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Alex Cruz replaced as British Airways CEO

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IAG, the parent company of British Airways, has just released a statement to the Stock Exchange.

Alex Cruz British Airways CEO

To quote:

“Alex Cruz, British Airways chairman and chief executive, is to step down as chief executive and remain the airline’s non-executive chairman.

Sean Doyle, Aer Lingus chairman and chief executive, will become the new chief executive of British Airways and take over as chairman after a transition period.

Fernando Candela, LEVEL chief executive, is joining the Group’s management committee in a new role of chief transformation officer.

At Aer Lingus, Donal Moriarty, currently the airline’s chief corporate affairs officer, will become interim chief executive. A permanent appointment will be announced in due course.”

To be honest, I thought that Alex might resign after being passed over for the role of IAG Chief Executive. This role went to the head of Iberia, Luis Gallego, even though BA is by far the bigger business. This does not look like a resignation though.

This is what Alex had to say in an email to staff:

“Hi everyone

The last few years have been incredible at British Airways. From delivering record profits, to securing new record investment for our customers and celebrating our centenary, I have been blessed to work with and learn from the very best team in the world.

Earlier in the year, I began to consider my professional life after BA but Covid-19 hit all of us hard. We have signed agreements with the majority of our workforce’s representatives, and we have supported IAG in raising additional capital. The next few years will be intense, but BA is resilient and will recover as part of IAG performing well for its shareholders, its customers, its employees, and for our climate. 

This is the right time for me to depart as your Chief Executive and “pass the baton” onto Sean Doyle. I have known and worked with Sean for many years and I cannot think of anyone better suited to drive BA through the recovery cycle and beyond. I have agreed with Luis Gallego, IAG’s chief executive, to stay on as Chairman of British Airways to support Sean during this difficult period.

Keep strong, Alex.”

The email also included a message from Sean:

“I am delighted to be given the opportunity to come back and join British Airways as CEO.  

I joined BA in 1998 as a finance analyst and spent 20 years in a range of roles across the airline. When I left for Aer Lingus in 2018, none of us would have anticipated the crisis we are now facing. We will need to be resilient and work together as one team to weather the many challenges ahead of us.

I would like to thank Alex for his leadership over the last 5 years, and look forward to working with him in his new capacity as Chairman of British Airways.

Regards, Sean.”

What will Alex Cruz’s legacy be?

Sean Doyle has done a good job at Aer Lingus, although most of the changes on his watch were already in progress when he joined. The airline has made massive strides since IAG bought it. That said …. Covid is potentially showing up the weakness in the strategy, with a huge number of long haul aircraft on order and potentially no customers to fly in them.

Alex hasn’t had an easy ride. The BA IT meltdowns and data breach were not his finest hour. However, people who knew Alex spoke well of him, and he was always very personable and pleasant to me whenever we met. People also tend to ignore his track record, including his role as the founder of Clickair in Spain.

Alex Cruz fired by British Airways

Even those people who saw British Airways as undertaking a ‘race to the bottom’ under his tenure tend to ignore the facts.

Under Cruz we saw the launch of Club Suite – probably the best business class seat of any European airline – plus the First Wing at Heathrow, Club Europe added to domestic routes and the Do&Co catering contract signed. There was also substantial investment in renewing the long haul fleet.

At the other end of the plane, I have recently seen European flights selling for as little as £14 one way. This is a figure which would have been unthinkable when Cruz joined.

With Luis Gallego keen to make his mark at IAG, he will want his own team in place. It seems Alex is not to be part of that.

PS. If you were following @alexcruzmaybe on Twitter, you need to retune to @seandoylemaybe …..

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Comments (60)

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

  • Freddy says:

    Don’t give two hoots whose at the top at any given time. It’s all about the points

  • Mr. AC says:

    Rookie IAG stock question: when and how often do they disclose booking numbers?

  • AJA says:

    It’s now clear why AC didn’t take up his rights issue entitlement. Never really liked him or WW so this is positive news as far as i am concerned. Let’s hope Sean Doyle doesn’t devalue the BA brand any further but being an accountant he must see that devaluing the brand is the wrong direction to take. I wish him well in the new job and good-bye AC.

  • RussellH says:

    Sunday Times Business section forecast this a few weeks ago, so not a big surprise.

  • John says:

    Why would you expect him to resign Rob? No executive should ever resign unless they have another job to go to, contractual payments and other entitlements one gives up make that financial suicide.

    • Rob says:

      It is perfectly normal, for any senior manager, to consider resigning if they are passed over promotion. It’s how the world works. Gallego is going nowhere for at least 5 years, so Alex would either sit it out at BA for 5 years or leave to run a group elsewhere.

      It is also VERY common for headhunters to actively target people who have been passed over for promotion and push them forward for roles at other companies.

      What would you do? Let’s say your boss is a Finance Director and you are his No 2. He leaves or gets promoted, but you get overlooked and one of your junior staff – or a manager from another department – is given the FD job instead of you. You have no chance of that FD role for at least 5 years (probably never if someone junior to you was given it) so you look elsewhere.

      The contractual issues you mention don’t apply, because the company EXPECTS you to leave and will waive those rights to get you out of the door. They know you are unhappy and would prefer it if you left sooner rather than later.

      • ChrisW says:

        Having waited for promotions that never came working loyalty for the same company for years it is much easier to progress your career by accepting a higher position in another organisation!

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        The contractual payments I assume were referring to those you’d be expecting off the company, not the other way around – but the point stands the other way, and it’s unlikely Alex left of his own choosing in isolation, I expect there was a settlement agreed that reflects his expected earnings/bonuses(contractual payments) vs the company’s wish to get rid.

        But the point was why leave without somewhere to go, and the answer there is that he’s prime headhunter material now, and will be well looked after from his BA settlement for sure.

  • xcalx says:

    “At the other end of the plane, I have recently seen European flights selling for as little as £14 one way. This is a figure which would have been unthinkable when Cruz joined.”

    This comment suggests you think this is due to his leadership rather an a Pandemic.

    • Josh says:

      BA economy flights certainly became much cheaper following Cruz taking control. Return flights to China in sales are often below £400 return, before Covid.

      Before Cruz, I was lucky to see a return BA economy flight to China for less than £500.

  • David S says:

    With these changes at the top all round, Hope they revisit The decision to place a tentative order for Boeing 737 Max planes

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      Well, there’s really no such thing as a tentative order, and this certainly was no such thing either – it was a letter of intent and frankly so far as I understand it was just a public show up support for Boeing which means even less now…

      • Opus says:

        Well at the way things are going. Boeing has about 3 major max orders in the pipe line. So that IAG LOI is not as potent but still very much alive

    • Mr. AC says:

      I hope they don’t. The 737 Max, once it’s allowed to fly again, is likely going to be the safest (or at least the most carefully checked and evaluated) plane in existence. I’ll be actively trying to fly on them if there is a choice of aircraft.

  • Anthony Holt says:

    He put his hat in the rink of WW – no surprise here – move on

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