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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.

  • Mr(s) Entitled says:

    Perhaps another sound reason why he didn’t want to take up the rights issue.

  • Crafty says:

    Why do they have, by design, both the CEO and Chair roles in the same individual? Goes against most good governance principles.

    • ChrisC says:

      Different rules for wholly owned subsidiary companies?

      IAG has the two separate roles so that may satisfy any governance concerns.

      • Crafty says:

        I just find it odd. What is the point of the Chair role if the same person is CEO? Ceremonial only?

  • Mike says:

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

    Wasn’t it, he did race to the bottom but when that turned out to be a terrible strategy he reversed course and implemented the changes you laid out. I’m not saying is all on him, there is no way he could have done all of the cheapening of the brand without WW buy-in. The problem was BA started at a low base of ageing product that needed money spent, even if you were going for a cheaper look, yet instead he cut back rather than competing at the low or high end. Well he’s gone, will be interesting to see if he goes to another airline, or more interesting a new startup as planes are cheap at the moment, for some reason.

  • Froggitt says:

    “including his role as the founder of Clickair in Spain.”

    Different skillset starting a business to running one 50 times the size.

  • Alastair says:

    Club Suite didn’t “cost” anything. The aircraft still need to be fitted with seats after all. And BA themselves have pointed out a 777 has the same capacity if fitted with the new layout, mainly because Y has been changed to 3-4-3.

    • Rhys says:

      Replacing premium seats with Y might keep the capacity the same but it won’t leave the bottom line unaffected.

      • Alastair says:

        No, what I mean is that J capacity has remained the same with Club Suite because the Y cabin takes up less space.

  • Alastair says:

    And the only reason Club Europe was added to domestics was in a panic after corporates and others kicked up a fuss about BoB, particularly when on long haul connections.

  • Dominic says:

    Not before time. I’m currently in the FCL at T5 and most are smiling and happy with this news. A trajectory towards the world’s favourite airline once more?

    • BuildTheWall says:

      Until they realise there’s no profit for shareholders if they spend recklessly.

  • Riccatti says:

    The intrigue is whether Mr Gallego plans to turn BA into Iberia?

    • ChrisW says:

      How so? I see Iberia as a very middle of the road carrier. Everything about them is fine, but not class-leading. An airline you’ll fly for a good price or convenience but not one you would seek out for an aspirational trip. I guess with that mindset Iberia is already similar to BA?

      • Rob says:

        10 years ago Iberia was one of the biggest jokes in world aviation. They have literally cut over half the (not doing much work) staff whilst massively improving the fleet, product and route network.

        • Nathan says:

          This I can wholeheartedly attest to, when I had cause to fly to Spain regularly I often chose Ryan Air (yes, really) over Iberia as they were more than half the price for roughly the same product and, believe it or not, seemed to demonstrate greater affinity for customers.
          Iberia. Hahahaha. An airborne joke with wings based around an old chestnut ‘how many IB cabin crew does it take to raise a tray table?’

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

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