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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links