British Airways CEO Alex Cruz to step down as industry faces its ‘worst crisis’

Oct 12, 2020

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British Airways‘ CEO will step down from his role amidst the airline’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

The airline’s owner International Airlines Group (IAG) announced the move on Monday morning that BA’s CEO Alex Cruz will step down and be replaced by current Aer Lingus CEO Sean Doyle. Cruz will remain in a non-executive capacity at the airline before Doyle takes over. It’s unclear how long the transition period will last.

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The move is the first major internal shakeup from IAG’s new Chief Executive Luis Gallego. Gallego took over for the group’s long-serving CEO Willie Walsh in September when Walsh retired. Prior to stepping in at the helm of IAG, Gallego served as the CEO of Spanish carrier Iberia — also a member of IAG.

“We’re navigating the worst crisis faced in our industry and I’m confident these internal promotions will ensure IAG is well placed to emerge in a strong position,” Gallego said.

Cruz had been at the helm of British Airways since 2016. In pre-pandemic times, Cruz had faced some challenges, such as its first-ever pilot’s strike in 2019, which led to 2,325 flight cancellations, costing the airline £124 million. In 2017, the airline faced a worldwide IT outage, forcing it to cancel more than 700 flights, costing the carrier £80 million.

During the pandemic, Cruz was at the helm when the airline announced it would be cutting 12,000 staff. The much-disputed plans, which were singled out by government officials, used a “fire and rehire” policy in order to enact pay cuts of up to 50%.

Luis Gallego talks with Alex Cruz. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Cruz’s successor Sean Doyle was the CEO Aer Lingus for nearly two years, following nearly 20 years of work at British Airways.

The move is one of a series of changes announced by IAG on Monday.

At Aer Lingus, the airline’s current chief corporate affairs officer Donal Moriarty will become the interim CEO, with a permanent appointment to be announced “in due course.”

When Doyle takes over, he will inherit a number of issues. Not only will he have to figure out how to solve the airline’s much-disputed handling of its staff contracts, but also will have to consider the airline’s future. With the coronavirus all but gone as a threat to the future of aviation, Doyle will have to be proactive about developing a plan to get passengers flying.

Last week, the U.K. government announced its long-awaited Global Travel Taskforce, which should give a much-needed lift to the travel and aviation industries. By offering a testing alternative to quarantine, industry executives believe that travelers will be more willing to travel to or from the U.K. More information is expected by November.

In July, IAG reported a loss of £3.8 billion for the first half of the year. At the time, Walsh detailed that the group didn’t expect demand to return until 2023 or 2024.

Featured photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images.

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