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British Airways boss Walsh reveals airline in talks with Bombardier to buy C Series jets

Exclusive by John Mulgrew

Published 03/06/2016

Companies and delegates at the International Air Transport Association AGM
Companies and delegates at the International Air Transport Association AGM

Willie Walsh says he is having discussions with Bombardier boss Alain Bellemere about buying its C Series passenger jets.

Praise for the C Series by the British Airways boss came as existing Bombardier customer WestJet confirmed it would buy another nine of its Q400 propellers in a $300m (£207m) deal.

At the high-profile Iata (International Air Transport Association) agm in Dublin yesterday, Willie Walsh told the Belfast Telegraph: "I had a chat with him (Alain Bellemare) at lunchtime... Alain, who I know very well, wants to have a chat with me and we've said it's an aircraft we did look at."

Thousands descended on Dublin yesterday for the start of the Iata annual general meeting.

It's the first time it's been held in Ireland in more than 50 years, and Dublin man Willie Walsh - chief executive of British Airways and Aer Lingus's parent firm IAG - will take over as incoming chairman of Iata this month.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph following a private airline leaders' lunch at the nearby luxury InterContinental Hotel, Mr Walsh said the C Series was "definitely one we are prepared to look at".

Other orders, including deals with Delta Airlines and Lufthansa subsidiary SWISS, were all encouraging.

"The fact they have had the significant orders (is encouraging), the Delta order on the back of the Lufthansa one," he said.

"I think everyone looking at the aircraft wanted to see a commitment from major operators to it. You don't want to be the only person operating the aircraft.

"A critical issue for airlines with an aircraft like that, is you want to make sure you have technical support in all of the airports, or as many of the airports (as possible)."

Bombardier, which employs more than 5,000 staff here, secured a deal in April to sell 75 of its CS100 jets, part-made in Belfast, to Delta Airlines, with the potential for a further 50 orders.

And while there were no confirmed fresh C Series orders yesterday, Bombardier did land a fresh order for more of its smaller Q400 propeller aircraft, which are also part-made in Belfast.

The Canadian firm revealed that WestJet Encore is adding another nine planes to its fleet in a deal that is worth around $300m (£207m).

Speaking about the growing success of Bombardier's C Series, Willie Walsh said: "I think it's a big achievement for them as Delta and Air Canada are two very significant (airlines).

"It puts that aircraft into play now, and I suspect that you will see a lot more airlines (looking at it).

"The critical issue with them, as it always was, is how competitive can you be on price."

"They had to get a scale of order to make them relevant for the industry."

Speaking about his new role as Iata chairman, Mr Walsh said one of the newest key proposals was establishing a resolution on climate change.

"I see my role as chairman to make this comfortable and seamless for the organisation."

Bombardier's boss Alain Bellemare had said he is "confident that we will continue to see orders from the likes of Delta in the future".

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland holidaymakers and air passengers across the globe are likely to reap the rewards of a 7% drop in air fares over the next year, the Iata conference heard.

Belfast Telegraph

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