27-Aug-2010 10:49 AM

BA CEO eyes Middle East as big future player; plays down consolidation

British Airways CEO Willie Walsh stated the carrier plans to add capacity in the Middle East. "I'm pleased with performance of all routes in the Middle East and the general economic environment we are seeing there," he said. "That has clearly been the case with all operators in the markets … we have seen some significant capacity increases" (Gulf News, 27-Aug-2010). He said Dubai had always been an important market and had recovered well from the global financial crisis. "We have strong competition from Emirates, but even in the face of direct competition Dubai has performed well and we remain confident about it," Mr Walsh said.

British Airways: "We believe there is some scope for capacity [in the Middle East] and we will be increasing slightly our flying there next winter, and we are looking to put larger aircraft the [Boeing] 777-300, which we have taken delivery of. The Middle East will be one of the destinations, which will use the 777-300. That with allow for some increase in capacity and that aircraft will enter into service at the end of this month, the beginning of September. We're adding frequency to the destinations – but could see us operating a larger aircraft. Overall we are looking at a 3% increase in capacity in winter 2010 versus 2009 ... It is clear that the Middle East is an area we are looking at and an important market, and one that globally will be an important market for the future. We haven't had any discussions with anyone [regarding consolidation activity] but when we are looking at the development of the industry overall in the next five to 10 years, we believe that the Middle East is going to play an all-important role and that makes its carriers a more attractive proposition than they have been in the past. We are not having any discussions but it is a market that is clearly important and a region that has a lot of opportunity. Clearly one of the things we will make sure we do is to have a presence in that region for opportunities. I have no doubt that there will be scope for opportunities at some stage in the future, but there are no plans at this point," Willie Walsh, CEO. Source: Gulf News, 27-Aug-2010.

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