BA and Iberia are making ”good progress” on their merger talks, Willie Walsh, BA”s ceo, said.
He said there should be something to announce in four”six weeks and he hoped the deal could be concluded by next March.
He told the World Low Cost Airlines Congress at the QEII Conference Centre in London that this was ”ambitious but not impossible.”
He added he wanted to close the deal ”as quickly as possible.”
”A lot of good work has been done and I am pleased with the progress so far,” he said.
Earlier in a wide ranging presentation, Mr Walsh ruled out ”at this stage” BA imposing any ancillary charges on its product, like extra fees for baggage or seat allocation.
He told delegates there were opportunities there and cited the ”most successful” for BA of travellers at Gatwick upgrading online to premium leisure.
But he added: ”Unbundling our product is at this stage going too far. Compared with the low cost carrier model this is a step too far.
”Baggage, check-in, food are all a part of our product. We also don”t charge for skis or golf bags and travellers will recognise this value.
”I also see seat assignment as part of the product we offer.
”The consumer now has a choice to fly with the low cost model and pay for what he wants to pay for or fly with the bundled product with bundled prices.”
Mr Walsh said that BA”s short haul premium market had been weak since the extra baggage restrictions were imposed at Heathrow in August 2006, after an alleged bomb plot was uncovered.
He said the restrictions were the ”last straw” for travellers who had alternatives like trains to Paris and Brussels.
”There was a shift to the trains as short haul premium travel to Europe when there was an alternative did not make a lot of sense.
”But since the fire in the Channel Tunnel, we have won a lot of it back. But it is unlikely this will continue long term. The market has been weak for 18 months,” he said.
But he said the long haul premium market had so far not felt any impact from the credit crunch or economic weakness.
Figures for August showed a 2.2% rise despite the month being the worst one for business travel.
Mr Walsh said 13 of BA”s Top 50 Corporates were banks, although the crashed Lehmann Brothers was not one of them.
”No doubt at some stage we will see the impact of the credit crunch, the weakening economy and the drop in customer confidence but we have not seen it at this point,” he said.
In his presentation, Mr Walsh also said he was ”optimistic” that the US Department of Transportation would grant the application for anti-trust immunity from BA, American Airlines and Iberia.
He also firmly ruled out BA as a potential buyer of Gatwick Airport.