With less than a month to go before the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games, British Airways is preparing for a temporary fall in business traffic but is confident about the long-term benefits of its association with the games.
Speaking to Airline Business in this month's cover interview, the airline's chief executive Keith Williams is excited by the prospect of the Olympics being held in London, for which BA is the official airline: "British Airways [through its predecessors] had an involvement with the Olympics back in 1948 when it was in London, and roll on 64 years and its back in London," he says. It's a big event for the UK and British Airways is part of the country's heritage so we're an ideal fit."
However he concedes that when the Olympics begin on 27 July, the event is likely to "slightly dampen business traffic" to the UK.
"A lot of people assume that the Olympics is going to be a positive travel time, but in terms of business traffic it will actually probably be slightly softer than normal as a number of corporates are telling their London staff to work at home and their overseas subsidiaries not come to the UK," he says. "But in terms of volumes, there are a couple of critical days around the opening and the closing of the Olympics where they will be very high - both the number of passengers and baggage. The closing on 12-13 August is a big day for us."
BA's business traffic drop-off projection is based on the experience airlines have had at previous Olympic host cities, for example in Sydney during the 2000 games.
But Williams is looking to long-terms benefits from the UK and BA's association with the games: "You get the halo effect of the Olympics for Britain and for British Airways of the business going forward," he says. "So in terms of business, the Olympics is a positive in the medium term."
To read Airline Business' full cover interview with Keith Williams click here