Up in the air
Travelling on Concorde became a way of life for John Leahy during the supersonic jet’s heyday, as he commuted across the Atlantic to visit customers, attend meetings in various Airbus headquarters and close big deals. “I was convinced I’d done more than 100 Concorde flights, but when I checked back I don’t think I can justify more than the upper 80s or low 90s,” he says, disappointed.
Leahy is a qualified commercial pilot and instructor with 3,700h on his logbook, but has spent many more hours ‘down the back’. In his role as Airbus’s top sales rep, he has grown accustomed to treating an airliner cabin like a flying hotel, and acknowledges his hectic travel schedules have became a bit of a standing joke in Toulouse.
“When [Airbus head of programmes] Tom Williams and I did a tour of all the A380 customers to explain the delays, I put together a schedule which I didn’t think was that abnormal,” says Leahy. “But at the end of the two-week period Tom said: ‘I am never, ever travelling with you again. In the last five nights we’ve spent one in a hotel and the rest on an airplane!’”
When Leahy finally decides to hang up his salesman’s hat he will certainly be a hard act to follow, which ever way you look at it.
“I don’t know about that,” he says modestly, while he is coy about when he will retire and who could replace him. “We’ve got a very good bench around here,” he says. “I’d be disappointed if my successor isn’t an internal candidate because I’ve got several people on my staff as equally qualified as me to do the job.”