The battle over Heathrow's new runway is becoming ugly.
Tory MP John Randall has accused British Airways of trying to blackmail retired staff into backing Heathrow expansion, by suggesting that their pensions may be at risk.
The Daily express reports that BA has sent a leaflet to former workers, urging them to write to Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly to back plans for a third runway.
The pamphlet warns that the security of pensions for retired staff depends directly on the success of BA and Heathrow.
Willie Walsh (CEO) says that former employees have an important role to play in Heathrow's future; he notes that the Liaison Council, which represents retired staff, has backed the plans.
Shadow transport secretary, Theresa Villiers, weighed in as well and is quoted in the Express:
"Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of Heathrow expansion, former employees of British Airways should not be subject to this sort of pressure and manipulation ... people should be able to make up their own minds.
I am very concerned that BA has chosen to exert this pressure on its former staff, which I believe is inappropriate and unhelpful to the debate."
BA rejects the allegations:
"Any suggestion British Airways would bully any of its staff, retired or current, to support expansion is entirely without foundation. The Liaison Council operates independently of British Air-ways. It communicates with retired staff in the way it wishes."
This is not the first attempt by BA to encourage others to support its plans for a third runway. In November 2007 it wrote to all of its executive club members trying to drum up support.
In that letter Willie Walsh claimed that expansion would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 330,000 tonnes a year, because aircraft would no longer have to waste fuel queuing for take-off or circling while waiting to land.
It then transpired that, according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the claim was not quite correct. ASA wrote to BA ordering it to withdraw the claim.