The planned merger between British Airways and Iberia has reignited talk of a possible tie-up with Qantas, according to the airline’s chief executive Willie Walsh.
Plans for a tie-up between the UK and Australian flag carriers were scotched last year after they failed to agree over terms. However the BA-Iberia merger, in which the two airlines maintain their own brand identities and home bases, would serve as a template for similar tie-ups with airlines. Walsh said Qantas would be a lead runner.
In an interview with the Financial Times, he said: “You could look again there” regarding an alliance with Qantas.
Although he added that there were no concrete plans at present following staunch political objection in Australia to a BA/Qantas merger.
He said: “Having spent time and effort debating the issue first time round, you’d want to be pretty sure that those hurdles were not going to be insurmountable.”
Meanwhile Walsh has warned BA cabin crew that he will not compromise over his cost-cutting plans, despite as the workers’ union Unite gearing up for possible strike action over Christmas.
He said that dispute was “very, very different” from one in January 2007, when an 11th-hour settlement with flight attendants averted strike action.
The £130m cost cutting programme includes voluntary redundancies as well as staffing levels on long-haul flights.
“In 2007 I saw things that I wasn’t happy with,” Mr Walsh said. “I saw there was some merit in the arguments that were being made.” But no one should “look for parallels” this time around, he said. “I implemented these changes because I believed it was the right thing for the business to do.”
Unite started balloting more than 12,000 staff on strike action last Monday and could legally have a walkout from December 21 if its members vote Yes.
Separately, Mr Walsh brushed aside calls for Roger Maynard, BA’s director of investments and alliances, to step down as chairman of the trustees of BA’s pension schemes over a conflict of interest between the airline and its pensioners.
Iberia can cancel the deal if it thinks that the pension recovery plan is “materially detrimental” to the merger.
Walsh said: “Roger is a fantastic guy who is one of the most honourable people I’ve met.
“He is one of the people that I would without hesitation say is capable of separating out his responsibilities better than anybody else I know.”