International Airlines Group (IAG) CEO Willie Walsh says it is highly likely his company will place an order for the proposed .
“Based on what I have seen, it is almost inevitable that it is an aircraft that we will have in our fleet at some stage,” Walsh told Aviation Week during a March 18 interview. “It looks like a perfect fit for some of what[BA] would require.”
Walsh also says it is “unlikely” that BA would take additionalor look at the -8 even as it contemplates a fleet replacement for about 30 747-400s and, eventually, the 46 777-200ERs in operation.
A separate fleet renewal program is pending at IAG’sdivision, although its Spanish unit’s plan is subject to a successful restructuring.
Walsh indicates that IAG will make a decision at least on the BA fleet plan sooner rather than later. “We don’t have an immediate issue, but given the delivery time frames, we are not looking to delay [the decision],” Walsh says.
“We have been in detailed discussions with both manufacturers and the engine suppliers in recent months, and we have as much visibility at this stage about what options are available to us as we are likely to get,” the CEO adds.
The choice is likely to be between the 777-9X and the Airbus-900 and -1000. Walsh says he is pleased with the performance of BA’s 777-300ERs, noting that “if I’m honest, the regret I have is that we did not get the 777-300ERs earlier.” BA is operating the -300ER in a 297-seat configuration, just two fewer seats than the 747-400s.
However, Walsh also acknowledges that “as good an aircraft as the 777 is, it is going to be overtaken by the next generation of aircraft, the A350-1000, the 777-9X or versions of the 787.”
BA has 12 A380s on order, the first of which will arrive later this year. Walsh says he can “see a case for increasing that, but we think 12 is a good [fleet] size.”
Walsh says BA is likely to opt for more than one type of aircraft for the fleet renewal. “We have a lot of six- to 10-hour sectors in our North America network, and then we have a lot of 12- to 13-hour sectors. You are not going to get all of that into a single aircraft type, so different aircraft sizes make sense to us,” he says.
The fleet plan at Iberia is more complex. Walsh says that about 80% of the carrier’s long-haul network can be covered by a single aircraft type, but the airline also serves some hot-and-high destinations in Latin America that are performance-critical. Also, Iberia will not be cleared for major fleet investment before significant progress on restructuring has been made.
“The Iberia decision has to be made on the basis of getting return on capital. We are very, very direct about that,” says Walsh. “One of the problems of the industry is that it has not been very disciplined about that in the past, but more and more our industry does have that discipline and more and more our industry is rewarded where it demonstrates that it does have that discipline and penalized where it does not,” he adds.