British Airways parent IAG says CEO Willie Walsh to stay until September

LONDON: British Airways-owner IAG (ICAG.L) said that chief executive Willie Walsh would stay on until September to steer it through the coronavirus crisis, and that it was planning for flights to return to service in July.

Walsh had been planning to retire in March but would now leave on September 24, the group said, when Luis Gallego will succeed him.

IAG said on Thursday that it was planning for flights to restart in July and that passenger capacity would be about 50% lower, adding that the return was subject to the easing of lockdowns and travel restrictions.

The coronavirus pandemic has halted most flights, leaving airlines across the world battling to cut costs, shed jobs and shrink their operations to try to ride out a travel slump which is expected to last years.

IAG, which also owns Iberia and Vueling in Spain and Ireland’s Aer Lingus, warned that passenger demand would not return to previous levels until 2023, and as such it would seek to defer deliveries of 68 aircraft.

That adds to steps it announced last week to try to cope with the crisis, when it said that it would seek to cut up to 12,000 jobs, or over a quarter of staff at its biggest airline British Airways.

“Group-wide restructuring is essential in order to get through the crisis and preserve an adequate level of liquidity. We intend to come out of the crisis as a stronger group,” Walsh said in a statement.

The group said on Thursday that it had 10 billion euros ($10.8 billion) of liquidity available to it at the end of April, making it one of the financially strongest airlines in Europe.

IAG said that part of the additional liquidity had come from accessing 300 million pounds from Britain’s Coronavirus Corporate Finance Facility.

The crisis has forced some airlines, such as competitors Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) and Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) to seek government bailouts. IAG, however, said that while it was using general facilities such as state-backed loans and furlough schemes, it had no need to ask for a specific government rescue.

“A bailout is financial assistance to a failing business, we’re not a failing business so we’re not looking for a bailout. I’ve been very clear that state aid which is made on a general basis, if it’s applicable to us and we can avail of it … then we will do so,” Walsh told reporters on a call.

Source: Reuters, Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Guy Faulconbridge


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