's in the wrong

 

Outlook You've got to hand it to Willie Walsh. He's got a real talent for talking twaddle with an absolutely straight face. The deal he unveiled yesterday that will see his International Airlines Group taking BMI off Lufthansa's hands tightens significantly the already vice-like grip over take-off and landing slots at Heathrow held by British Airways, now the UK arm of IAG.

Heathrow users that splutter when they hear BA proclaiming itself the "world's favourite airline" are going to have to lump it. If the deal is allowed it will have 53 per cent of them.

Where's the problem, says Mr Walsh. BA will still be less dominant at Heathrow than Air France at Charles de Gaulle (59 per cent), than Lufthansa at Frankfurt (66 per cent), or than KLM at Schiphol (57 per cent). And that's nothing. Take a look around the globe and you'll find worse. Delta, for example, has 76 per cent of the slots at its base. In, ah, Atlanta.

Best not play poker with Mr Walsh. He managed to say all this without even indulging in a cheeky wink even though he was making about as specious an argument as it is possible to make.

Apart from the fact that none of the airports he mentioned occupies quite the pivotal position enjoyed by Heathrow in the UK, just because other airlines enjoy effective monopolies over their own little hubs doesn't make it right.

That is why Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Atlantic are crying foul.

To this Mr Walsh basically raised two fingers and said "yah boo sucks to you, Dicky". While Mr Walsh has been talking up the likelihood of regulators clearing him for take-off, he knows that they might be just a teensy bit concerned about his deal. Which is why he notified them before Sir Richard could get his complaint lodged.

It wasn't so very long ago that Mr Walsh might have had some cause for concern. But given the parlous state of the airline industry, that has all changed. Once-unthinkable alliances, like that between BA and American Airlines, have been cleared. Deals such as the one between BA and Iberia have also flown through.

It has been pointed out that EU regulators did thwart Ryanair's ambitions of taking over Aer Lingus. The Irish government, however, raised some rather strong objections. The British government will lobby in Mr Walsh's favour. Then there is the fact that just about everyone wanted to see Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary getting a bloody nose.

There may still be some remedies forced upon Mr Walsh. But the deal will probably be allowed for the same reasons a string of other dubious-looking transactions have been allowed: there aren't really any other options available.

BMI is in a mess and if Lufthansa can't offload the low-cost bmibaby separately then the final deal might look like it is paying IAG to take BMI off its hands rather than the other way round.

Sir Richard might be right (and there's really nothing worse than Sir Richard when he's right). It doesn't really matter. He can huff and puff all he wants, but he's not going to blow Mr Walsh's house down on this one. And Mr Walsh knows it.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own