Wragges beats City to BA deal

Wragge & Co has triumphed over four City firms to win work advising British Airways (BA) on a major outsourcing contract.

It is understood that the Birmingham-based firm secured the work after undergoing a beauty parade against Slaughter and May, Linklaters & Alliance, Simmons & Simmons and Garretts.

The work involves putting together a proposal on whether it is viable to outsource the British Airways Booking System (BABS) and the Departure Control System (DCS) to a third party.

By outsourcing BABS alone, the airline will save an estimated £225m in costs this financial year.

Although the decision to outsource has not yet been finalised, BA's head of legal Stephen Walsh says the work is potentially huge and Wragges would continue to advise the airline if BABS and DAC was put out to a third party.

According to Walsh, Sabre and Amadeus are the two companies vying for the business. Sabre is a US public company partly owned by American Airlines while Amadeus is a consortium of European airlines.

Commenting on his decision to choose a regional firm over a number of City giants, Walsh says: “Cost was not a factor at all. We needed the best team to do the job and Wragges were the best possible team.”

He adds: “Penny-pinching now could cost us in the future.”

Walsh says a number of Wragges' lawyers have worked recently with BA's in-house legal team.

But Ian Metcalfe, head of the plc team at Wragges, who is heading a team of 12-14 on the deal, says this had no bearing on the outcome of the tender process.

He says: “I don't think it necessarily gave us a head start.

“We had one person in there who had experience of the reservation system but BA takes on a number of secondees from all of its panel firms.”

Tom Kinnersley, a finance partner at Slaughter and May, confirms that the firm tendered for the work but declined to comment further.

Anthony Cann, Linklaters' head of corporate and senior client care partner for BA, says: “The matter is something between the solicitor and the client.”

Other firms on BA's panel include Denton Hall and Osborne Clarke, which both advise on employment issues, Bristows which acts for the airline on IT issues and Sullivan & Cromwell in the US.

However it is understood that these firms did not tender for the work.

BABS is part of BA's information management wing which employs about 2,200 staff. Around 200 employees work on BABS.