BA’s Willie Walsh lays into Branson

BA boss Willie Walsh has stepped up his war of words with Richard Branson, urging the Virgin Atlantic founder to “wake up” to new economic landscape and stop relying on numbers that “don’t add up”.
BA boss Willie Walsh has stepped up his war of words with Richard Branson, urging the Virgin Atlantic founder to “wake up” to new economic landscape and stop relying on numbers that “don’t add up”.

Writing in the latest edition of staff newspaper BA News, Mr Walsh said: “Richard Branson sounds like a broken record. He is stuck in the groove of 1996 when - in a completely different regulatory environment - we first applied for a link-up with AA.

“Almost all the arguments Virgin puts forward in relation to our application for a transatlantic tie-up with American Airlines rely on figures that are irrelevant or mistaken.

“Virgin even tries to deny that it has a monopoly on fast trains between London and Manchester. Yet any railway timetable shows that it does. Why should we trust any of Virgin’s numbers if it has a problem counting to one?”

Walsh’s attack was in response to Branson’s “No Way BA/AA” - a £3m lobby campaign to scupper BA’s proposed joint-venture with American Airlines, claiming it would severely damage competition on major transatlantic routes and leave consumers worse off by pushing up ticket prices and reducing competition on the busiest air corridor in the world.

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Sir Richard Branson commented: “Make no mistake - if this monster monopoly is approved it will be third time unlucky for consumers. It will still be bad for passengers, bad for competition, and bad for the UK and US aviation industry.

The bad blood between the two has existed since Virgin shopped BA to the competition authorities in 2006 over fuel surcharge price-fixing, which landed BA with a £350m bill.
“Virgin’s business model is its own affair, but it seems to believe that the purpose of aviation regulation between the entire EU and the US is to give Virgin a cushy life,” Walsh added.
“Wake up, Branson! The first stage ‘Open Skies’ agreement between the EU and US has changed everything.”
The BA boss argues that the Star alliance between Lufthansa, United and Skyteam, (including Air France/KLM and Delta) already has the anti-trust immunity BA and American are seeking.
He added: “For all Virgin’s exaggerated talk of our venture with American creating a ‘stranglehold’ at Heathrow, the fact is that a deal would increase our existing slot-holding by just three percentage points.”
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