The MT Interview: Willie Walsh

MT joined the energetic but approachable British Airways chief executive on a trip to Tanzania. Despite the gruesome prospect of a meltdown in the airline industry, he was keeping a long-term promise to show his commitment to a £25m investment.

by Andrew Saunders

What on earth is Willie Walsh doing in a maternity clinic on the dusty southern outskirts of Tanzania's biggest city, Dar es Salaam? It's not as if the BA chief executive hasn't got enough to do back at the airline's Heathrow HQ, what with trading conditions he has described as the worst ever, managing the recently announced merger with Iberia and piloting his audacious bid for a transatlantic tie-up with American Airlines through what promises to be a good deal of turbulent anti-trust controversy.

Then there are some other small matters: the ongoing global financial crisis and the dramatic effect he expects it to have on the airline industry; his row with Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson over price-fixing; his call for 1,400 middle management redundancies within BA; and the enforced break-up of the UK's leading airport operator BAA. Not to mention the lingering hangover from the T5-opening debacle in March that cost Walsh his £700,000 bonus - and some say very nearly his job.

And those are just the highlights of the past few months. He has also had to deal with security threats, union upsets, pay disputes, a crash landing, that row over a crucifix... Like Alan Bennett's verdict on the past in The History Boys, being boss of BA is just one fucking thing after another.

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