International Airlines Group (IAG) CEO Willie Walsh says it is highly likely his company will place an order for the proposed Boeing 777X.
“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 British Airways [BA] would require.”
Walsh also says it is “unlikely” that BA would take additional Airbus A380s or look at the Boeing 747-8 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’s Iberia division, 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 A350-900 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.”