Outlook: BA, the sinner who repents

AFTER ALL that shilly-shallying with Boeing, British Airways has finally done what everyone knew it would and placed a large part of its order for future aircraft needs with Airbus. There is said to have been a row on the BA board about this right up until the last moment, and no doubt BA carved a cracking good deal by playing the two rival aircraft producers off against each other. But in truth Bob Ayling, BA's chief executive, always intended to go this route.

BA has been regarded as the bad boy of Europe for too long now. When Lord King, with Mrs Thatcher at his side, ran the show, its arrogant and sometimes obstructive stance with the Europeans didn't seem to do the company's underlying business any harm. It might even have helped. But that time has long since gone and there's evidence that BA's reputation in Europe for being difficult ensured a much rougher ride with regulators over its planned link-up with American Airlines than it might otherwise have got.

Heaven forbid that there was any kind of a political fix in BA's decision to buy Airbus for the first time. That sort of thing just doesn't happen on the Continent, does it? But today's ceremony in Toulouse, complete with a guest appearance from Tony Blair, is going to help BA's image no end. And as everyone knows, the sinner who repents....

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