Willie Cochrane that is, not Willie Walsh.
Pipe Major Cochrane was on hand with his bag pipes to welcome the assembled press corps to the annual British Airways New Year party at the posh central London brasserie Langhan’s yesterday.
He piped in the haggis (a Scottish tradition) and then did a spirited rendition of the Ode to the Haggis, which features a finale of cutting of the said pudding and downing a tumbler of whiskey – great fun.Now before I talk about what that other Willie said, I’m going to tell you that Pipe Major Cochrane served from 1953 to 1968 in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, a regiment created in 1689 as a crisis measure for the defence of Edinburgh against the Jacobites. During his time in the famous regiment Willie had tours in Aden, Borneo, Hong Kong, Germany and Northern Ireland.
Now the other Willie was in fine form too, ready to face another year in this great industry. Equipped with his IATA tie and a glass containing his two favourite drinks (Guinness and Champagne) he said the year has started well for BA.
First the one-bag rule restricted carry on bags has been scrapped. Second he could announce the launch date of the new BA transatlantic operation – now called Open Skies.
Willie himself wanted to call the airline BA, but someone thought Open Skies might work as it serves to remind people of the end game on transatlantic liberalisation. It certainly highlight’s BA’s desire for an open aviation area that it hopes will open up after the second phase of US-Europe talks (which incidentally begin in May).
Willie is adamant that Europe stresses to the US side that it is “likely” some countries will withdraw from the current Open Skies regime if Phase II does not produce the goods. Plenty of wheeling and dealing to be done on this front this year for both sides.
Apart from Open Skies – the new airline and US-Europe talks – this is a big year for Willie. The long-awaited opening of Terminal 5 at Heathrow takes place in March, and then there is the campaign to add another runway at the airport.
Happy New Year!