British Airways chief Willie Walsh has heralded the return of the aviation industry after six years of turbulence as his airlines group enjoyed a 55 per cent surge in profit to land its best second quarter since 2007.
“We’re back to the figures we saw before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008,” Walsh, chief executive of BA and Iberia-owner International Airlines Group, said.
“The UK’s GDP figures are good, and Spain’s are improving. The economies are obviously not as strong as they were in 2007, but the airlines have improved. We’re more efficient.”
IAG’s operating profit hit €380 million (£301 million) in the second quarter, up from €245 million a year earlier, as Iberia turned around a loss to fly into profit, and BA continued to soar. Walsh said the World Cup damaged demand for flights to Latin America.
“It had a dilutive effect. Business people avoided the area, just as with the London Olympics.” But despite the violence in the Middle East, Walsh said British Airways’ decision not to halt flights to Tel Aviv, as airlines such as easyJet did, was backed by passengers.
“We assess security on an ongoing basis, and found Tel Aviv continued to be safe,” he said. “We’re not seeing any change in demand, and only a small number of cancellations.” After flight MH17 was shot down in Ukraine, he called for a new cross-aviation system to identify flight risks.
“What happened to MH17 was a disgrace, I was sickened by the images I saw. Governments need to ensure surface-to-air missiles are controlled, we need a convention on them,” he said. “ It would also be helpful if we had some way of sharing information about air space.”