IAG boss Willie Walsh: no Heathrow expansion now

BA boss says issue 'too politically sensitive'

Willie Walsh, boss of the owner of British Airways, today admitted “I don’t see any prospect of Heathrow ever expanding — it’s now too politically sensitive.”

The chief executive of International Airlines Group said Heathrow “missed the opportunity of expansion several years ago,” explaining: “Heathrow should have pursued the issue but instead made unhelpful comments that it didn’t want to expand. It’s difficult to reverse the situation. I don’t see any prospect of Heathrow ever expanding.”

The comments came as IAG returned to the black after Walsh’s efforts of taking the knife to the workforce of struggling Spanish carrier Iberia paid off. The airlines group swung to an operating profit of €245 million in the three months to July, compared to a loss of €4 million in the same quarter a year ago. That was better than analysts had pencilled in, sending shares up more than 3 per cent or 10.5p to 306.7p.

The picture wasn’t so buoyant when combined with the first three months of the year, however: first-half losses deepened to €345 million from €253 million in the first six months of 2012, mostly due to the costs of restructuring Iberia. IAG has axed 1700 people so far to save money at the airline and Walsh said “by the end of December it’ll be 2400, with another 800 people to leave in 2014. There’s still a lot of work to do there, it is still losing money.”

By contrast, BA’s performance flew higher with operating profit at €247 million, compared to €94 million in 2012.  

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