Business Travel Market was today host to one of the captains of the aviation and business travel industry with a powerful speech delivered by BA’s ceo Willie Walsh. Addressing a crowd of 350 exhibitors, visitors, buyers and suppliers at the event held at ExCeL, Walsh outlined his new ‘confidence and optimism’ in the industry.
Thanking the delegation for their support and loyalty to the company, he spoke of the many issues and challenges the industry collectively faces.
Mr. Walsh outlined his commitment to long haul and short haul travel and was adamant that transatlantic business remains robust. He mentioned that had it not been for the downturn, BA would have already expanded its network further in the USA and potential further routes to long haul destinations from London City Airport with Boston, Washington and Chicago mooted as possibilities.
Commenting on the Middle East carriers, Walsh praised Emirates as ‘a rational commercial carrier’ but agreed with a comment made at last week’s IATA conference that ‘three hubs in such a small area may be reduced to two in the future.’ Whilst they were a ‘bit of competition for BA’ Mr Walsh said that the absence of the third runway at LHR provided increasing opportunities for the Middle East to position itself even more strongly as a world wide hub.
When probed whether he would be lobbying the third runway issue, Walsh said he was not going to ‘waste time and energy pursuing this bid’ but would ‘look at current access opportunities’.
On the hot topic of further strikes and Unite, Walsh said there was a ‘gulf between the views of Unite and those of the large majority of cabin crew’. He was adamant that if there was to be further industrial action, they would build on the success of recent weeks and aim to fly 100% of their long haul operation.
Walsh was emphatic that they ‘had to get the industry back on an even keel’ and ‘whilst it will be a long hard road, it is achievable’.
Future plans for BA include the International Airline Consolidated Group (IACG) and Walsh also outlined plans to re-introduce apprenticeships at BA and his continued commitment to the current graduate training scheme to ensure investment in the airline’s talent pipeline.
Business Travel Market’s event director Paul Robin said ‘British Airways has been instrumental along with our other founding partners in helping to shape our event this year, and it was a fantastic opportunity for all attending BTM to hear from one of the most experienced leaders in the industry. Mr Walsh spoke with passion and we are delighted we could offer this opportunity for our delegation.
Business Travel Market took place today and yesterday at London’s ExCeL exhibition centre. The dates for Business Travel Market 2010 were also announced today as Wednesday 15th and Thursday 16th June 2011.