Airlines are sounding alarm bells from all corners of the globe, with a full recovery for air travel not expected until 2023. But already, just months into the crisis, questions are emerging as to whether these cries are from wolves in sheep’s clothing, or entities genuinely under threat.

As airlines prepare to scale back, clamp down and reassess travel trends, there’s been no entity more fascinating or duplicitous to watch than International Airline Group (IAG) – the company which owns British Airways, Iberia, AerLingus and Vueling, among others. In less than a week, it’s stated no desire for bailouts, while also receiving more than $1.1 billion of them.

It all centers around Willie Walsh, the tempestuous leader of the group, due to retire in short order. Mr. Walsh has always been known in airline and travel circles as a cut throat leader, known widely for cutting costs at any cost, but also among the very best in the business for creating incredible profit centers for airline shareholders.

In recent weeks, the style has seen multiple media quotes from Walsh stating that government aid for airlines is wrong. His reason for such statements has long been regarded as an attempt to bleed out competition, desperately seeking financial intervention.

IAG has stated in recent financial reports that it’s in a very strong financial position, which is where the duplicity comes in.

News today from Bloomberg of a $1.1 billion state backed Spanish Government loan to IAG is all the more bewildering after boastful financial reports and months of comments opposed to state backed loans. Even more so with the disclosure that all of the money will go to Iberia and Vueling, and none of the money will go to British Airways, which cited needs for 12,000 staff cuts due to current losses.

The untimely news arguably reveals a deeper motive from IAG, centered around long held desires to break up the British Airways workforce, or rather, to streamline it. IAG’s new $1.1 billion loan explicitly states no money will go to British Airways, and for IAG, that’s exactly what they want.

Leaving British Airways in the wind makes it easier for the airline and parent company IAG to push through “join or die” redundancy threats under the veil of a health crisis, where employees have the choice of accepting new inferior contracts, or face effective redundancy.

It’s made IAG’s long held dream of union busting British Airways incredibly easy, citing emergency measures, something it could never do in any other global environment.

How IAG thought it could release a statement to British Airways employees stating that there is no potential for government help in the UK, and cuts were necessary,  in the same week it takes $1.1 billion for other airlines in the portfolio, while releasing strong earnings and excellent cash reserves, leaves many questions.


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