ONE of the best-known names in the commercial aviation industry, Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group (IAG) which owns Aer Lingus, Air Europa, BA, Iberia and Vueling is about to retire.
Not yet 60, he has been at the head of BA and then IAG for 15 years which makes him one the longest serving CEOs in the FTSE 500 and during his time at the company has seen a growth in share value and the number of airlines it controls.
Arguably, the days of BA leading the world’s airlines has disappeared, but the new organisation which was created after the merger with Iberia has seen it become a leaner and meaner operation competing at all levels of business.
One problem however dominated the news last year which was the first ever BA pilot’s strike which saw a number of flights cancelled, causing financial loss as well as damage to the airline’s reputation.
There was a significant fine for BA of nearly €200 million for a customer data breach and then there were problems with a ‘technical problem’ which saw flights cancelled in November.
The 2020 financial profit forecast is less than expected with Air Europe and Vueling in particular now expecting fewer seats sold so perhaps now was the time for a change at the top.
The group’s chairman Antonio Vázquez will now be joined by another Spaniard on the board as Luis Gallego, head of Iberia since 2014 will take over as chief executive when Mr Walsh steps down at the end of June.