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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.

  • Mark says:

    I thought the onboard food in IB business class was OK; more to our taste than some of what BA offers in CW. That’s inevitably a subjective judgement though…

    • Andy says:

      Breakfast on IB in long haul business is poor, while their longest flights (Tokyo & Shanghai, for example) have very stingy portions of food.

  • ADS says:

    MH always seem to be looking for a new CEO … maybe Cruz will be the next lamb to the slaughter ?!

  • ChrisA says:

    In February 2019 I got on an early morning Iberia J flight from MAD to LHR, having travelled from BOS to MAD a few hours earlier on the excellent value Iberia J flight.
    The MAD to LHR flight was held up for a few mins whilst waiting for the final passenger, who sat next to me. A passenger behind me was expressed his frustration about having to wait for this gentleman, and told the cabin crew he would write a letter of complaint to Iberia. The member of cabin crew said something very much the lines of ‘oh, you could just complain directly to the late guy yourself if you want’. Turns out the chap next to me was the chairman of IAG. I hurriedly put on my eye mask and ear plugs.

    • Riccatti says:

      Iberia likes that thing.

      Holding the boarded plane for an important passenger, arranging for private boarding from private buses while the whole of jet bridge is full of waiting passengers…

      That distinctly separates into first and second-class citizens.

  • Rooster says:

    What exactly do you not like about Disqus apart from that you heard from some people that most sites ditch it?

    • John says:

      It’s crap and requires me to unblock all sorts of things just to work (I allow some HFP ads)

      • Rob says:

        And, slightly more importantly, the comments no longer sit in HFP. If we drop Disqus, we lose all the comments.

        Site speed is also a massive issue these days, with Google improving your ranking the quicker you are. Disqus requires data to be pulled from their servers each time a page is refreshed. Not clever.

  • Henry Montrose says:

    Maybe, when you finally get rid of that Pratt walsh… BA, maybe might recover the style they had… what a total bollocks up he made, the most popular to the worlds worst, and now let’s overpay for sandwiches … lets crash our IT, let our pilots strike, lets have seriously old planes IAG will smile at the end of March.. pity anyone else who gets him..

  • C77 says:

    Interesting read. IAG is essentially Spanish so having a Madrid based CEO makes sense to me.
    With much work to be done with the UX takeover and the future plan for all the Spanish IAG brands, it seems a wise choice. BA and EI are well placed to look after themselves. Alex would have fudged it anyway, he’s just a puppet at the end of the day for whoever pulls the strings.

    • C77 says:

      Seems the new guy has done the rounds and has a good grounding in the low cost markets. That’s where the competition is the most fierce. Maybe he’s the man to guide these businesses and brands and make decision over their futures. LEVEL, IB Express, Vueling and soon Air Europa. Needs sorting out to 1 or 2 recognisable and well regarded brands.

  • MarkH says:

    OT but Iberia

    I have a GIG-MAD flight booked in business and will be connecting to MAD-LHR in economy (different PNR so will have to collect bags and check them back in). Both flights arrive/leave from T4S.

    Will I have access to the Velasquez lounge as I’m arriving in J even though separate ticket? If so, are the rest pods bookable or is it a case of seeing whether any are available?

    If not, I assume I could kill time in the arrivals lounge and then go through security shortly before the flight.

    • David says:

      I would imagine you’d want to collect your bags which will be on the carousel on the main terminal soon after your GIG flight arrives. You would be entitled to use the lounge in T4 or T4S as an arriving J passenger even though on a separate Y ticket (depending of where your LHR flight departs from) Just show the BP of your incoming GIG flight. For me the main merit of the IB lounges is the Strawberry & Cream Haagen Dazs tubs that they only bring out during meal times.

      • MarkH says:

        Thanks David – much appreciated.
        LHR flight is leaving from T4S so seems like I’ll have to head to the main terminal to collect bags then go back to the satellite terminal after checking them back in.

        Will definitely keep an eye out for the Haagen Dasz!

    • David says:

      Pods are not bookable afaik

  • Jimbo says:

    I am so pleased he’s gone. As a travel agent he has constantly messed with us and made things more difficult for the major sales channel which is us agents. Maybe the replacement can heal what damage Willie did.

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

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