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Article from BTNews 20 SEPTEMBER 2021

British Airways What next? *

Twelve months into the job Luis Gallego, Chief Executive, IAG, has finally raised his head above the parapet speaking to The Sunday Times.

In an exclusive interview published yesterday (19 September) he flatly denied widespread City speculation that he is planning to raise billions of Euros from shareholders to cover the Covid crisis.  He said the company was talking through “different options” with the banks.

Two things became apparent in the 2,000-word piece by Jim Armitage (formerly of London’s Evening Standard replacing John Collingridge who has moved on to The Guardian).  Firstly he is a “total aviation man”, with a family aeronautics background, a trained engineer, and secondly the interview is all about British Airways, not the other much smaller parts of IAG – Aer Lingus, Iberia, LEVAL and Vueling.  It seems that the purchase of Air Europa is still on and clearly a takeover bid for easyJet is not out of the question.

He would not be drawn over Gatwick, which he said in the last ten years, except 2016, had lost money.

An unnamed trade union official is quoted comparing him with Willie Walsh, now at International Air Transport Association (IATA).  “Gallego is an engineer, and wants to diagnose the problem and think through the solution. He can be very tough, but he likes to follow a process. With Walsh, it was toxic – you were either in the court of Willie Walsh, and could get a hearing, or you weren’t.”

As for Alex Cruz, previous BA CEO (Sean Doyle is now in charge), Gallego is sympathetic, saying he was only doing Walsh’s cost cutting and was clearly tired “And so we thought it was good to start planning a new cycle.”

Over the last 12 months Gallego has not been attached to the industry’s regular outbursts over the UK’s Covid travel constraints.  It does not seem to be his style.  

He still makes the point “In Spain this summer, Iberia was flying at 75% of the capacity they had in 2019. Vueling was 77%.  But BA?  BA was flying at just 36%!  And all this is because of the restrictions.”

One thing is very clear from the interview.  Gallego was/is an airline man up to the hilt.  He has now made the jump into the even murkier world of finance.  The next 12 months are vital.  Will the careful engineer prevail?

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

Paul Jones, Glasgow

I read the piece in the Sunday Times. What is very odd is that whilst it is all about BA there is no mention of the current MD, by all accounts a very good airline operative. Am I missing something?

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