With or Without Walsh, British Air Parent Will Welcome Back Boeing’s Max
Outgoing IAG SA Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh said the airline group is “fully committed” to signing a $24 billion order for Boeing Co.’s troubled Max jetliner, even though the ultimate decision to proceed with the deal is set to fall to his successor.
Once the Max is re-certified safe to fly again after two fatal crashes, the British Airways owner will have no lingering concerns, said Walsh, who will bring his nine-year tenure to a close on March 26, in an interview in Qatar. The 200-plane purchase will be finalized once the aircraft is ready to return to service, something Walsh said he expects will take place in the second half.
IAG’s confidence in the jet, as Luis Gallego prepares to take charge, is a boost for Boeing after the planemaker posted its first loss in two decades on the back of the grounding almost a year ago. The outline deal made headlines at June’s Paris Air Show, yet the crisis has dragged on as the U.S. company seeks regulatory approval for fixes to a software system blamed for the tragedies.
Boeing reckons the ban on the Max will be lifted mid-year. Walsh, a former pilot, reasserted his backing for the model, saying he’d be happy to fly in it after an exhaustive re-certification process.
Airbus SE wasn’t invited to bid on the original IAG tender that led to the letter of intent to buy the Max, with Walsh explaining that he wanted to diversify away from a narrow-body fleet comprised mainly of the European company’s planes so that future purchases could be opened up to competition.
Airbus’s sales chief Christian Scherer said at the time he’d lobby IAG to reopen the contest before the Max deal was finalized. A spokesman declined to comment when asked if it regarded the order as one it might still win.
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