BA snares Blair aide as comms supremo

British Airways boss Willie Walsh pulled off a major coup yesterday, luring Julia Simpson - a key adviser to Tony Blair - into the top PR role at the embattled airline.

Simpson, who joins as head of corporate communications in August, takes on one of the toughest jobs in PR. The post has been covered on an interim basis by Thomas Coops since Ian Burns left amid controversy over price-fixing allegations early last year.

In her current role as ­adviser on strategic communications at 10 Downing Street, Simpson has given the out­going Prime Minister comms advice on counter-terrorism, home affairs and education in recent months.

She will now report dir­ectly to Walsh with overall responsibility for corporate media ­relations, BA's news desk and internal comms. She is expec­ted to brief Walsh on repu­tational issues several times a day.

Walsh said: ‘This is one of the most important jobs in communications. Julia's background and experience are exactly what we need, given the wide-ranging communications agenda that we have over the medium term.'

BA's challenges include tense relationships with trade unions and the smooth tran­sition to the new Terminal 5.

‘BA is constantly in the public eye but I have headed organisations dealing with some of the most difficult kind of stories in the public ­domain,' Simp­son told PRWeek. ‘I'm used to working with great leaders and Willie Walsh is such a leader.'

Simpson has worked in Downing Street since September 2006.

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