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Willie Walsh quits as IAG CEO and BA CEO Alex Cruz is passed over for the job

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In a Stock Market announcement this morning, Willie Walsh announced that he is standing down as Chief Executive of IAG, the British Airways parent company, on 26th March.

His formal retirement date has been set for 30th June.

He will NOT be replaced by Alex Cruz, Chairman and Chief Executive of British Airways.  This is unusual as BA is, by far, the dominant business unit inside IAG.

Instead, Walsh will be replaced by Luis Gallego who is currently CEO of Iberia.


Gallego was previously at Air Nostrum, Clickair and Vueling.  His first CEO role was in 2012 at Iberia Express, and he took over at the broader Iberia group in 2013 where he reversed six consecutive years of operating losses.

Iberia has seen an amazing turnaround since being ‘acquired’ in the ‘merger’ that created IAG.  It has invested in a new long haul fleet, with better business class seating than Club World, and added new routes.  Sales and profits have grown sharply whilst staff numbers have been slashed as a more ‘commercial’ approach was taken.

There are two ways of looking at this decision, I think.

The first is that the work at Iberia is ‘done’, with the transformation complete, and it makes more sense to leave Alex in place to complete the job at BA.  The problem here is that the work at BA is done.  The fleet upgrade orders are placed, the new Club Suite is unveiled, the wi-fi roll-out is almost complete, the catering upgrade is done ….. the next 2-3 years will be about implementation more than announcements, and that could be done just as well under a new leader.

The second view is that Cruz had lost some of Willie’s faith.  Back in October, Walsh publicly criticised the BA management team over its failure to stop the pilot strike.  The astonishing £183 million fine over the 2018 data breach – a figure which is likely to increase when the class action lawsuit by customers goes ahead – is also likely to have played a part.

It will be interesting to see if Cruz chooses to leave, as it often the case when the logical heir apparent is passed over.

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Comments (82)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Hardy says:

    Well I am not surprised and constantly baffled as to how Alex Cruz still has that role. His CV is littered with brands that have bitten the dust. Gold Car, which is probably has more customer complaints against it than any other car hire company in Spain. Vueling, which got fined a lot of money (1/3rd of it’s net profit in 2016) and nearly had it’s licence removed from flying from Catalonia, mainly cause of the “unreasonable expansion” he planned for it left flights delayed, cascaded cancelled. It is still reeling from that bad image, though now is a much better airline to fly. And of course BA, where he successfully managed to take it to the bottom of the full service airline pile, and while you might say there are wins like the new club suite etc, but let’s be honest, these are way too late in the game, when all that people think of BA is an EasyJet
    Now comes Iberia. I have seriously no idea how Iberia survives. I guess it could be the strong Spanish labour laws, or the mafia-isc grip it has on Madrid airport, or could be the extremely poor IT infrastructure, baffling poor quality of F&B in the air, even in J. This is just pure bad news for the whole brand and expect it to go down as a whole. People who visit the lounge in Madrid may like it one the first instance, but the quality of F&B and lack of hot food, is just poor. BA galleries are better than this. I did 250 flights in the last 2 yrs, and he only Iberia I did were BCN MAD, because of the bad experience Ihave had previously. Not 1 penny goes to them willingly anymore

  • Alan says:

    Not sure this is a good or bad news. But under Alex’s management, BA is definitely getting worse & worse. I flew BA First in Dec from London to Santiago, 15 hours flight only 1 hot towel during boarding, that was it. Really!? Other airlines offer hot towel at least before or after each meal in business / economy in long haul!
    There was only 1 little almost empty sad looking hand wash bottle in the lavatory. 8 First seats in 787-9, each main course / desert only loaded 2 potions! I didn’t get what I want! My aircraft had 11 hours turnover in LHR from previous one, but I found previous passenger used dirty socks were left on the ottoman. Really worn First seat as well!
    From Santiago back to London, I was in business, disguising pillow ( large pieces of yellow stain) / seat divider (sticky liquid) / carpet, really bad cleaning. That aircraft also had 7 hours turnover in Santiago. The Club Kitchen was almost empty entire journey back to London….
    Luckily I’ve taken all the photos & contacted customer service, as we can imagine, same answer, they try their best to offer good service…..urrrghhhh
    In terms of homebase LHR lounge, well, forget about the worn seats, even catering — hot dishes are always plain rice/pasta / veg curry / meatball for years! Nothing else.
    Everything goes for the cheapest option by BA management.
    No more hope on BA or IAG. Just booked my 2020 two trips on QR!

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