IAG’s new low cost carrier Level could be operated out of Heathrow one day.
Speaking at the Capa Global Aviation Summit in Heathrow, the aviation group’s chief executive Willie Walsh said the fledgling long-haul, low-cost carrier currently operates two aircraft out of its base in Barcelona airport.
However, with between three and five aircraft set to arrive in 2019 and with the target of a fleet of 30 aircraft by 2022, he added the airline is looking for additional bases.
Walsh said: “At least two of those aircraft (delivered before 2022) or even three will operate at another airport other than Barcelona.”
Despite Brexit, he added Heathrow is on the list of potential airports, adding: “It (Heathrow) could be one. It is one of the factors that we will look at and it (Brexit) is not necessarily why we haven’t decided yet.
“We have a number of options.”
Walsh addedthe airline is prepared for Brexit and its impact and is prepared to meet any problems, including airline ownership rules, as they arise.
“IAG is a product of the EU, we intent to continue to look for opportunities,” he said.
“The concept of EU ownership is not by a lot of countries around the world. If BA is to fly to certain countries in the world we have had to demonstrate it is British owned and operated.”
He added Level could even help IAG break into the Chinese market, despite BA’s recent failure that saw it pull a route to Chengdu.
Walsh said: “Level is a grand product that could work very well there.”
He admitted that one of the reasons why BA had not been able to break the Chinese market was the airline had failed to take into account local attitudes to flying.
Walsh said: “What we learnt is China or certain other countries in Asia require a different cabin configuration as there is less demand for premium.
“This is one of the challenges. We have got aircraft configured to operate in the London market but we were flying to a new market where there isn’t the premium (appetite).”
He added that in order to meet this challenge in the future, a BA aircraft that typically has 12 to 14 seats in first class would have around eight instead.
But Walsh also urged the UK government to relax visa restrictions on the China market to make travel to Britain easier.
“If the UK government changes its visa policy the opportunity is huge,” he said.
“Until we have a situation where Chinese tourists and visitors are being welcomed into the UK and by welcomed, they don’t have to deposit a kidney on arrival, (we can’t take advantage).”