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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 (83)

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

  • Charlieface says:

    Mind you, not sure if Iberia’s IT is any better, it’s just they’re lower profile so haven’t had a break-in yet

  • callum says:

    Sorry ignore this! It was meant to be a reply.

  • Catalan says:


  • Lady London says:

    Did IAG shares go up/hold steady/go down following this announcement I wonder. Market sentiment should be a good guide?

    • Doug M says:

      Up about 1% at 11:30. Don’t think that’s in anyway telling. Market up about .5%

    • Paul Pogba says:

      IAG up 1% but SAS are +5.42%, Air France-KLM +4.34%, Lufthansa +2.57%, Norwegian +1.82%, easyJet +1.62%.

      They’re under performing against their peers, should note that SAS and AFKLM provided sales updates today.

  • Andy says:

    IB food is definitely NOT better than BA. Service on IB is usually inferior as well.

  • Doug M says:

    Trying to make sense of people’s views on the respective quality of food, lounges, seats whatever is impossible. Whatever you might call the lounges in Madrid, the word stunning never comes to mind.
    The comments section usually reminds me of two bald blokes arguing over a comb.

    • Danksy says:

      Not sure I agree with your comments about lounges in madrid! IMHO they are better than the BA Galleries at LHR. I was also impressed at T4’s premium lounge in the Non-Schengen zone (which now includes flights to UK)

      • AlexT says:

        Think that was the first lounge that underwent renovation. Admittedly, that’s the one lounge I use when I go through the airport (not sure about the state of the shengen lounges), but would take it over any lounge at LHR bar the Concorde room any day of the week.

      • Doug M says:

        I didn’t compare or rank them to any other lounges, I simply said I wouldn’t describe them as stunning.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          I agree. The room itself might be better but the F&B on offer is of a distinctly lower quality

    • Lady London says:

      Hey @Doug M will you be at the party? some of your comments amuse me greatly…Nearly as cantankerous as mine but much wittier 🙂

  • John says:

    “The second view is that Cruz had lost of some Willie’s faith.”

    I question that view. I don’t see how Walsh is instrumental in the naming of his successor.

    • Shoestring says:

      come off it – there are countless examples where the outgoing CEO is tasked to find his successor by the Board – sure, WW would only recommend somebody to said Board – but for an internal appointment his views on the candidates would be the most important deciding factor

    • Anthony Dunn says:

      The appointment will have been made by the IAG board, canvassing the views of major shareholders, and the notion that Walsh will not have been in pole position to influence/steer the choice of successor? Questionable.

      • Lady London says:

        Lot of infighting. It was probably all arranged a long time ago.

  • Chabuddy geezy says:

    Perhaps Walsh will replace Tim Clark at Emirates?

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