Willie Walsh: 'No prospect' for and 'no need' of Aer Lingus re-nationalisation

Willie Walsh has said there is “no prospect” of and “no reason” for any re-nationalisation of Aer Lingus, as has been suggested by opposition TDs.
Willie Walsh: 'No prospect' for and 'no need' of Aer Lingus re-nationalisation

Willie Walsh has said there is “no prospect” of and “no reason” for any re-nationalisation of Aer Lingus, as has been suggested by opposition TDs.

The chief executive of IAG – which owns Aer Lingus, along with British Airways and Spanish airlines Iberia and Vueling – said the idea that there would be no coronavirus effect on Aer Lingus if it were State-owned is “total nonsense”.

He said privatising Aer Lingus had been “absolutely the right thing to do” and that it – along with all other airlines – is “suffering through no fault of its own”.

He also said he doesn’t see IAG being broken up as a result of the Covid-19 fallout, saying the group was established to benefit from airline consolidation and will continue to look for such opportunities after the current crisis.

Speaking on the back of IAG reporting a post-tax loss of €1.7bn for the first quarter of the year, compared to a €70m profit for the same period last year, Mr Walsh confirmed that Aer Lingus’ staff numbers are likely to be 20% smaller by next year.

He stopped short of confirming that 900 job cuts are being sought at Aer Lingus, as was reported last week. That figure, however, is 20% of its total 4,500 workforce. IAG is also looking to cut around a quarter of its workforce at 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,” Mr Walsh said.

IAG plans a “meaningful” return to the skies by July, but Mr Walsh warned that normal levels of passenger demand are unlikely to return until 2023 at the earliest.

The group expects to fly with 50% less passenger capacity next year and said its recovery plans remain “highly uncertain” and subject to the easing of international lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Mr Walsh said the scale of Aer Lingus’ schedules may be impacted by the crisis, but he said he doesn’t see Aer Lingus’ model mix of short haul and North American transatlantic routes changing.

Mr Walsh said each of IAG’’s carriers saw a year-on-year performance decline in the first three months of the year. British Airways suffered the largest fall, followed by Iberia and Aer Lingus.

IAG also announced that Mr Walsh will be replaced as CEO by Luis Gallego near the end of September.

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