BA in threat to the Tories

LOSS-MAKING flag carrier British Airways (BA) yesterday said it would be forced to significantly scale back flights at Heathrow if the government scraps plans to build a third runway at the hub airport.<br /><br />The Conservatives have said they are committed to calling off Labour&rsquo;s plans for an extra runway at the airport if they win the next election. But business bodies say it is imperative expansion happens to keep the UK&rsquo;s industry in good shape.<br /><br />&ldquo;We have already seen that an increase in capacity did not increase the number of destinations served by BA, the lack of a third runway would not force BA to axe short-haul destinations,&rdquo; a spokesman for the Tories said yesterday.<br /><br />&ldquo;We have given our commitment and it is cast iron. If we win the next general election, there will be no third runway at Heathrow,&rdquo; he added.<br /><br />But the airline&rsquo;s chief executive Willie Walsh stressed that an expansion was needed for the company to come out of the recession.<br /><br />He said he wanted to focus on getting added growth in long-haul services, as they are &ldquo;more profitable&rdquo;.<br /><br />Walsh also spoke out on the airline&rsquo;s proposed tie-up with Spanish carrier Iberia yesterday, saying a merger could happen by the end of the year.<br /><br />BA has been in talks with Iberia since July last year, but a final decision has been slowed by the downturn in the industry, and a change of management at Iberia.<br /><br />The British airline&rsquo;s massive pension deficit, the recalculated value of which will be released this month, has also been a stumbling block for the two.