BA’s Willie Walsh urges travel industry to welcome change

ABTA Malta: British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh says that the need to improve customer service is driving change at the airline.

Walsh, addressing the tourism industry at the ABTA Travel Convention today (19 October), says: “We as an industry have to continue to give our customers the opportunities they want.

“In the end our customers will drive change. We have to adapt and respond to what they want and expect.”

He added change should be welcomed and embraced as “a powerful positive”.

Walsh outlined how the agreement with Iberia and American Airlines that began this month helps transatlantic passengers with a greater choice of fares and flights.

“The agreement will give us a whole host of new opportunities to sell to our customers and make their travel easier.”

Walsh addressed a number of issues facing BA and the travel industry, including the hike expected in Air Passenger Duty (APD) and the threat of further industrial unrest from Unite cabin crew members.

He dismissed the idea that both further taxation on airlines and the restrictions on growth at Heathrow were in any way connected to environmental concerns. He attacked APD as “socially regressive and damaging tax” and adds: “We should unite against these unfair and extreme taxes.”

He says that the airline has a suitable contingency plan in case of any further strike action and expected only short haul flights from Heathrow to be affected by any planned disruption.

Walsh emphasised that if airlines are to survive there will be consolidation in the business. BA is currently finalising its merger pan with Iberia, which will see the separate brands maintained but make a huge saving to back room costs.

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