BA boss opposes third Heathrow runway

Willie Walsh says "this is a vanity project by the management of Heathrow who are driven to build a monument to themselves."

British Airways-owner IAG, Heathrow’s biggest customer, says it does not support a 3rd Heathrow runway saying the price is excessive and “cannot be justified on any basis”.

Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG – the group that owns British Airways and Iberia, launched a scathing attack on the 3rd third runway at Heathrow, dismissing it as a “vanity” project whose costs would be “outrageous”.

He also expressed doubts about the political approval as Prime Minister, David Cameron, would have to do a huge U-turn on his famous “no ifs, no buts, no 3rd runway” promise.

The statements from such an important figure in the industry are a devastating blow to Heathrow.

IAG is by far the largest customer at Heathrow. BA alone currently has 51% of the slots and the IAG group will soon have 56% when they complete the takeover of Aer Lingus.


Mr Walsh said:

“The infrastructure is not fit for purpose. The price tag is excessive and cannot be justified on any basis. We didn’t ask for it and we’re not paying for it.”

“Ultimately it’s airline customers that will pay the price and I don’t get any calls from customers asking to put the fares up.

He said that Heathrow was already one of the most expensive airports in the world and was now “talking about raising costs by 50 per cent to build the extra runway”.

IAG currently pays Heathrow around £800m to £900m annually.

He said that if he was the chief executive of Heathrow, “I’d be concerned about my ability to finance this project.”

Mr Walsh told the Evening Standard:

“At the moment this is a vanity project by the management of Heathrow who are driven to build a monument to themselves.”


Mr Walsh expressed doubts that the government would back the Davies commission’s recommendation, but that even if it did, Heathrow expansion would be far from a done deal.

Mr Walsh said:

“I think the prime minister is going to struggle to do a U-turn on comments he made before the 2010 election” – when David Cameron said “no ifs, no buts” ruling out a third runway.

Mr Walsh’s criticisms were seized on by opponents of a bigger Heathrow.

John Stewart, chairman of anti-expansion group HACAN, told the Evening Standard:

“Willie Walsh is saying that a third runway won’t deliver benefits for the aviation industry that are worth paying for. This could turn out to be curtains for the third runway unless this is no more than clever negotiating tactics by one of the sharpest operators in the business.”

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