British Airways press team promotes benefits of merger with Iberia

The British Airways in-house communications team has been stressing the benefits of the company's planned merger with Spanish airline firm Iberia, announced last night.

Merger plans: British Airways
Merger plans: British Airways

The two airlines have reached a preliminary merger agreement expected to be completed in late 2010.  The deal, which is expected to get regulatory backing, would create the world's third biggest airline.

The in-house team at BA has been responding to media calls about the story since yesterday. It distributed a press release to the media on Thursday.

A BA spokeswoman said: ‘The key message has been to promote the benefits of the merger. It will increase frequency of the flights and strengthen investments in the company.'

Edelman CEO Robert Phillips warned that the merger needed to be handled carefully in order to avoid future problems.

‘There has always been a huge sensitivity over the "national" carrier,' said Phillips. ‘I am sure that the merger makes sense from a financial and global routes perspective, but I wonder where it leaves the brand, the employee and indeed the customer in the midst of it all?'

He added: ‘The BA leadership seems to be so focused on business performance that they have maybe marginalised the opinions of those who actually make the business tick. I think they need to urgently and deeply engage with these multiple stakeholder groups if the merger is to bring genuine success and not further strife.'

However, Porter Novelli director and head of CSR comms Neil Bayley said: 'The merger is a good idea and I'm confident both companies have a clear vision how they will reconcile the commercial benefits with stewardhip of their brands. BA will certainly have considered this very carefully.'

He added: 'It's not the time for sentimentality in the airline sector given the tough outlook. Standing still for BA was not an option given recent financial performance. This merger has been a long time coming, so there's been plenty of due diligence.'

The story led the BBC Breakfast show this morning and also appeared on the front page of the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Times. The Daily Mail ran with the story on page two with the headline ‘BA's £4bn merger with Iberia will cost thousands of jobs'.

Under the terms of the deal, Iberia would take a 45 per cent stake and BA. The British carrier last week reported a six-month pre-tax loss of £292m, a 55 per cent stake in the new company.

The merger announcement comes as both airlines are also negotiating with staff over strike action.

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