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BA attempts to talk its way out of trouble

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British Airways has become a real chatterbox of late.

Chief Executive Willie Walsh is attempting to stage a recovery from a year of record losses and a business-class focus that has proven rather ill-suited to a recession. He has been scaring staff and shareholders rigid with his ‘fight for survival’ rhetoric, but how does he plan to wage this battle?

By talking.

He talks to pilots, he talks to engineers, he talks to ground staff and cabin crew. He talks to trade unions, he talks to shareholders – and apparently he talks to his allies over at Spanish rival Iberia. Today’s annual general meeting was dominated by news of these talks – they are making progress, apparently — all of them are making progress.

But are they really? It is true the pilots have been amenable to Walsh’s silver tongue. On Monday they agreed to pay and productivity changes in order to help save the airline cash, in return for some future equity. But that’s about the limit of the carrier’s achievement to date.

Trade union members representing cabin crew loitered outside the London meeting, handing out leaflets to attendees. These detailed proposals — rejected by BA – for a 2.6 percent pay-cut, plus 4,000 job losses so long as they are voluntary. We don’t know what BA has offered in return — Walsh uncharacteristically  keeps saying he doesn’t want to talk about it — but as the deadline for these negotiations was the end of June it’s safe to say things are not going well. “We don’t know what else we can do,” said one 20 year cabin crew veteran. Strike action is a distinct possibility.

Branson enjoying rivals’ discomfort… and the spotlight

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Richard Branson was made for days like this.

He’s not just flying to New York to host his airline Virgin Atlantic‘s 25th birthday party. It’s champagne at breakfast, girls on stilts, and a stroll out onto the wing of a plane carrying supermodel Kate Moss.

‘Och, it’s just a pretty girl,” scoffs one observer. The rest of the Heathrow Terminal 3 throng look distinctly more impressed.

BA horror show should quell talk of “green shoots”

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Willie Walsh likes to tell it as it is.

Recent weeks have seen smatterings of good economic news. Sectors that took the full weight of the recession last year said they were staggering to their feet now spring is here.

Retail: John Lewis had its best week of the year so far from 2nd-9th May.

Leisure: Pubs group Greene King said things have ‘generally improved’ since the start of the year.

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